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Gun culture / politics of hate and fear

August 6, 2012

Photo by AP

There were at least two tragedies yesterday:

1) The horrifying mass shooting and killing (again) of innocent people. It is tempting to call the rampage through the Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Sikh temple an insane shooting, a deranged shooting, an unbelievable shooting – but that does too much to normalize this event by emphasizing what should be so not normal about it. Unfortunately, what is (again) being called a “senseless act of evil”  is now all too normal in a culture that makes a habit of inciting hatred and allowing – no, encouraging, firearms.

2) The ongoing assault on difference, on otherness – racial difference, religious difference, gender difference, sexuality difference, thought difference – that characterizes the most salient rallying cry and political platform of the right wing of this country. While the facts are still being determined here, it seems clear that this shooting is just the latest in a wave of attacks against Sikhs and Muslims in the U.S. in the last decade. On one hand, the seemingly constant confusion of Sikhs for Muslims by hatemongers is deplorable simply for its utter ignorance. On the other, it is absurd that this constant confusion prompts the necessary qualification among mainstream media that Sikhs are not Muslim, as if the shooting would be all too understandable if they were.

The advocates of gun culture are fond of saying that guns don’t kill people, people do. The irony of this statement is that this distinction simply doesn’t matter when people are taught to distrust, to hate, to fear otherness – and to love guns. With hate and fear of the other, people will kill people. With guns.

Gun. Laws. Now.


Update: It appears that the gunman was a white supremacist army veteran with ties to hate groups. Racism + lax gun laws = heinous crimes. There is plenty of each in this country. Why are we surprised?

In this light, the constant references to Sikh / Muslim confusion seems even less relevant now (though still objectionable). Some thought-provoking commentary here: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond; and here: Hate Crimes Always Have a Logic.

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