Another horrific mass shooting of innocents in a public place has occurred – the second on American soil in three weeks – and more than a few Americans are feeling stressed by the overload. As people are discussing the latest incident, trying to understand the insane details as they unfold publicly, the above question repeats: Are these terroristic acts random to the summer of 2012 or are they our new background violence to the era?
According to current news reporting, the most recent shooter of nine worshippers, seven dead, at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI was a ‘watched’ member of racist white supremacist organizations and also a member of a musical band with lyrics that glorified racist ‘skinhead’ neo-Nazi ideals. There are organizations which quietly monitor the activities of hate groups, one known as the Southern Poverty Law Center, who had this individual in their sites. It is not known for sure if the shooter’s motivations were racially motivated, however his extreme belief system and the open ‘difference’ of his victims’ religious expression make such a conclusion easy to draw. FBI and ATF are still investigating.
In the United States, the Sikh religion, originally from India and Punjab (Pakistan border), is most known for the colorful turbans and long beards that men commonly wear, and the saris that the women may choose to wear. Sikh activists implore that these often serve as symbols that has caused them to be confused with Muslims and targeted as if they were Islamist extremists. At the temple, the gunman took aim the crowded temple filled with Sikh families who gather weekly to worship. Many are immigrant families, but most were hard working Americans, including young people. Early reports detail that a few of the priests attempted to fight the gunman despite the peril.
No one can definitively answer the initial question raised, we cannot know if we are on the cusp of becoming a society like Israel who must socially cope with the threat of public violence. I can tell you we are coming close; with our national threat color alert system, our airport, federal building, and courthouse security systems, our postal safety system, our police checkpoints, for example….all which could become so much more stringent, as we try to balance freedom and safety. And still somehow those individuals drenched in hate, confusion, and mental illnesses are capable of thwarting our systems and hurting the innocent.
There are some steps we can take now, while we are at the cusp. Of course we can beef up security, fund the agencies, and those with the proclivity to use their second amendment rights in a safe and responsible manner (child locks) are welcome to do so. We can also make some social changes, such as ‘minding other people business.’
While that notion is rather un-American sounding, if we take responsibility for one another in a community way, we not only police our ‘bad guys,’ by notifying authorities of wackos, like Dr. Fenton did of the Aurora, CO shooter, but we also figure out who is slapping around their kids, who isn’t eating right, who’s neglecting their animals, and ask the police and town council how to help those who need it. We have de-funded social services in our nation by 20%, so social workers who used to be over-worked before are going to be non-existent. WE are going to have to actually pick up the slack in a neighborly way, so people DO NOT feel disenfranchised and marginalized and take their second amendment guns and do unspeakable acts mimicked from video games. This is one way America can be different than ‘over there’ where they have daily violence.
Photo: Members of the Sikh community light candles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after the shooting in Oak Creek. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-Zuma/Rex Features
Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S. is a Psychotherapist and Reiki Master in Bethlehem, PA in private practice who specializes in Trauma, Grief, Autism, Addiction, Chronic Pain and offers individual counseling, life coaching, reiki sessions, and small group therapy. You may contact her directly at 610.216.319 or visit her site tinkerpsychotherapy.com.