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?