There is a certain ritual that plays itself out whenever someone goes on a senseless, hate-filled shooting spree in the US. Firstly, no one is allowed to talk about the ease with which citizens can buy weaponry in the country and the lack of gun-control laws, since that would amount to ‘politicising’ the tragedy. Then, the word terrorism is rarely used if the perpetrator happens not to be a Muslim. This needs to be reconsidered when discussing the murder of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin by a white supremacist Wade Michael Page. Clearly, Page was inspired by hatred for anyone who differed from him in the slightest manner and he deliberately set out to kill members of a certain group. If this is not terrorism, then the word no longer holds meaning.
Page was known to be a member of a neo-Nazi rock band and a white supremacist group. Such latent racism in itself should be grounds for refusing to let him buy arms and ammunition. The US Congress now needs to get over its fear of angering the gun lobby and pass bans on handguns and machine guns since such guns are rarely used for hunting, self-defence or other legitimate reasons. They exist mainly to be used by those who want to kill a large group of people as quickly as possible. Other countries, including most of Europe that have passed such bans, have seen a significant drop in violence.
That Page was a member of the military for six years is also important to note. There is certainly a possibility that such hate was instilled in him during his service. Scandals like the one where a military chaplain was found to preach Christian power while demonising others have called into question the tolerance and diversity in the US military. Ultimately, though, now that Page is dead we may never know where his pure, unadulterated hate came from or why he particularly chose the Sikh community as a target. Once the time for mourning is over, however, the US will have to take a long hard look at itself.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ