Wonderful fights between narcissism and worthlessness

Attack on Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI

on August 6, 2012

First and foremost, kind thoughts and well wishes to everyone touched by this tragedy. I hope recoveries are quick and anyone who’s lost a loved one has no more complications this week as they grieve.

Personally, I spent the day with my girlfriend and cut myself off from keeping up with news out of Wisconsin before I started watching the live feed from the local news station in Oak Creek on my computer (which I was linked to on Twitter, because the Internet Age is truly one made of miracles). And my concern going forward will be with the news coverage. What the narrative is, how much victim-blaming occurs, what is discovered about the shooter and what is then focused on or dropped. But today was the day where we learn what has happened, who was effected,and that’s really it. There’s a panic and confusion even as a bystander learning what’s happening, but its a story with few needed details. _____ opened fire. _____ injured. _____dead. Is/is not still ongoing. ______ is suspected/ in custody/ dead.

Still, the narrative in the media (because there is no option not to have one and let the affected move on with their lives) is already beginning to be shaped. There was a glimmer of hope for fair treatment (i.e. this crime happened to these people, not these {ethnicity} ), as the FBI apparently referred to the shooting as a terrorist attack, and there’s a sad realization that their framing can still be a step in the right direction for public narrative. On the other end, a Fox News anchor allegedly asked a local alderman, “To your knowledge there’s been no unrest, ethnic or otherwise, that would relate to this Sikh temple?” a whole twenty fucking minutes into the crisis, while there were still reportedly hostages being held by the gunman.

In a just world without the institutional privileges that America has, this tragedy, especially so close to Aurora, would open up a media narrative that, once and for all, nationally shunned Michelle Bachmann and discussed gun rights and restrictions. There will be a lot of people praying for the victims tonight that make a living convincing “true” hot-blooded Americans that every foreign person, especially non-Christian foreigners, are the enemy, AND that the natural answer to this is to get armed to protect your family. There will be people that think we need less gun control, because more people with guns would have helped when a peaceful Sunday church meeting was interrupted by gunfire, instead of causing more chaos, more confusion, and more potential victims. There will be more journalists, people who have a national voice, questioning aspects of the victims’ lives and religious beliefs to “get to the bottom of this.” The religion of the shooter will never be at fault, but the religion of the Sikh worshipers will always be mentioned. These will not have been, families, friends, people coming out to worship on a Sunday. These will be Sikhs, worshiping in their temple, attacked not by a madman but attacked because of their religious beliefs. There will be people who call this attack “senseless.” I have a lot of trouble with that label, because there’s almost always factors that make horrors like this seem inevitable (Great Shakesville writeup on how “senseless” violence is anything but here: http://www.shakesville.com/2012/03/on-senseless-crime.html), but this is one of the clearest cases of an inevitable conclusion I’ve ever seen. In the last month, a prominent national politician who is championed as a hero of conservative values by some made it a mission to uncover all Muslims as working for the Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorists, anti-American, and dangerous elements to be removed, and she could be reelected to her position in government. She will be on Fox News again, and people will agree with things she has to say. People will think her version of the McCarthy Hearings were good, and just, and necessary. People of color with a non-Christian religion are often conflated as Muslims, who are then conflated as Al Qaeda, because we all know we can never trust a white male Christian after Timothy McVeigh, right? But in a post-911 world, Michelle Bachmann’s comments aren’t surprising. And they have real consequences for the safety of anyone of color.

Neither did the backlash to gun control legislation that has only ramped up in the wake of the Auora tragedy have nothing to do with this “senseless” act of violence in Wisconsin. And again we’ll hear calls not to politicize this, as if that statement wasn’t political and defending the status quo that someone might notice led to the tactical gear the shooter was reportedly wearing. The entrenchment of the idea of gun ownership as a sacred right and the violent rhetoric about people you disagree with reinforce each other and birth a nastier idea, and when the Constitution, the unborn zygotes, your self-perceived rights, and opposing government officials and laws and lifestyles you disagree with are all seen as requiring violence to protect or stop, people acting on the idea of heroic sacrifice and paying the ultimate price for liberty stop thinking about planning attacks and start attacking.

Going forward, my fervent hope is, somehow, this is the story that sparks a national conversation about how we treat each other, especially those with mental health issues, about the danger of stereotyping, of conflating an entire group with the actions of a few, and about gun control. Especially about gun control, because it’s hard to get an argument going on restrictions past mentioning the idea of discussing maybe having some more gun control. I hope the shooting, being so close to the Aurora shooting, isn’t easier to forget about, but harder. Then I hope that somehow morphs into a discussion about escalation of armament in America. It won’t happen around this shooting, because it would be too easy to frame as “You would have wanted the police to be LESS prepared for the gunman?!” but the militarization of police is absolutely a gun control issue in addition to being a power dynamic issue. A society that doesn’t see anything wrong with a private citizen owning an assault rifle won’t see anything wrong with small towns having fully armed S.W.A.T. teams.

A great piece from Stephan Salisbury about police gun violence on the rise ended with the thought: “Since that time the nation as a whole has become poorer and less white, while police departments everywhere are building up their capabilities and firepower with 9/11-related funding. Gun ownership of almost any sort has been cemented into our American world as a constitutional right and a partial ban on purchases of assault weapons lapsed in 2004, thanks to congressional inaction. This combination of trends should make everyone uneasy.” For non-Christian people of color, it seems the two most dangerous trends combining to threaten them are the fetishisation of gun ownership and the othering of “Muslims”, which is being turned into a pretty encompassing term in the minds of people who don’t think using violence to back up their political beliefs is a horrifying thought.

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