After the shock and sadness related to the domestic terrorism at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, the metro Milwaukee community has had an opportunity to reflect on a wide variety of things that are infecting American society. During these dark hours, our better selves have surfaced. People have embraced our Sikh neighbors. Too often seen as "the other," during their recent pain and suffering we have come to see them as our brothers and sisters. No longer are we prone to judge them simply because of their turbans and beards. Where confusion reigned, there is now some enlightenment ...finally!
I hope this sort of insight continues. Bigotry is a disease that infests us too much and too often. And it is contagious. But peace, brotherhood, love, compassion, understanding, openness, etc. can also be contagious. This painful lesson must be etched in our collective memory and translated into progress in human relations and tolerance. It is time to embrace each other, not to judge and produce hateful violence.
Now is the time to expand our new insight and begin to ask ourselves some deep and probing questions. We are a sick society. And if we see this tragedy as a rare and isolated incident, then we have already lost the lessons of this tragedy and we return to our past bigotry and greed..
For me, the nagging and demanding question is why do people of similar background, of similar political persuasion, of similar psychological make-up, of similarly held beliefs seem to dominate these tragedies? While guns are a real part of most of these major crimes, Timothy McVeigh used explosives to kill large numbers of his fellow citizens in Oklahoma City. Yes, guns are an important part of the equation, but it is the political and psychological make-up this violence that is an over-riding issue.
Wedged into the minds of most of these mass murderers are things such as: guns or other weapons, greed, extreme right-wing beliefs, bigotry, anger, misdirected concepts of "manhood," channel vision about religion and politics, etc. What is it that moves people with these conglomerated mindsets that causes them to go over the edge and act violently?
After each of these tragedies there are excuses. But we must finally come to grips with the common thread in all this domestic terrorism, and I repeat the composition: guns, greed, bigotry, anger, strange ideas about manhood, wild beliefs about religion and politics, and yes, extreme right-wing ideology.
Are we mature enough to sincerely and seriously investigate and evaluate why these common traits so often result in tragedies such as Oak Creek and Oklahoma City? Why is extreme right-wing fascism still so present in American culture? We fought World War II to eradicate it. But it persists in the U.S. today.
"The tendency to identify manhood with a capacity for physical violence has a long history in America." -Marshall Fishwick
"The next step [in a Fascist movement] is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other." -Bertrand Russell
"By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes." -Martine Luther King. JR.