FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond Wisconsin

by FARZANA VERSEY

“Nobody’s angry here. We’re just confused. Was this a random act? Was this directed at us because of the way we look?”

Mumbai. 

The questions were raised by an onlooker at the site of the Sikh gurudwara at Oak Creek in Wisconsin where six people were killed by a white man on the morning of August 5; he was shot dead by the cops.

Why is nobody angry? Why assume it might be a random act? What does the loaded “way we look” convey and why let it overshadow the terrorist attack? The FBI will conduct the investigations as a “domestic terrorist-type incident”, but for a large section of the media Wade Michael Page, a former sergeant, is a “lone gunman” or a “shooter”.

The motives are as clear as sun in a cloudy sky. It now seems that he was a neo-Nazi. In fact, civil rights groups go a step further and refer to him as a “frustrated neo-Nazi”. Was he frustrated with the ideology or was his frustration a spur to become one? This is a convenient back-up vague term to absolve mainstream terrorism.

To caricature him is easy, for the blueprint is ready and almost cool – balding man with tattoos, strumming the guitar with devilish music in an offbeat band called End Apathy. His motto to “stand proud and raise the white man’s flag” is confusing white supremacy with neo-Nazism. Both have different histories. Tanking up on the latter is a hands-off stance for internalised racism. The Nazi satan image gets props for also psychologically working on public memory as victimisation.

There is tardiness to investigate the possibility of a larger group’s involvement, a routine that is followed when the shoe in on the other foot and forces are deployed to trace leaders, assistants, handlers, trainers, foot soldiers.

The United States is home to 700,000 Sikhs. They are handed out certificates for being “a peace-loving community”, implying their innocence only by default, while the criminal’s antecedents remain enigmatic and diffuse the pattern of devious behaviour.

State Rep. Mark Honadel, whose district includes the temple, said, “Unfortunately, when this type of stuff hits your area, you say to yourself, ‘Why?’ But in today’s society, I don’t think there’s any place that’s free from idiots.”

That we are still battling with terminology to use for terrorists in some parts of the world reveals just how much semantics play a role in brainwashing people.

It includes the victims, who are hostage to the munificence of an all-embracing country. There is diffidence among non-westerners to talk about racism or what is now increasingly obvious as white terrorism.

This has two very dangerous consequences: It results in suspicion and infighting among different ethnic groups, and the claiming of tragedy points makes it possible for the ‘war on terror’ to continue as a sanctimonious bubble for the Western establishments.

The discussion on gun control is just one of the sidelights to obfuscate the issue. A person with a gun does not necessarily go on a killing spree. There are unlicensed weapons available. There are bombs and the use of more basic forms of ‘fundamentalist’ tactics. The latter can spread right from televangelism to a president sneaking into another country to bolster the morale of his forces that have no business to be there in the first place.

How do we deal with a “lone gunman”, a “psycho” and other such assorted creatures that are products of psychiatric superpower wards as opposed to an organisation that can conveniently, and legitimately, be called a terror outfit? Did a group pilot an airplane into the Twin Towers? Were we not told there was just one soldier who walked in the dead of night and shot down villagers in Afghanistan? Anders Breivik was alone when he killed 77 people in Norway. Kiaran Stapleton “kept smiling” as the court pronounced him guilty for the murder of Indian student Anuj Bidve in Manchester.

How individualist are they? Why do we not just say that there is another terrorism that does not need caves or a rugged terrain? Countries carry the baggage of history, of calamities, of attacks. The ruling elite do not have to muddy their hands to clear the rubble, so they muddy the minds of the citizens. The melting pot swirls the ladle and scoops out the good from the bad. It is an act so subtle that no one notices it.

It is left to the conditioned-to-feel displaced and mentally unstable white guy to carry the moral fable forward. He is like any recruit at a terrorist training camp. His ideology is not born in a vacuum. He is doing it for country. The political leadership will quote from the Constitution, but they have whetted the appetite for vengeance with rhetoric. Incidentally, the indictment of soldiers by some senior officers is an even more potent testimony of such lobotomy. Not surprisingly, Page’s six year stint in the US army during the 90s, partly in psychological operations” is mentioned prominently, even if he was demoted and quit the military with a “Less Than Honourable Discharge”.

Despite this, he comes across as a backroom loyalist. His 9/11 tattoo in many ways subliminally exonerates him. America has not allowed the world to live in peace ever since that day. One Sikh leader stated that it “implies to me that there’s some level of hate crime there”. Another one wants “to educate Americans about diverse groups and act ‘to lessen this kind of rage’”.

A crime that should be seen in isolation has become communalised. It is, strangely enough, pluralism that has caused it – a pluralism where you may look and dress like Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber but not like ‘natives’ like you.  Instead of pushing for quick action and security, there is trepidation over “mistaken identity”, that some white guy might think you are someone from the al Qaeda. The chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education believes: “There’s always an apprehension and a sense of fear that this kind of incident will take place anywhere, anytime.”

Can this not happen to others, too? Sikhs were killed for being Sikhs in their home country, India, where the ruling party conducted an operation inside the Golden Temple. Sikhs have had to fight for their right to wear turbans and to carry their kirpans, symbolic swords. Was there any al Qaeda then?

If 9/11 is being propagated as a definitive revenge-worthy date to flush out enemies, then will insurgency and terrorist attacks on some Indian states be seen as fallout of the Partition of 1947, and subsequent wars with Pakistan and China too?

Mitt Romney is concerned that the Wisconsin attack took place at a house of worship. This gives the crime another colour. Places of worship draw attention to the faith, more than to the community. But in the world outside America, there are sects, castes, sub-castes. However, in an alien land, a temple of any religion has more than emotive value. It represents an uprooted cultural identity.

There is already guilt by association. Pakistan’s liberals who berate those who sympathise with the plight of Muslims in Assam or Rohingyas of Myanmar instead of the Balochis in their own backyard are themselves reaching out to American Sikhs. The Peshawar ones are a forgotten story. 1984’s massacre of Sikhs is a fade-out for India.

The sense of urgency different communities feel to identify with such sorrow at the individual and group level is most certainly part of a larger political expression. Every such tragedy is about lost human lives. The need to emphasize it beyond the obvious is driven by a subconscious need for self-preservation and, as a consequence, actualization.

Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based writer. She can be reached at http://farzana-versey.blogspot.in/

 

Farzana Versey can be reached at Cross Connections

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail