I’m planning a trip to Milwaukee by the end of this month – a weekend to see the art museum. Yesterday I was doing some housework, and a friend texted me, “Did you hear what happened in Milwaukee?”
I texted “Nope – what happened?”
My friend was too busy to respond – so I booted up my laptop and saw that yet again, someone who had no business having a gun, opened fire and killed a group of people – this time a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee.
The alleged killer was Wade Michael Page, a reported army vet, who apparently had ties to white supremacist groups. And still we have people who try to rewrite the narrative and insist that racism is over.
Since 9/11, followers of Sikhism have been targeted in hate crimes, because stupid people a) confuse Muslims with terrorists and b) confuse Sikhs with Muslims.
Because faithful men don’t shave and wear turbans, they’re often confused as Muslims – some have even been targeted by idiots who claim that they’re members of Al Qaeda.
Six people were killed in this attack – this comes less than a month after the Aurora shooting.
Again, questions will be asked – like how and why did Page get access to the 9-millimeter semi-automatic handgun that was allegedly used in the attack? Is our current political and social climate, ramped up due to it being election year, to blame for this? What kind of mental illness was Page possibly dealing with – and if there was mental illness, why wasn’t he charged?
President Barack Obama released a statement of condolences and rightly asserted that the Sikh community is “part of our broader American family.” And we must remind victims of hate crimes of that motto everyday – whenever we see a group terrorized and targeted, it’s up to us as Americans to stand firmly against barbarism and, instead to stand firmly in favor of peace. The president’s correct in that the Sikh community, like every other ethnic, cultural, religious or racial group in the United States, provides an immeasurable contribution to the diversity of our country – a diversity that’s unique, and should be looked on with pride.
Unfortunately, the victims’ loved ones – friends and family – as well as the Sikh community as a whole – won’t see it that way. Instead, this is yet again another reminder, that for all our talk of “tolerance” and “freedom” there is still major divisions in our countries – divisions that are often encouraged by politicians who hide behind the cloak of “patriotism” not bothering to find out what that word should mean in 2012. The temple-goers’ freedom that morning was taken away – not just the victims or their loved ones, but the innocent bystanders, as well – they were victimized in a way, too, because they’ve witnessed something that no one should, in a place that is sacred and seemingly safe. On that Sunday morning on August 5th, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, one man attempted to strip away the freedom of an entire community. Let’s make sure he and his kind, fail.