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« "The Immutable, Dusty Path" | Main | Forward into the Past »

August 06, 2012


The killer has been identified as an ex-militray man and long time white supremacist who belonged to groups that preach violent hatred towards those belonging to a race or religion different from theirs. So Amardeep is right. He may have been anti-Muslim but anyone who represents "otherness" was a good enough target for his deranged rage. He could very well have chosen an African American church, a Hindu temple, a mosque, a synagogue or a gay business and the justification would have been the same.

The 'But we aren't Muslims' that so many Sikhs interviewed by the media kept reiterating really bothered me. I'm glad that Amardeep points out clearly that it was the 'otherness' that triggered the attack, not just being mistaken for Muslims. The crime is heinous, regardless of the race or creeds of the victims.
Of course, it doesn't help to have politicians like Michele Bachman or loudmouths like Limbaugh fanning these flames of hatred.

Another classic case of down playing ugly facts by the mainstream media. Why does the NYT article I have linked to mention Page's army background and not his white supremacist affiliation in the header? He left the army long ago but his racist activities are current. The Southern Poverty Law Center says it has tracked the man for a decade. It seems a civil rights legal organization is a better watchdog of domestic terrorism than the FBI. While the likes of Michele Bachmann are busy keeping arms out of the hands of black and brown skinned terrorists, home grown all-American boys go out hunting every other day with lethal weapons!

Another good discussion at Democracy Now yesterday:

I believe Noor points out the uncomfortable situation for a Sikh who must proclaim his non-Muslim identity, as if the problem were merely mistaken identity. He or another discussant on the show also calls out Obama's stupidity in referring to the shooting as a (yawn) "senseless tragedy."

Dean, hating on Obama much? The transcript says:
"AMY GOODMAN: President Obama expressed condolences, Mitt Romney talked about the senseless act of violence that took place yesterday in Oak Creek, Wisconsin."

It's Romney's 'stupidity' that's being called out.

For the sake of completeness, here are the two statements:

Sujatha: Thanks for pointing out who said what.
Dean: If you find Obama so insufferable, I will wait to see your level of forbearance if (heaven forbid!) Mitt Romney is elected president.

A bit overheated but apt commentary on "senseless killing."

A lot, in fact, but in my defense 1) I'm not especially fond of the office itself, no matter who occupies it, and 2) I heard the broadcast yesterday morning while navigating from the east side of Los Angeles to its west side, a trip that took two hours. That is fairly deemed a tragedy. I suppose I heard "Obama..." and "senseless act of violence," the two punctuated by a lane change or something. When Noor was rightly critical of the epithet, I had attributed it to His Most Royal and Worthy POTUS, not that other guy.

Amardeep's article was linked by NPR yesterday. Today it is on NYT's India Ink blog.

Dean, if you would like to parse Romney's statement, you will find much more that is objectionable than Obama's straightforward condolences and promise of full resources to investigate what happened. Are you angry that Obama didn't come out directly in favor of a semi-automatic gun ban? He has, albeit in terms not strong enough to satisfy you, I guess: (Yep, I know it's Faux News, but they, being interested parties, have done a fair job of reporting this one.)
"Ann and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims of today’s shooting in Wisconsin. This was a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship."
Not just houses of worship, Mitt. Any houses or buildings.Doesn't the recent shooting in a film theater come to mind at all?
Senseless, of course not, given that all the pandering by politicians of all stripes to the gun lobby, and others to the hate lobby, have precisely this kind of event in mind, even as they piously offer their prayers for the victims and their families.

Sujatha, I confused the attribution. I thought Amy Goodman had reported that Obama made the "senseless act of violence" comment; when Noor took exception to it, I agreed that it was a stupid remark that characterizes as random and unpredictable events that seem obviously to have been premeditated and exactly intended. The Racialicious post has it right.

Romney's response was banal and stupid; Obama's presidential, i.e., overly cautious, and perhaps strategic, but at least tastefully intended as an expression of human sympathy. But he, too, emphasized the site, although his phrasing was safer.

The sad thing here is that Obama's skin color, despite his exalted office, prevents him more than it would another president to come out and declare boldly that the Feds will go after the supremacist hate groups within our borders just as the Navy SEALS went after bin Laden and the drones are hunting out Al Qaida in foreign lands. Our own homegrown patriots will not allow him without raising the specter of losing their Second Amendment rights and the purported "foreign" origins of the Prez. And of course, Obama has to win the election at home.

To be fair to Romney (and Obama, who made a similar reference), I am assuming he'd reject the idea that the house-of-worship location is what makes these deaths so bad, that it'd be better for twelve to die in a theater than for six to die in a church. It's generic politician talk, combined with a real sense of sadness at a place of sanctity being violated, of its safety from the 'real world' being ended. I think you ask most people, and they'd instinctively be more horrified at people being murdered in peaceful and pleasant settings like cinema halls / churches / ice cream parlours because the contrast to the way things ought to be seems greater.

Re identity confusion, I wasn't sure whether Amardeep Singh was making the solidaristic exhortation that Sikhs not distance themselves from Muslims, or the factual observation that they in fact aren't. The first does seem superior to seeking refuge in accidents of no moral consequence, but I also can't find it in my heart to judge someone harshly who -does- say 'I'm not a Muslim'. Not everyone has the wherewithal to play Spartacus..a convenience store owner faces much greater risk in leaving his religion ambiguous than an English professor.

Hmm, almost as if to make the point that you don't _need_ to show solidarity, Amardeep Singh's NY Times blog post leaves out the paragraph drawing the analogy to Muslim women in hijabs, Hasidic Jews and gays. Since that para was the meat of the original post, and got a distraction, I'm a bit surprised. I might expect him to leave out the hijab and gay stuff in the Times of India, but at the New York Times?

gah, _not_ a distraction. The 'g' is not even next to the 'n'

I wonder if that might have been an NYT editorial decision, not Amardeep's. Too many constituencies to offend, if the comparison was retained.

Sadness at the sanctity of a place of worship being violated aside, Romney doesn't seem to have too good a recall about which community he is condoling with:
Freudian slip?

I'd love to know what was going on, and left Prof. Singh a comment on his blog asking. It'd be pretty ironic for a post calling for communal solidarity to itself be censored/bowdlerized to make it less inclusive.

There is more than racism working against Obama's capacity to confront white supremacist violence. There is also a species of quasi-official acceptance of the phenomenon.

Sheikh, Sikh ... who cares? They all look alike.

To be fair to Romney, despite his glaring ignorance as displayed on his recent "foreign relations" trip, this kind of confusion about unfamiliar cultures is very common for most people. The difference between Romney and say Clinton or Obama (have you heard how Obama pronounces the word, "Pakistan" in a desi way?) is that the latter two do their homework a bit more diligently before opening their mouths. Indian politicians are among the most ignorant on this front. I doubt that a chief minister of a southern Indian state knows much about the culture of the north and vice versa. And both are likely to be completely ignorant of what goes on in say, Nagaland. In fact if they met an Indian from one of the far eastern states, they like many other Indians, are likely to mistake him/her for Chinese!

I would also like to know who is responsible for the edit of Amardeep's post in NYT. Like Sujatha, I suspect it is the paper and not the author.

As for solidarity with Muslims, it is true that the south Asian attitude towards this is clearly defined by political leanings, class, age and education. But even those are not reliable predictors. Remember that most Hindus and Sikhs are not generally inclined to be kind towards Muslims. The sentiment is wholeheartedly reciprocal on the Muslim side too. So, let's not forget the sectarianism of desis themselves. I remember that on 9/11/2001 my daughter called frantically from the east coast asking her dad to shave off his beard and warning me to not go out in Indian outfits. My husband did not shave and I did go out that day in salwar-kameez although my customary daily dress code is t-shirt and trousers. Neither one of us faced any overt hostility in the days afterwards although I may not have noticed if anyone looked at us funny. The only direct accusation I heard was from the old man who used to deliver our newspaper in those days. He said to me, "Your people did it." I took the time to correct him without actually saying, "I am not Muslim." But it was implicit in the geopolitical lesson I imparted. I deliberately made the decision to not flaunt my non-Muslim background to the ignorant. But many of my Indian friends were emphatic that they would definitely declare their non-Muslim religious affliliations if faced with bodily harm.

Tangentially related to race politics, we have a link this morning from the conservative journalist / blogger Steve Sailer and it is bringing in increased traffic. Sailer's politics, particularly his views on race relations, and mine are quite far apart on the political spectrum. Granted, he has linked to one of my cheerful P.G. Wodehouse posts but the context is somewhat race tinged. Sailer is discussing athletic prowess, race and the legacy of colonialism. I am deliberately not going to link to the article where the link to A.B. is embedded. You can look it up on his blog Steve Sailer's iSteve blog.

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