Colbert I. King
Colbert I. King
Opinion Writer

The hate behind the Sikh temple shootings

We may never know why Wade Michael Page, an avowed white supremacist, opened fire on Sunday on worshipers at a Sikh temple in the Milwaukee suburbs. After killing six people and wounding three others, he turned the gun on himself. Authorities say he was a lone wolf.

What made Page take those innocent lives? Was it fear that he was losing his place in a demographically changing America? Was it outrage at a multiculturalism that he believed was taking this country to the dogs? Could it have been festering resentment of a federal government that seems to stick up for the wrong people — or that he believed tries to take over everything?

Colbert I. King

King writes a column -- sometimes about D.C., sometimes about politics -- that runs on Saturdays.

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Was it the music scene he was into, variously described as “white-power music” or “hatecore,” heavy metal stuff attractive to those yearning for a white America that is no more?

Quite likely, the motive for the shootings was hate. Hatred of people with colored skin who had gathered for a collective spiritual experience.

That kind of hate, based on race and religion, is real. And it’s gaining ground, if you believe the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

The center reports that a swarm of white-power organizations has grown since President Obama was elected in 2008.

There is, to be sure, no direct connection between Sunday’s rampage and hatred of Barack Obama.

But it is fair to ask whether we are living in a climate that fosters the kind of violence on display Sunday — and whether those brown-skinned worshipers, so easily accessible, were proxies for our heavily guarded president.

Because Barack Obama surely symbolizes all that the white nationalists despise.

After all, as the New York Times reported this week, Don Black, the director of a white nationalist online discussion forum, calls Obama “a symptom of the multiculturalism that has undermined our country.”

Don’t believe for one second that the inspiration for Black’s charge is found in “white-power music” or the racist tattoos adorning the bodies of skinheads. The music and tattoos are only manifestations of what lies within.

Search, instead, for what inspires and feeds the hate. For that, turn to our airwaves.

Tune in, for example, to “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” which describes itself as the “most listened to talk radio show in America.”

Imagine you are a disaffected skinhead sitting in your room, nursing your resentment at what you regard as this country’s steady drift away from all you hold dear, and you hear this: “I think it can now be said, without equivocation — without equivocation — this man hates this country. He is trying; Barack Obama is trying to dismantle, brick by brick, the American dream. There’s no other way to put this. There’s no other way to explain this.”

That was Limbaugh on his show last month.

Limbaugh reinforced his conclusion on July 16 with this charge: Obama “was indoctrinated as a child. His father was a communist. Mother was a leftist. [He was] sent to prep, Ivy League schools where his contempt for the country was reinforced. . . . This is what we have as a president, a radical ideologue, ruthless politician, who despises the country and the way it was founded and the way. . . in which it became great. He hates it.”

Get taken in by that narrative, and aren’t you likely to be good to go with anything that takes down the president? And if he’s not available for the taking, well, other people of color will do.

You sit in your car, worried about the next paycheck and wondering how to meet the house payments, and Limbaugh tells you, as he did on Wednesday’s show, “Obama doesn’t want to put people back to work. Obama wants to overwhelm this country with welfare recipients. That’s the fastest way to bring about the transformation that he wants.”

There you are, right on the edge, steeped in hate culture. Then the Oracle of the Right says that the source of all your problems is the president.

What do you do? What do you want to do?

What might you do, if you conclude that our country is going down the tubes, that Obama is the cause, that a blow must be struck for white power — and you just happen to be able to put your hand on a gun?

We may never know why Wade Michael Page pulled the trigger. And it would be wrong and unfair to infer that Limbaugh made him do it.But words like Limbaugh’s stir up the darkest feelings.

We know, oh how we know, what hate can do.

So, sadly, should the purveyors.

kingc@washpost.com

 
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