Sikh Temples and Tucson's Federal Court

The Sikh Khanda

Sunday morning a christianist, a white supremacist with bad taste in band names, shot up a car park and then walked into a Wisconsin Sikh gurdwara, or temple. He killed six people, and wounded four more before he was killed by the responding police. His name was Wade Michael Page, and he was a terrorist.

**Update: The FBI has released a statement that says Page shot himself in the temple, rather than being shot by police responders. I'm sorry for posting the information incorrectly; I will always attempt to update with corrections.**

I have tried to sit down and write about this since it happened. It's Wednesday now, and I still can't wrap my head around the whole thing. I imagine that the victims and their families are going through that, but a million times worse.

Who in their right mind would want to harm a Sikh?! It's like wanting to murder Amish people, or kidnap and pimp out Vestal virgins! I mean, really! Sikhism is an egalitarian religion; they do good works, and work for the social good, because it's right, and it's a way for them to serve their God, and their community. They believe in reincarnation. They try to live rightly, to help, and love their fellow persons, because they believe it is the right thing to do (many Western religious people could take that one to heart: do good, for the sake of doing good, not so God will mark a check in your "What a good little girl you are" column).

No, of course no religion is perfect. I'd never convert to Sikhism because it never resonated with me culturally. But i can admit in many ways to being a Westerner-- Eastern thought and philosophy is beautiful, and often nourishes my spirit, but it is not mine. I appreciate it, seek to protect it from christianist hatred, and respect it. But I could not convert to it.*

My own religious bent notwithstanding. My heart broke for the worshippers Sunday morning. Sundays are supposed to be full of relaxation, spending time with your family, maybe sleeping in, or worship-- which ever one you're happier with. It's not supposed to be full of death and dismay. No day should be.

I want to rant and rave against neo-nazi's, but my heart is too heavy. So instead I will share their sacred symbol on my blog. It's beautiful, isn't it, the Khanda? So swooping and graceful.

I hope something good can come from this, but I don't look at life trying to find reasons from god or the cosmos. Some times bad people do terrible things just because they want to, and that leaves good people dealing with the aftermath.

It's up to us to make sure we work to prevent it from happening, again. To stand with the victims, to turn our backs on hate and bigotry, and to educate people. Brown skin doesn't mean the person is an evil Muslim out to take away your whatever! It merely means they've got brown skin. The more educated Americans become about other's religions, the better off we'll be. Sikhs have been targeted for hate/bias crimes for many years-- too many, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for not shouting down the haters more loudly.

Speaking of aftermaths, yesterday Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty. About a year and a half ago my husband and I slept in later than we'd planned. We had grocery shopping to do, and wanted to pop into the pet store for something called substrate-- basically aquarium dirt, for our live plants. I knew our Representative was going to be holding a "Congress on your corner" event close to us, and I had wanted to get up early enough to pop in. We slept through it, and so skipped it.

That morning, Loughner shot and killed six people in that supermarket car park. He injured many more, including my Representative, Gabrille Giffords. We didn't learn this until we made our first stop, at Sunflower Market. The gent in the live plant section asked us what we thought about the shooting.

'"What shooting?!" we were both confused, but didn't look at the news before we left.

"Someone shot Gabby!" The gentleman only needed to say her name. Everyone down here knows Gabby! She worked her butt off for our district, and is pretty universally liked. The question on everyone's lips was, "Who else did he hurt, will they make it?!"

We went home with heavy hearts, and as time passed, we learned more. Loughner is schizophrenic, unwell, was depressed, and tried to hurt himself in jail. He has been on suicide watch; was forced to take his meds; he was violent toward himself and his caregivers (the nurses, doctors and orderlies in the prison hospital).

Yesterday he stood in court and pleaded guilty. He's been healed up enough to know what he did was wrong, that he'll never get out of prison, that he is sick and needs help. He's 23 years old. He'll be sentenced in November, but that sentence will be life without the possibility of parole. If he lives for what's considered an average life span, he will have spent more then 50 years in prison when he dies.

I think it's a fair punishment.

I don't think executing him would be the right thing to do. First off, I believe with all my heart that capitol punishment is immoral. Secondly, however, he wasn't in his right mind when he killed and injured those many people; how can we execute someone who didn't know what in the hell they were doing?!**

Loughner will spend the rest of his life working in the prison-- the convicts to get jobs-- probably be able to get school done, as long as he stays on his medication, and will feel remorse for what he's done. That is his punishment: to live knowing what he did.

For most people, knowing what we did is enough to punish us. Our conscence freaks out all over us, and we want to make amends. Letting Loughner live in prison, and do his prison job, and take his meds to stay lucid, he can make some amends.

Now, I know he can't bring anyone back, and he can't undo the damage he's done. I know there are some people who wanted him burned at the stake, and won't take anything else as punishment enough. I know that there are some people angry at the survivors, because they, themselves, lost someone; Loughner living in prison may be hard for them to deal with-- because humanity often screams for vengeance. We don't want justice-- that's a nebulous thing that is damned near impossible to define: we want revenge, with a cherry on top.

In this case, there is no revenge. Just a hope that this young man will try to make something good out of the bad. The hope that everyone continues to heal and get better; the hope that all of Tucson can get better. We've got a hole in our city where the blind, never think about it, personal-security was, and we need to get past that. We need to heal up and stop hating. We need to forgive.

I hope that Loughner knows some of us do forgive him. I hope that all of the victims can forgive him, too.

*The only religion I could convert to would be Buddhism. I've incorporated much of that philosophy into my own religious work, but it blends well, and makes me think, hard, about the why of what I'm doing.

**Texas did just that this week when they executed-- no, murdered a man with an IQ of 61. Average, normal is about 100. Usually people under 75 (I think it is) need help living on their own, and will live in "assisted living homes", where they have a caregiver for some things-- a lot like adult supervision of a 16 year old. Mostly they're OK, but you need someone there who's grown, just in case.

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