Again. Another mass killing; more gun violence; more politicians' words.
This time, though, is different in an alarming way.
This time, the killer walked the halls of a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, gunning down people gathering for Sunday services. When a policeman tried to help one of the victims, the gunman shot him. Eight times.
Like the shooting in a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater just days before, the crime sends a wave of horror and outrage across the nation -- innocent men, women and children gathered together in a peaceful pursuit, brutally murdered.
The Aurora gunman used an assault rifle with a 100-round magazine, among other weapons. The Sikh temple shooter used a 9mm handgun with multiple clips.
It's easy to focus on the crimes as examples of gun violence in the United States, and to hold them up as proof of the need for more gun controls. They may be that, too. But the shooting at the temple in a Milwaukee suburb appears to be an example of another frightening, and rapidly growing, trend.
Police identified the gunman in the Sikh temple shooting as Wade Michael Page. And while the motive remains a matter of speculation, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and reports on hate groups across the country, identified Page as "a neo-Nazi skinhead, a committed racist who has performed with at least two hate rock bands."
Federal officials said Page was a former Army serviceman trained in "Psy-ops," who was demoted and denied an honorable discharge in 1998 after 6- 1/2 years of service. They would not say what led to the demotion or why he was not granted an honorable discharge.
The SPLC painted a picture of Page after he left the service.
"Wade Michael Page was a member of two racist skinhead bands żż End Apathy and Definite Hate, a band whose album 'Violent Victory' featured a gruesome drawing of a disembodied white arm punching a black man in the face. In the drawing, the fist is tattooed with the letters 'HFFH,' the acronym for the phrase 'Hammerskins Forever, Forever Hammerskins.'
"The Hammerskins," the SPLC's Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok continued, "is a nationwide skinhead organization with regional factions and chapters that once dominated the racist skinhead movement in the United States."
Within hours of the shooting at the temple that left seven dead including Page and another three wounded, President Obama and Mitt Romney both issued statements expressing the expected sadness, condolences and offers of support.
Monday, the president followed up.
"All of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul searching to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence," Obama said.
That's hard to do, though.
While the focus in Aurora can be on controlling guns, or at least the access of madmen to guns, the Sikh temple shooting raises the specter of hate.
As the SPLC documents, the number of white supremacist groups in the country has grown at a shocking rate over the last decade, to some 133 separate organizations today.
Their focus in not just Sikhs. Hate crimes against gays, blacks and other minorities have risen steadily as well.
Attacks on Hispanics have increased disproportionately, compared to other groups. They're occurring more frequently, in communities all across the country.
In an incident they described as "beaner-hopping," teenagers attacked and killed Marcelo Lucero in a quiet Long Island town in 2008.
In 2010, three men with connections to a white supremacist group yelled "white power" and "run like you ran across the border" as they viciously assaulted two Mexican men outside a bar in San Francisco.
"As anti-immigrant propaganda has increased on both the margins and in the mainstream of society -- where pundits and politicians have routinely vilified undocumented Latino immigrants with a series of defamatory falsehoods -- hate violence has risen against perceived 'illegal aliens,' the SPLC noted.
Between 2003 and 2007, the most recent data available, "the number of FBI-reported anti-Latino hate crime incidents has risen," SPLC reported, "even as a swelling nativist movement has become larger and more vitriolic."
So, while our first reaction to what happened in Aurora may be to call for bans on assault rifles, or to limit 100-round magazines, none of those measures would have prevented the temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. There, the issue is much more insidious, and much harder to stamp out. There, it's not just our laws that can prevent tragedies, it's our beliefs.
As the president said:
"It would be very important for us to reaffirm once again that in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people."
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison