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“Politicizing” tragedy: discussing the Wisconsin shooting

Katie Toth

A deeply disturbing attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin is shaking America right now. A “frustrated neo-Nazi” killed six people and critically wounded three before being shot by police himself. The temple attendees were preparing for their Sunday services before the shooting.

Southern Poverty Law Center has released some new information about the alleged killer, Wade Michael Page. He was founder of white-power hardcore band “End Apathy.” He says also played in other hate bands, like “Blue-Eyed Devils.” According to Last FM, that band’s discography includes songs titled “The Final Solution,” and “Vandalize and Victimize.” Other song names the band has are arguably even more offensive than that so I’d rather not repeat them and I don’t want to give them the glory of an incoming link. You can look it up if you really feel compelled to on a search engine.

I’m really not sure how to give this story the appropriate analysis it deserves. I do know America is hurting right now, and that the Sikh community is hurting right now, and I want to give both all the empathy and space I can muster.

Then, after that space is given, we talk. An incident so surrounded by racism demands discussion of cultural xenophobia. Page says he was in multiple racist music groups—he bonded with others over his violent ideology on websites, even at music festivals. How does our culture allow for people to hold and perpetuate such awful beliefs? How could a mindset like Page’s have gone unchecked in the first place? An incident so shortly after the Colorado shooting also demands the discussion of gun control.

I do know one thing: whatever analysis you choose, whatever discussions you start, they’re going to be political.

Only a few weeks ago ago after the massacre in Colorado, presidential candidates were skirting issues around the shooting, saying that the wake of tragedy was not the time to talk about the bigger picture. It was not the time to ‘politicize the issue.’

But as MSNBC newscaster Melissa Harris Perry said then, national tragedy and how we deal with it is about policy. And policy is political.

When tragedies like this one shock a nation, mourning is not enough. Working through the grief means learning from the rage. In this case, as in so many others, people have to ask themselves: ‘How do we prevent something so heinous from happening again?’

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