Chicago Tribune: It's never right to attack innocent people
Four days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Balbir Singh Sodhi, an Indian Sikh, was gunned down in front of his gas station in Mesa, Ariz., by a man who'd vowed to avenge the killings by shooting some "towel-heads."
Police reported four more attacks within the next 30 minutes - all by a man driving a black pickup truck, all against people who appeared to be Middle Easterners.
Since Sept. 11, groups that monitor hate-based incidents in the United States have recorded more than 1,000 cases in which Sikhs were targeted - and many more thousands of equally unwarranted crimes against American-Muslims.
It is never right to attack innocent people. Not to avenge the deaths of other innocent people. Not ever.
We'll never know for sure what Wade Michael Page was thinking when he opened fire on the Sikhs preparing for worship Sunday at their temple in suburban Milwaukee. Page killed six people and wounded three before a police officer shot him dead outside the temple.
Witnesses said the gunman, a US Army veteran, had a 9/11 tattoo on his arm. But Page didn't enlist out of a patriotic zeal to find those responsible for the attacks; he wasn't deployed repeatedly in the fight against terrorism. He served from 1992 to 1998. He was never stationed overseas, never saw combat. He earned a clutch of commendations, including two good conduct medals, before being discharged for "patterns of misconduct."
The Southern Poverty Law Center says Page has been on its radar almost ever since because of his interactions with neo-Nazi groups. He founded a white-power band called End Apathy in 2005. But he'd had no major run-ins with the law, nothing to suggest he was capable of such violence.
So is the tattoo a display of patriotism, or something darker?
Frank Roque, the man in the black pickup truck in Mesa, Ariz., is serving a life sentence for firing randomly at anyone in a turban. "I'm an American!" he protested when police came to arrest him. "I stand for America all the way!"
It's disturbing how often patriotism is conflated with racism, or white supremacism, or some other stripe of hatred. As if love of country justifies discrimination — or violence — against those who are different.
Is that what happened in Oak Creek, Wis.? Did Page target the Sikhs because he recognized no distinction between Sikhs and Muslims, or between Muslims and terrorists? Or did he target them simply because they didn't look like him?