On Sunday, a gunman went into a Wisconsin Sikh temple and shot and killed six Sikhs before he was shot and killed, himself, by a police officer arriving at the scene.
One of the quotes from a family member was that when he heard of the death of his loved one, “the heart just sat down.”
The news prompted someone I know (an ex-pat no longer living in the U.S.) to write on Facebook: “Another day, another mass shooting in the U.S.”
So this is what happens next: The news media, led by Anderson Cooper, goes to the scene. Bit by bit in the coming weeks, as it was in Aurora, Colo., as it was in everywhere before that, we parse out the killer’s biography — which as of this morning remains sparse. Heavy-set. Lots of tattoos. May have used an alias. Please, Jesus, let us find something about the killer that sets him apart from the rest of us — belonged to a hate group, maybe? –because that will allow us to neatly place this crime into a box and move on.
We will hurt for the dead, and mourn with the living, and bemoan the fact that somewhere, someone could have stopped this — say, a mental health professional, or a friend of the killer. Ironically, those people will be thinking the same thing. And we’ll soon start reading stories of the sad and sorry funerals coming our way — the dedicated family man laid to rest, the good citizen cut down simply because s/he was worshiping in that time and in that space.
All that will be conjecture and much of it will be worthless. Yes, we should have better mental health treatment in this country, a system that allows freedom of choice while also providing help to those who are most likely to hurt themselves or others. Yes, yes, yes. All that.
But once we have the killer neatly boxed, and once we’ll feel Wisconsin’s loss, we’ll take a page from our politicians’ playbooks, and we’ll avoid talking about gun violence in any meaningful way because whether we’re card-carrying members of the NRA or whether we think guns are of the devil, it feels like there’s no space to have a rational discussion about what we do about the nuts. The battle lines are already drawn, and another painful opportunity will go by the wayside. Tell me we’re all talked out on that. Tell me there’s nothing to be done, that there’s one in every crowd — “one” being a nut with a gun.
Tell me, but I won’t believe it.
And finally, this meditation, from the Hindu American Foundation:
Dharma traditions–the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Hindus–hold non-violence and peaceful co-existence as paramount values. It is a cruel irony that Sikhs, donning the turban as among proud symbols of a spiritual mandate to serve humanity as defenders of dharma against all onslaughts, find themselves sought out and victimized by ignorant assailants on too many occasions.
We call on all Americans today to join Sikhs in mourning a senseless attack. And to take this opportunity not only to learn about the sublime teachings of Sikh gurus, the Sikh faith, and the meanings of its external symbols, but also to join hands to ensure that the gurudwaras remain sanctuaries of joyous worship and celebrated sharing of langar, or community meals, for generations to come.
How we gonna do that? Huh?
That piece of writing is brilliant. You cut right through it all and get to the call for action that never gets answered and the apathy that follows because it involved people we don’t know.
Prayers for the victims and their families and friends. Prayers for all of us, indeed.
I don’t know if it’s brilliant, but let me be clear: I grew up around guns. I still am growing up around guns. Though I don’t have a license (I’d get one to target shoot, but I’m lazy), people very close to me do. I am not anti-gun. I am, however, in favor of extremely strict gun laws.
In addition, as you pointed out, people need to speak up and get help for mentally unstable individuals. There should be a clear process for alerting professionals and investigating people who could cause harm to others. What should a person do? Do we even have a process to handle this? I’m not clear about it. Maybe a public service message like “If you see something, say something” that addresses this issue should be created. (and identify what the somethings are, and to whom the something should be said)
I think the point is missed on Jac above: this senseless attack against Americans that look different to “us” was done by someone who justified it as a way of preserving “America”. Was it mental illness? Possibly. What will scare us to no end (and we will never know definitively, since the suspect was dispatched forthwith by a worthy peace officer) is if the suspect was acting on jaded hate and not mental instability.
Contrary to what many politicians blare from their soap boxes, America is not only Christian. We are also Muslim; we are Hindu; we are Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, Ba’hai and so many more. We also can be intolerant of those who are not like “us”.
Until this person pulled the trigger that killed the Sikh priest, he was an Army veteran; a hero to most, and a venerated member of society. Whatever twisted thoughts he espoused were hidden to us all – as a military veteran myself, I can attest to the segregationalist views of some of our veterans (same as general society.)
Strom Thurmond’s strong stance on segregation until his dying day is well known. It will take many generations to assimilate even African Americans into our society, far less for smaller minority groups with no political or numerical sway. Until then, they suffer indignities and hate crimes that many will silently cheer on as a victory for “America”. Let’s hope that the newly recognized shame of calling the neighborhood gas station owner “towel head” behind his back turns at least a few of us a few degrees closer to acceptance.
This is not America, where people walk into houses of worship to kill. This is not America, where someone’s head gear matters a rat’s ass to those of us who don’t wear the same head gear. This is not America, where someone can take up a gun and blaze away. This is not.
I get what Jac was saying, though — or I think I do. There has to be some kind of mental illness that would allow a person to commit such an act. It sometimes makes me wonder if all violence is a form of acting out a mental illness, or some form thereof. Guns are too prevalent. Mental health is too dismiss-able. We aren’t treating our veterans with the proper care to allow them to re-enter the (we hope) non-violent world from which they came. It is a multi-pronged issue and until we address all those issues, this is not America.
A perspective from the South Asian community from your neck of the woods…Vijay Prashad.
Shooting at the Gurdwara/The Sense of White Supremacy
Another prong or two for consideration.
The prevalence of guns and the failures of our healthcare system are just the tip of a very large iceberg.
“[T]he preponderance of socially acceptable hatred against those seen as outsiders.”
“[A] political culture that allows us to think in nativist terms…”
Some excellent points in the link. I, too, am particularly concerned about the hurried explanations that Sikhs are not Muslims. This implies that Muslims deserve this kind of treatment, which is crap. The day we figure out none of us are the “other” is the day we all lay down our arms and just get along.
“The day we figure out none of us are the “other” is the day we all lay down our arms and just get along.”
What you said!!
“…and the apathy that follows because it involved people we don’t know.”
If that’s part of it, I think it’s a smaller one than the part that recognizes that there’s nothing we can do. You can say “write your congress critter,” you can say “march for non-violence,” you can say “speak up,” but these things are being done and they (seem to) get us nowhere. It’s money and position that make the most noise.
And “this is not America?” Sure it is. That was an American with the gun, those were Americans now lead-poisoned, that may or may not have been good ol’ American hate at work. Listen to everyone (on all sides) who says “we’re taking our country back!” There are so many visions of America that it seems impossible to reconcile them into one, to have all the images fit over each other so the registration-marks match and have one cohesive picture that all can recognize.
(I don’t call myself Cynical for nothing.)
Mass murder is The American Way. It’s our history, it’s our culture. Don’t like the natives, kill them all. Don’t like the new Mormon Church, massacre them. Don’t like colored folks, hang’em. Don’t like “them”, chop them down.
That is not America. Or, rather, it’s not the America I love.
I’d like to agree with you, but, every time someone goes ballistic with a gun there is a lot of hand wring, psalm singing, candle lighting then nothing until the next batch of murders then the cycle is repeated.
So how about if we move from psalms singing and candle lighting to political action?
That is what is needed. The NRA and their bought and paid for cronies in Congress are the biggest obstacles to a common sense solution. Back in my teenage years I was awarded a lifetime membership in the NRA because of my marksmanship. I resigned many years ago when they lobbied Congress not to ban teflon coated “cop killer” bullets. The NRA used to be about gun safety and marksmanship. Now they’re about money, power and money. Safety takes a back seat.
P.S. 2 of the first 3 words of the 2nd Amendment are “well regulated”. I see very little regulation going on.
Well…there’s the $64,000 dollar question.
More effective gun control legislation and a more responsive healthcare system might be part of the answer, (two sticky wickets by themselves), but what political action can we take to prevent, not just punish, the outcomes of socially tolerated hatred?
Should Hate Speech Be Outlawed?
Jeremy Waldron thinks so. Or, at least, he thinks we should treat the subject much more seriously. (Proposition 4.)
We seem to have little trouble identifying hate and the social consequences of hate. Where we fall short is mustering the political will necessary to do anything substantive about it. No surprise, really, considering our track record thus far on effective gun control and a responsive healthcare system.
How do we get from Here to There?
Herbert? Any suggestions?
We should not let the worst of America define the rest of America. I would like to see more of the good things that go on every day reported in the news to offer a more accurate perspective of our people.
The passing of the second anniversary of the Manchester Beer Distribution killings on August 3rd went by with nary a mention. I think we know why. Some things Americans prefer to sweep under the rug.
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