Sikh Shooter Wade Michael Page Could Have Been Stopped


On Sunday, a man walked into a building in Wisconsin and ruthlessly shot into a crowd, killing six people and critically wounding another three before committing suicide.

That man was a white supremacist.

The building was a place of worship. 

The six people murdered were Sikhs.

Only weeks after the Aurora tragedy, the shooting is another reminder of the senseless gun violence that plagues this country. It is the fourth spree this year. But, for a moment, let us forget the great debate on gun control and all of the politics surrounding the topic. 

There are few comparisons between Aurora and this Sikh massacre. The first attack was on a random group of people linked only by their location and their youth; the latter on a targeted group linked by community and a common religion. In Aurora, a more people were killed and injured, and the man responsible was severely psychologically disturbed. In Oak Creek, Wisconsin the death count was half of that in Aurora and the man responsible was a known white supremacist and also killed himself, leaving more questions than answers.

Aurora was in the news for a full week afterwards. Descriptions of the victims, testimonials from survivors, hospital visits from the president and celebrities, and immediate analysis of James Holmes were available in the media and perpetually on networks. Three days after the Sikh shooting, the media has moved on, except CNN, which sent Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper to Wisconsin, and a correspondent to Mumbai, where a large Sikh population lives.

If the neutral response to the shooting has been silence, the negative response has been speaking up. The Fox News report of the story was voted as "inspiring" by users who are given the option to vote on articles as "offensive, funny, cool, obnoxious, scary, inspiring, and crazy." The Westboro Baptist Church can always be counted on, of course, and sent tweets only minutes after the story broke on Sunday that read: "God sent another shooter."

The Week, Politico, and the Huffington Post have all featured articles criticizing the media for its short coverage of the incident and speculated as to why there hasn't been enough attention or discussion of the shooting. 

Riddi Shah most deftly put it in her piece in the Huffington Post: "Consider, for a minute, a situation in which the skin colors of the victims and attacker were reversed. What if, instead of a white supremacist, the attacker had been a Muslim fundamentalist, and the place of worship a synagogue or a church? Would Fox News have aired a segment about a Latin American prison just hours after the shooting? Would we be talking about the Olympics right now?"

Sikhs - and Muslims - in America have unjustly faced violence and discrimination since the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Beatings, robberies, and murders have increased in these groups as hateful, ignorant Americans blame them and attack them, mistaking two religions that are vastly different as synonymous and their followers as evil anti-Christs.

This shooting is being handled as domestic terrorism by the Oak Creek authorities, according to Chief of Police John Edwards. Should the response to international terrorism be domestic terrorism? In what way is that logical?

Wade Michael Page was a known white supremacist, participating in hate rock music and displaying numerous tattoos that contained symbols of the white supremacy movement and honoring its leaders. He even applied for membership to the Ku Klux Klan. 

What is most frustrating and upsetting about this event is that it was preventable. Not through gun control or a government-sponsored "dangerous persons" watch. It was preventable because of the country in which we live and its capacity for love, tolerance, and change.

Wade Michael Page should never have been a white supremacist. White supremacy should have died long ago, but still it thrives in areas of the country with low education and employment, but high poverty and crime. He should have had education that taught about different religions and celebrated diversity. He should have known that by committing this heinous crime in honor of America, he was defaming it. In a country founded on the principle that anyone can and should exercise their first amendment rights of speech, religion, and assembly, the massacre of those people exercising their rights undermines them. 

George Takei wrote, "There are no easy answers here, and my heart aches for the families and victims and the senselessness of the killings. What I do know is this: Each of us bears a responsibility to reject hate, whatever its form, whatever its justification. A soul filled with hate can devastate a community. A nation filled with hate can devastate a people. It must start and end with each of us."