As I write, we know that the president of the Sikh temple was shot, and a Granthi of the Temple was shot and killed. Police officials are investigating this as a domestic terrorist act.
At this time, we don’t have the name of the Sikh Temple shooter. Witnesses describe him as a man in his 30’s, wearing a white t-shirt and black pants, and with a 9/11 tattoo.
When this tragedy first broke, I had the same gut wrench that came with the news of the Aurora theatre shooting, on July 20 — just several weeks ago. In both cases, people died. For the people who survived, there will be weeks, months and years of recovery from the physical wounds and the trauma that goes with this sort of violence. When this story is no longer on the front pages, there will be people still waking in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from a nightly reliving of the events in that temple. There will be people suffering from survivors remorse and there will be people worrying about how they’re going to pay the medical bills.
Meanwhile, the hysterical right wing will spin, spin, spin on the evils of “Obamacare”; or transparency when it comes to Romney’s tax returns or policies; praising the glory of Ayn Rand’s version of a great society where you people know your place, expressing infinite gratitude for the crumbs your overlords send your way.
Perhaps we’ll remember the numbers, if not the people who die as a result of gun violence in America every year. Maybe the NRA will wait a respectable period before they get back on the rhetorical hate wagon to preach about THEIR right to have their guns, and how ANY regulation of guns is a violation of the second amendment, not withstanding opinions expressed by conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito or Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush.
I hope that with yet another round of point/counterpoint on gun control, that we’ll also have room to have an open discussion about where hate propaganda has gotten us. I hope that we can get past the guns don’t kill people, people kill people chanting for a serious discussion about how hate kills people.
For those who buy into the Islamophobic strain of hate propaganda, the violent rhetoric directed at Muslims will continue. They’ll continue to focus their energies on the need to keep Sharia law out of America. For at least some, it won’t matter that Sikhs are not the same as Muslims. They “look the same”, meaning they aren’t white. They practice some sort of religion that isn’t Christian. They both must be part of the Taliban, or Al Quaeda or something that’s anti- American. Those who seek to wear their patriotism as a badge of righteousness will forget that “they” are Americans.
As a nation, we are so wrapped up in our own lives and belief systems, that the notion of exploring other ideas seems like a burden on our time. It’s so much simpler to rely on the rantings of a Rush Limbaugh, or someone equally as ignorant, than it is to exercise some intellectual curiosity. It’s also faster, so that we can get back to our daily activities, many of which I’ll grant entail responsibilities to family and work.
Yet, the lack of knowledge won’t stop too many of us from drawing conclusions, passing judgments, relying on the singular isolated experience that went with meeting one of “them” to extrapolate “facts” about all of “them.” I wonder if those who think of Sikhs as the same as Islam, know even the most basic things about Islam or the Sikhism. I wonder how many of the holier than thou are aware that Sikhism was born in Punjab? How many of these great thinkers are aware that the people who lead their prayers are called Granthi or Bhaji? For that matter how many of us were aware that Sikhism doesn’t have formally recognized leaders bestowing their wisdom on all things beyond religion via the pulpit?
So here we are, describing this shooting is as “senseless” and perhaps wondering “why.” Of course it’s senseless! When is mass murder anything but senseless? The why is obvious when you consider the deliberate and calculated hate mongering directed at “you people”, aka America’s 99%.
While complaining about the catastrophic state of the economy, Republican law makers *cough* Michele Bachmann, continue to bang the drum of divide and conquer with their call to investigate Huma Abedin or Alan West’s desire to spend resources on investigating Democratic members of congress. To be sure, there are some individuals, like John McCain who drew the line between ‘good old fashioned, patriotic ” hate rhetoric and the sort that should land you in a rubber room.
While “you people” are digesting the tragedy in Oak Creek, wondering what it takes to have a serious discussion about common sense gun regulation or press the mute button on hate rhetoric, where is Michele Bachmann? As of this writing, she has been uncharacteristically silent. Where is her condemnation of this shooting? Ah right, the shooting happened on Sunday. Everyone knows that the best photo ops are held during the week.
Image from sikhtoons.com