This Sunday, August 5, 2012, the news was dominated by two American events that could not be more different, but both of which express aspects of our American culture. Daytime news was dominated by an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Sikhs might look Arabic to someone, but, if you watched The English Patient, or if you know your world religions, you know that India probably has the largest Sikh population. Yet a lone gunman who police now suspect of being a white supremacist with a “hate” agenda appeared at this church on a Sunday morning as people were arriving to worship and shot at least six people and then shot two policemen. Did he hate Sikhs; I doubt it. This man may be mentally ill, but he does not fall under that category of shooter. The problem he represents to American society is about a combination of freedom and frustration, and, perhaps, ignorance. Was he a member of a group of domestic terrorists or was he a lone political extremist with an axe to grind. We learned this Monday morning that he was discharged from the service in 1990 for “patterns of misconduct” whatever that means. It probably means that the army knew he was a misfit, with some seriously unusual beliefs and yet he was not tagged for any kind of observation. I wish I believed that our government doesn’t “watch” American citizens sometimes, just to see what they are up to, but I think some people are on the government’s radar. Why wasn’t Wade Michael Page?
Wade Page was shot to death at the site of his “military operation” so we will not ever hear what he has to say unless he left a trail in his home or his computer which will soon be revealed. Apparently he was not doing anything illegal until he walked onto the Sikh temple property and opened fire so even if he had been under government observation there is probably no way he could have been stopped. So what do we do about a man like Mr. Page who could kill us anytime he took a dislike to us. We probably can’t do anything about the Wade Michael Pages who live in America without destroying the very freedom we believe in. All we can do is share the grief of the Sikh community and find out as much information as possible about Wade Page. Perhaps we can find a balance between our love of freedom and our instincts that are against allowing domestic terrorists room to operate in America, but, maybe we can’t.
The second news that dominated TV on Sunday was speculation about whether a Mars rover named Curiosity, a little science lab about the size and weight of a small SUV, would land successfully in the Gale Crater on Mars at 1:31 am Monday morning. Guess what America; we’ve got this! The landing was a great success and if you were watching in the small hours of the night you could have wooted with the NASA landing team who celebrated at their equipment modules. So America grieved all day and celebrated all night and it was a fairly atypical American Sunday, our shame and our pride on clear view all within a period of about 12 hours.