Those who sell hatred also sell death

Yesterday, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin:

At least seven people, including a gunman, have died in a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in the US.

The attacker “ambushed” a policeman at the scene, shooting him multiple times, before a second officer returned fire, killing the gunman, said authorities.

The shot officer was among three men critically injured in the attack in Oak Creek, suburban Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel has been providing excellent local coverage. Start here: “Victims called loving, dedicated, deeply religious.”

* * * * * * * * *

Families gathered on a Sunday morning for worship and fellowship. And then a man arrived with a gun and an overflow of hate and he killed six people.

Six people he did not know. Six people who were doing nothing other than gathering with their families and their community for worship and fellowship on a Sunday morning.

A few more details about the murderer have begun trickling out. He — mass killings like this are, almost exclusively, a thing done by men — was killed at the scene by a local police officer, so we will not hear him attempt to explain his motive for this crime during his trial. But the crime itself tells us something about that motive.

This man did not kill for money, or for jealousy or personal revenge. So why, then, did he choose to kill? And, more urgently, why did he choose to kill these particular people — these friendly, faithful people whom he had never met?

Somehow, it seems, he had become convinced that these people, these peaceful families, were his enemies. He had no basis for deciding this because it was, in fact, not true. These people were not his enemies. Nor were they the enemies of anyone else. And yet, somehow, this man got it in his head that they were — he somehow came to believe that they were an enemy, a threat, a menace to be countered with sudden, lethal violence.

And we all know that “somehow” is not a mystery.

That somehow is a multi-billion dollar industry. The leading figures of that industry are respected, powerful, wealthy people who have grown rich and famous through an infotainment empire that pours gasoline with one hand while shooting sparks with the other — all while denying responsibility or culpability or any association at all with the fires that “somehow” keep erupting.

This warped, cruel shooter was a customer of theirs. He bought what they were selling. He believed what they were preaching. He pointed his gun exactly where they were pointing, pointed it at the people they are always pointing at — at immigrants, at religious minorities, at people with darker skin.

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  • Aunt Vixen

    Especially people with darker skin who cover their heads.  Sigh.

  • We can reliably infer that the shooter was an ill-informed, irrationally angry, person.  

  • Ursula L

    Those who are interested might enjoy the documentary “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath.”   Done by a young Sikh woman, post 9/11, looking at anti-Sikh and anti-Muslim violence after 9/11.  (It started literally moments after the first plane hit.)


    There is also an interesting point here, about people being armed in order to stop oppression and random violence.  

    Sikhs do this.  One of their core practices (the 5 Ks) is “Kirpan.”  This refers to a short sword or knife, with a curved blade, that Sikhs traditionally carry, as a reminder of their duty to stop oppression and defend those being attacked.  While not all modern Sikhs wear a kirpan on a daily basis, and often the knife is symbolic rather than functional, it’s quite likely that at least a few people there were both armed and trained with the express intent of being able to intervene in such situations.  

    Someone with a  US-Second-Amendment fetish for violent self-defense might imagine that a church that has the belief that people should be armed to stop oppression and attack would respond by many people pulling their weapons and counter-attacking together, so that the gunman would have been overwhelmed.  Even if some were killed in the attack, they’d imagine that the number of faithful fighters would ensure the attacker couldn’t get everyone before being stopped.  

    And, in abstract theory, the Sikh practice of “Kirpan” should make Sikhs the people who, if attacked, should be the near-perfect example of how being armed for self-defense is a personal and public good.  One gunman shouldn’t be able to overwhelm an entire congregation with the religious belief in being armed to stop oppression and violent aggression.  

    But that’s not what happened.

    Being armed isn’t the same as being psychologically prepared to use your weapon at a moment’s notice.  Belief, even religious belief, in the good of being able to defend people from oppression, injustice and violent attack doesn’t mean that you’re actually able to react to violence with violence at the drop of a hat.  

    It also doesn’t mean that the best thing for you to do is turn and counterattack, rather than taking cover, helping others hide, calling police, administering first-aid or the many other things that people in this instance did, successfully, to protect themselves and others.  A response that doesn’t include direct violence against the attacker is not the same as no response or helplessness.  

    Too many people were killed and injured.  But if people who are unarmed or unwilling/unable to use any weapons they have in effective counterattack were genuinely helpless, the death toll of these incidents would be much higher.  Whether it is climbing down a hundred stories of stairs (carrying a stranger who uses a wheelchair and can’t escape on their own) in a tower  hit by a plane or grabbing the nearest child and heading for a closet where you hide from the attack and use your cell phone to call 911, people react effectively to save lives in (nearly[1]) the worst situations. 


    [1] “Nearly” because I have to insert my usual disclaimer for the situation when you’re dealing with my (Nazi) paternal grandparents.  But happily, they are dead and therefore no longer a threat to anyone (with appropriate caveats to “happy” for how their death affected my family and their friends, which isn’t any different from how anyone’s death affects their friends and family) and lost all political and social power decades before they died, and the situation they created is rare enough that “Godwin” is a useful concept in deciding how to frame and judge arguments.

  • Hexep

    Did nobody come out with a kirpan?  I imagine for young men, having this thing be a constant part of your life, having to put it on every dayyou’d be itching for a genuine opportunity to use it.  I have no idea what role the kirpan plays in modern Sikhism, or how far it’s strayed ideologically from its ‘Warrior-Saint’ roots, though.

    How are other Sikhs responding to this news?

  • Cathy W

    One thing that occurred to me was that, however many men in the congregation may have had their kirpan with them, it would be a fairly literal case of bringing a knife to a gunfight…

  • TheDarkArtist

    Two maxims spring to mind:

    1. “Don’t bring a knife to a gun-fight.”


    2. “The loser of a knife-fight dies on the scene, the winner of a knife-fight dies in the hospital.”

    Plus, why would they be “itching” to use a ceremonial knife in an act of violence. I have a small pistol for self defense (on the off and extremely unlikely chance that someone tries to invade my home). But, in no way am I “itching” to use it on someone, even though I’ve been shooting since I was a child.

    If someone is really looking forward to the day when they can physically injure or actually kill another human being, even in self-defense, that person is a whackadoodle, to put it mildly.

  • Hexep

    I am probably the whackadoodle, but if I’d been carrying around a knife – a knife that is representative of a sword, and which can be substituted for an actual sword – every day of my life, as a reminder that, to quote the Zafarnamah, ‘when all peaceful means fail, it is righteous to raise the sword,’ and that there is such a thing as righteous violence and that we must be ready to commit it, as symbolized by the fact that we all carry knives and are baptized as ‘Warrior Saints’ into the army of Guru Gobhan Singh, and to, as phrased in the Dev Shiva Bar Mohe, never fear in battle or shirk from fighting the enemy…

    Hells yeah, I’d be itching to have a good reason to draw it on somebody.  If there was a religion that required its adherents to carry around a hammer all day every day, I imagine they’d be all over any situations involving stuck-up nails.

    I’d get shot to pieces, but then again, not every mountain gets climbed on the first go.

  • Mau de Katt


    If someone is really looking forward to the day when they can physically injure or actually kill another human being, even in self-defense, that person is a whackadoodle, to put it mildly.

    And someone who has this mentality — looking forward to injuring or killing someone, even in self-defense — is definitely someone I would not want to have a gun and be anywhere near me in an “armed attacker” situation (or any situation, really).  Chances are they’d hurt or kill a lot more people than just the original attacker.

    Being prepared to use your weapon in self-defense or in the defense of others is not the same thing as looking forward to using it.

  • Hexep

    We can only speak to our own psychologies, but I can’t help but prepare for something – hurricane preparedness is a constant where I live – and not make the jump from ‘yes, I’m ready for this’ to ‘let’s see if I really am.’  I’ve been through major hurricanes – I was ground zero in Hurricane Katrina – and I can definitely speak to that desire; once I think I’m ready, I always want whatever it is I’m ready for to come to pass.

  • JonathanPelikan

    Then there’s also that Islamic center in my home state of Missouri that had its second big old fire in like five weeks.


  • TheDarkArtist

    Well, there are plenty of armed crimes going on right now. Feel free to go pull a knife on some of those people, because then we won’t have to read your insane crap, whatever the outcome.

  • Joykins

    Actually, there is some reporting that one of the slain used a knife to slow down the gunman.  I don’t know if this is confirmed.  Here is the MPR article I read about it: 

    ‘Police have told him, Kaleka said, that Satwant Singh Kaleka “attacked the intruder or the shooter in the lobby [of the temple] after gunshots were fired.” The elder Kaleka used a knife, authorities have told the son. Blood trails, said Amar Deep Kaleka, indicate that the gunman was “slowed … enough so that other people could get to safety.”‘ 

  • Seraph4377

    Hexep – yes, you are in fact a whackadoodle.  And even if there were members of that congregation who were “itching” to use their kirpan, that doesn’t mean they were prepared to do so when ambushed during a worship service by someone with a far-superior weapon.  That’s what an ambush is for.

  • schismtracer

    We can reliably infer that the shooter was an ill-informed, irrationally angry, person. 

    He was informed on firearm usage and knew enough about Sikhs (and, presumably, other racial/religious minorities) to violently object to their existence.  Sounds to me like he was perfectly well-informed for his purposes.

    (“irrationally angry” is a fair bet, though)

  • MikeJ

    I’ve carried around a cross for years, and I just can’t *wait* to nail somebody to one!

    Hex has to be one of the dumbest commenters for the month.  Probably worked hard to be prepared for a situation where he could be that stupid in public, and after he was prepared, he had to do it.

  • Hexep

    Understand, O Ye Reader, that I am not making the claim that their situation would have been improved by using their kirpans to fight.  On the contrary, as people here have stated, they probably would have gotten killed even more.  Hindsight reveals that they made the right decision.  I am making no claim to some Probability Broach – esque alternate reality where cowboys are made invincible by their six-shooters.  To be sure, a bit of corps-a-corps would have gotten them killed.

    But considering the central place that a weapon occupies within Sikhism, I would think that somebody would – yes, irrationally, and yes, with no hope of victory, and yes, surely to get capped in the face and die – try for it anyway, as part of this ‘fantasy roleplaying’ stuff that Fred has written reams and reams about.

  • Hth

     The thing is that people mostly just don’t do that.  They don’t irrationally dive into the midst of violence with no hope of victory, surely to get gunned down.  Some people sure think they will,  but overwhelmingly when the “opportunity” arises, their lizard brain/better angels take over and they just plain don’t.  Being surprised that Sikhs in Wisconsin aren’t somehow different from the vast majority of people everywhere else is really weird.

  • Hexep

    That’s very sweet of you to say, but I would never claim any kind of ‘best’ or ‘most’ for myself.  Breaking records is for extraordinary people; I’m just an ordinary person.

  • MaryKaye

    I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, but when I started to study martial arts I certainly indulged in self-defense fantasies where I beat up assailants.  I eventually decided that these fantasies were bad for me, and I try not to indulge in them anymore, but it took a lot of self-discipline.  I do think that it’s natural–this is not a value judgment–for people who carry weapons to think about using them.  I’m not sure I would call it “itching to” but it can feel like that.

    I heard a second-hand story of an aikido black belt who was mugged by two guys outside her dojo.  She did some very simple side-step moves, they missed her and fell down, and then they thought better of it and ran.  She said that she had to fight quite hard with herself not to yell after them “Wait!  I can do so much better than that!”

    I don’t think this is a bad thing in itself, though as I said, it turned out to be bad for me.

  • (sigh)

    May their memories be a blessing.

  • Seraph4377

    The fantasy roleplaying that Fred has written about is done with dice, pencils and paper. 

  • W33B33 weebee

     I think there’s a difference between wanting to use a learned skill to one degree or another and actually acting on that desire.

    My father taught me how his gun worked. He taught me how to load it, how the firing pin worked, how the safety was activated and yes, deactivated.  He fired it, and let me hear it, see the damage it could do. He did this because he knew that I was young, and curious, and if he ever slipped and forgot to lock the cabinet or left the key where I could get at it, I would end up with the thing in my hands.

    After I learned, I wanted to take it out and use it, just shoot some cans off the back wall or put some bullets in a car door. I REALLY wanted to, but common sense prevailed. The thing is, I’m low vision. I mean, can’t see ten feet, one eye doesn’t work, no depth perception and even colour blind, low vision. The common sense fact that I could never aim the thing right and never even come close to being able to tell there was no one in my line of fire kept me from actually doing anything.

    These people were facing down an enemy armed with a firearm, their weapons were small knives, shiethed under their clothes, and many of them had family in the building. As humans, our ability to tell when something we have been taught to do is a bad idea is one of our more laudable features.

  • TheFaithfulStone

    They don’t irrationally dive into the midst of violence with no hope of victory, surely to get gunned down.

    Apparently, Sikhs do.

    I think we could all learn something from the Sikh tradition.  They have a long martial tradition, and it’s FULL of Sikh’s fighting for the equality of other people, tolerance and pluralism.

  •  From my very limited understanding, I gather that the distinction between “being willing to use force in the defence of others” and “itching for a situation where I get to use my sword” is rather an important one in the Sikh religion.

  • I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this cretin knew anything about Sikhs or any other religion. People like that object to ANYONE who is different. 

  • Tricksterson

    Posted this on another thread but more aprpriate for here:

    Betting pool for when someone will try to somhow make it the Sikhs fault.  No I don’t think most fundgelicals will, they’ll just try to pretend it never happened in the first place but you know someone will.

  • Tricksterson

    So far here’s what I’ve heard, that the shooter is an army vet who recieved a “less than honorable” discharge with possible but so far unconfirmed ties to the white supremacist movement.

  • El Durazno de la Muerte

    People can also look forward to using a weapon or martial art in self-defense because they don’t have a visceral understanding of violence in the giving or the receiving.  I had a bit of that attitude as a teenager, but then I screwed up in a Judo class and almost injured my partner.  She was okay, but it scared the crap out of me and made me realize that I didn’t want to inflict anything like that on anyone.

  • Fred has also used that kind of fantasy roleplaying as an analogy to explain his theory regarding the persecution complex and “siege mentality” of many white, male, heterosexual, cis-gendered, evangelical Christians (i.e. members of the least oppressed, most privileged demographic of any significant size on Earth); I think that’s probably what Hexep was referring to.

  • I would be shocked if he was aware that Sikhs are not Muslims; a present-day American white supremacist bigot whose vast ignorance didn’t extend to that distinction would probably have shot up a mosque instead.  There’s a certain horrible irony in someone who likely thought of himself as “defending America” from Muslim extremists murdering members of a religious group with a long history of struggle against religious persecution (not just of themselves, but of other religions as well) by Muslim extremists.

  • PJ Evans

     I suspect that he’s one of those who equates turbans with Muslims.
    None of the Muslims I’ve met wear turbans; they don’t stand out in any way in a crowd.

  • Oh, I imagine Pat Robertson is already digging up some thoroughly debunked legend about the Sikhs being founded specifically to give the finger to Jesus or something

  • schismtracer

    My point is that he knew he didn’t like them (and, if the white supremacist ties allegations are correct, a lot of other demographics too) and that’s all the impetus he needed to get violent.

  • Lori

     I think the ties have been pretty well confirmed now

    I haven’t seen much coverage, but what I have seen has been less hateful and Othering toward Sikhs than I feared, but more clueless in a number of ways.

  • heckblazer

    Shooting sprees usually are done by men, but not always.  The case that first springs to my mind is that of Brenda Ann Spencer, who killed two teachers and wounded 8 children and a cop when she shot up the elementary school across the street from her home.  If you’ve heard the song “I Don’t Like Mondays”, the title is taken from her explanation for the attack.

  • Emcee, cubed

    My first thought about females doing shooting sprees is my first memory of hearing about a shooting spree ever (which considering I am roughly the same age as Fred and we were in similar geographic locations at the time, may have been his first as well). Sylvia Seegrist killed three and injured seven at the Springfield Mall in Delaware County, PA in October, 1985.  My father was actually working in the mall that day, though he was well away from the shooting.

  • As a matter of fact, Satwant Singh Kaleka died as a Sikh, protecting his gurdwara against the deranged gunman with his kirpan. I support the Right to keep and bear arms to give men of his caliber a better fighting chance.