Six members of a Sikh congregation in Oak Creek, Wisconsin were murdered at their local temple Sunday morning by a man whom Fox News has identified as Wade Michael Page, “a heavily tattooed, 40-year-old ex-Army soldier.”
The suspect was killed by police responding to the scene.
The mass attack comes barely two weeks after the tragic movie-theater shooting in Auroro, Colo. that killed 12. However, the tragedy in the Wisconsin case is compounded by the fact that its victims were gathering in a place of peaceful worship, and were apparently targeted because of their faith. For that reason, it is being investigated as a case of domestic terrorism, which is appropriate. (There is a strong possibility that the shooter incorrectly associated the Sikhs with Muslims.)
Hate crimes that target groups have a much longer list of victims than do acts of blind, random violence such as that in Aurora. They are intended to inflict fear on all members of that particular group, to make them feel isolated and hated, and to a tragic degree they often succeed in doing so. Across this country, members of the Sikh community today feel vulnerable, suspect and afraid, just as the shooter probably intended.
In another difference from the Aurora shooting, authorities have reported that the gunman in the Wisconsin attack was armed only with a single 9mm pistol, making it difficult and indeed inappropriate to turn the event into a forum for gun-control debate. No conceivable change in gun laws or enforcement could have prevented or minimized this tragedy.
However, the Wisconsin shooting should serve as a caution to those in public life who stoop to targeting religious or ethnic groups in their irresponsible rhetoric, and who by doing so validate the anger, fear and resentment that apparently motivated this tragedy. We are, or ought to strive to be, a better nation than that.
– Jay Bookman