I started writing yesterday afternoon in order to get a head start on this week’s articles. I was beginning to jot down thoughts regarding my 20-year high school reunion which took place this past weekend. Sadly, my attention was quickly diverted after hearing the tragic news out of Oak Creek. And while I stayed quiet after the recent Colorado bloodshed, it is simply not in my character to remain mute while watching a similar tragedy take place mere minutes from my home.
Some people are already offended by the term “ignorant” which is being thrown around by the media and those interviewed by them. We do not yet know the motivation of the shooter. We do know he clearly pursued a particular group of people to attack. He did not choose a McDonalds, a shopping mall or a movie theatre. There is little doubt in my mind that the race and/or religion of the worshipers were a clear factor in choosing on whom to release this wicked assault.
Ignorance is not necessarily something of which to be ashamed. While we, as Americans, and, as humans, should strive to reduce the amount of ignorance in our society – it will always be a part of our culture and a part of the human experience. We are all ignorant to something whether it is religion, abuse, mental illness, war, nationality or any number of things. What is shameful is prideful ignorance and it seems we have a growing abundance of that lately.
The Sikh community is often a target for those who misunderstand the differences between their religion and Muslim beliefs. We have also witnessed the unjust hatred for Muslims; especially since 9/11. This crime would have not been any less tragic had it taken place in a Mosque. I think (hope) most reasonable people recognize that. However, an education about world religions and cultures would be a first step toward healing what is at the heart of much of what ails us.
To be perfectly honest, most of the people I know really do not have much insight regarding the cultures of our neighbors. We simply are not taught those things in school. We live in a socio-centric society. We are taught that America is better than all other countries. We are taught that we are better, more worthy…that our beliefs are right while theirs are wrong. These teachings are the first step towards intolerance, racism and fear.
We can teach our children that our differences are interesting, rich and a beautiful part of what makes this world so fascinating. We can teach our children that contrast and diversity are not to be ignored or feared; but embraced and provide an opportunity for a growing experience. We can teach our children that it is the responsibility of each of us to end apathy, indifference and intolerance. And the absolute cornerstone of that must be knowledge, education and empathy.
WTMJ-4 has been interviewing the son of the Temple’s President, Satwant Kaleka, who was a victim of the shooting. Amardeep Kaleka has been an impressive representative of the members of the Temple and of the Sikh community. His calm, forgiving tone as he describes his desire for equality and benevolence has been a true asset to the reporting of this horrendous crime. His interviews have moved me and brought me to tears while he has been able to remain composed, articulate and seemingly display an amazing presence of peace.
Most of us with an ounce of compassion are grieving to some capacity as we watch this tragedy unfold. When things like this happen, especially so close to home, we tend to wake up from our apathetic slumber and are able to see beyond our own backyard. Sadly, this typically does not last long after the cameras find a new story to cover.
I have not been quiet about my dislike of guns. I have spoken about the need for a greater understanding of mental illness and the obvious need to treat those who have been left behind. And I have been strong in my stance that our soldiers do not get the help they need as they return from combat. All of these aspects may likely play a role in this and similar events. But, we do not know enough at this time to apply these issues to the Temple shooting.
What we do know is: a specific group of people were the target of a mass shooting committed by a man who was a member of a band with white supremacist ties. He was discharged from the Army, and he recently broke up with his girlfriend. There are several variables in place here.
But there is no question that our deep-seeded ignorance does, indeed, come into play when we are faced with these types of violence. And we should all be held accountable if we do not work to grow with an honest and true desire to make things better.
Let’s help break this cycle by teaching our children differently than we were taught. Let’s stop isolating ourselves in this cloak of superiority. America is great. But we can do better and we need to recognize we are not the end all be all of this planet.