Precious few commentators and opinion-makers have stepped forward to denounce the attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. After perusing the online opinion pages of the 5 largest cable news channels and the 5 largest newspapers in the country, I have found only one opinion by a Sikh community leader calling for solidarity and an analysis of ideological violence by a sociologist. But where is the outrage that an alleged terrorist attack was just committed on our soil? After an attack, we always hear leaders and opinion-makers condemn the attacks and the perverted ideology that spawned them. So why the crickets for the dead in Wisconsin 24 hours later? This is confounding, at best.
Ladies and gentleman, may I have your attention, please. I, Marc A. Belisle, categorically, absolutely, and without reservation, denounce, condemn and cast shame upon anyone who would commit violence upon any other person in my country in the name of any ideology or socio-political identity. You are wrong. You are a cancer on my country. I wish to see you behind bars for the rest of your life.
To Sikhs everywhere, I am not a Sikh. I am a mostly WASP American whose ancestors have been in this country for generations on one side, and are relatively recent immigrants on the other. I admit, somewhat bashfully, that I don’t know much about your culture. Having said that, let me be clear: I don’t care that we are different in some superficial way. It is entirely irrelevant to me. I know that you are as American as I am. You are as American as the descendants of the people who came on the Mayflower, as American as our president, as American as Michael Phelps, as American as the woman who passed her citizenship test this morning to escape persecution or fighting in some war torn corner of the earth. You are American. I know this.
But even more importantly, I know you are a human being, and I am a human being, and we are all human beings. And that is all that matters.
No differences between people could possibly warrant harming a hair on a person’s head, let alone mass murder. We have elections and due process to mediate the ebb and flow of culture and policy in our open society. Mainstream American culture is so powerfully dominant that most large immigrant groups assimilate almost en masse within three generations at most. But our culture is also flexible enough that no group of immigrants could possibly threaten its hegemony. A group of immigrants who retain some aspect of the home culture, like Sikhs wearing turbans, does not pose any conceivable threat to mainstream culture. Mostly, it changes nothing. But if someone ‘sticks out,’ that should serve merely to educate Americans who don’t travel much. It is another petal on the multi-foliate rose of American culture. Diversity strengthens our economy, education and diplomacy. The Statue of Liberty’s torch, and the idea it symbolizes that anyone can come to our shores and become an American, strengthens the nation in myriad ways. Poor white grievance against strangers based in ignorance and needless fear only rots our culture out from within.
The alleged shooter’s ideology will probably be dissected over the next few days. I will not cite it or quote it here because it does not warrant attention. Suffice it to say that any attempt to assert personal superiority is a poorly masked inferiority of the ego, a form of intellectual infancy. Like a thrashing playground bully, this alleged rightwing extremist believed pathologically that he had some sort of right to live only among people who look like him. And like a screaming baby, he indulged the kneejerk reaction that rose up in him to achieve his ends.
I am truly ashamed that this ideology, a perverted, simmering reaction to 9/11 persists in my society. And from the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry that you and your loved ones became its victims in an unspeakably horrific way. I welcome you to my country with open arms and I wish everyone else would do the same.