Oak Creek tragedy rooted in right-wing extremism

sikh violence

The murder of six people of Sikh faith and the wounding of others at their religious center in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee, should be strongly condemned by public figures and organizations alike. A cry of indignation and outrage must greet this act of premeditated murder.

A serious national conversation about it is needed. As a nation, we cannot allow this hate crime (or any hate crime) to be swallowed up by the next news cycle and then forgotten. The president should establish a national commission to study hate crimes - what causes them and how to prevent them.

This sort of violence will not go away on its own. Passage of new gun laws is part of the answer. But at the same time deeper changes in public policy and politics are necessary if hates crimes are to be scaled back and eliminated.

The wanton attack on the Sikh community at their house of worship isn't unique. Indeed, it continues a developing pattern over the decade of hate crimes that have left innocent people dead and wounded as well as the American people uneasy and bewildered.

Contrary to what is suggested in the mass media, these crimes are neither completely inexplicable nor completely random. Nor are they fully explained by the mental instability of the assailant, in this case Wade Michael Page.  

The individual's mental state is a piece of the explanation. But of more importance, in my opinion, is the larger political environment and how it directly and indirectly influences the perpetrators of violent hate crimes.

For the past three decades the toxic venom coming from prominent and not-so-prominent ideologues of the right has overwhelmed the ideas of decency, fairness, democracy, and equality. From legislative halls to religious pulpits, from radio talk shows to television broadcasts, from tea party rallies to national conferences, the hateful rhetoric of the right has created an atmosphere that encourages the formation of violent right-wing fringe groups and sets the stage for acts of violence against innocent people.

White supremacism, Islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia are at the core of the message of these ideologues of the right. In their worldview, End Times are near, Armageddon is coming, "white Christian" ("Anglo-Saxon") culture is under assault, "Big Government" is eviscerating the Constitution and the American Way of Life, women are dangerously forsaking their "traditional" role, and people of color and immigrants are overrunning "our land."

Sounds outlandish, too far out to be believed. Well it is for most people, but there is an audience for this message, nearly exclusively white people, white males in particular, who harbor real and imagined resentments of all kinds, taking them out on invented enemies.

Moreover, the election of the first African American president, and the collapse of the American economy starting just before that, further ratcheted up for some a sense that the world is coming apart, and the rage attached to it.

None of this, it should be said again, happened purely spontaneously. The ideological zealots of the right turned both the election of a black president and the economic crisis into fodder to further spread hate, racism, and scapegoating - an explosive combination in our nation's history - among the unstable and violence-prone.

Which brings me back to Wade Michael Page. He didn't appear out of nowhere. He was a neo-Nazi and his decision to pull the trigger that led to the Oak Creek carnage was not his alone. He was in no small part a product of the rhetorically incendiary environment manufactured by right-wing extremist ideologues and their wealthy backers.

Not to take that into account, not to see that phenomenon, is to miss the forest for the trees. It is politically disarming in the face of this outbreak of seemingly random and senseless violence against Sikh Americans. No solution to the increasing horrific incidents of violence in our national life is separable from the struggle to roll back the influence of the right in our national politics, not least in the coming elections.

On a deeper level, the violence against innocent people that we are witnessing today - not to mention the ascendancy of right-wing extremism and the ginning up of anti-human ideologies and practices - is organically embedded in the system of capitalism, U.S. capitalism in particular. Replacing capitalism with a more humane economic system, however, is a task for another day when the necessary social forces are assembled to do so.

For now the immediate task is to defeat the right wing in November, as well as change public policy in a people-before-profits direction and make stopping the killing of innocents an integral part of our national conversation.

Photo: A vigil for the victims of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Aug. 5. ljlandre CC 2.0

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  • "The president should establish a national commission to study hate crimes - what causes them and how to prevent them."

    The president should stop

    - death penalty in US Law
    - killing innocent and may guilty people with Missiles without judicial proceeding

    German saying: "The fish starts stink at the head"






    Posted by Marian, 08/25/2012 1:52pm (2 years ago)

  • While I agree with the spirit of this article by Comrade Chairman Webb, the difficulty is in the logic. It is argued that the rise of right wing fascism in national politics is to blame. And, that the election of the first African American to the presidency plays into the argument that the angloid culture is under attack. One wonders how re-electing Barack Obama will quell this feeling?
    While I take absolutely no pleasure in it, my prediction is that Obama's inevitable re-election (due more than anything to the right alienating some of the largest voting blocks in the nation, namely African Americans, Latinos and the LGBT community) will only bring about more of these types of terrorist attacks... And if, as the author insists in neccessary, the executive branch makes an initiative of investigating these groups, this will only increase their paranoia and cause more desperate actions on their part.
    Sadly, the solution to fascism and racism is not nearly as simple as can be solved by any individual action. What we truly need is all of society to reject even the smallest acts of racism and to give that mind set no refuge within our borders. It must be a collective effort that capitalism it's self is structured to oppose.

    Posted by Jordan, 08/21/2012 2:19pm (2 years ago)

  • I do belive Mr. Webb is quite correct. If We wish this
    crop of bitterness Our Country suffers to diminish, or to hopefully disappear alltogether, cutting off it's Right-Wing fertilizer is very likley an exellant and advisable place to start.
    A win in November won't of course do that of itself, but a win,and then pointing a finger at the offencive heap fertilizing said crop of actions might just find progress.

    Tender condolences to our fellow Americans who suffered in this vile attack, and thier families.

    And thanks Mr Webb, for a great andtimely article.

    Posted by Randall Smith, 08/11/2012 12:54am (2 years ago)

  • The climate in the last few years, I fearfully suggest, is becoming rapidly and increasingly reminiscent of that in Germany in the 1930s, politically, socially, and economically.

    The big question is whether a united front can today be formed, and hold, before the ultra-rightists gain a victory, rather than collapse as it did Europe in the '30s.

    Posted by non-Party Comrade, 08/09/2012 2:58pm (2 years ago)

  • All the superficial stuff coming from the corporate talking heads is another smoke screen. Right, a smoke screen to keep the American people from understanding what is brought to the fore by this article.

    It's going to take a huge struggle, but we have no other choice but to keep Romney and his right wing backers out of the white house.

    Take back the house and beef up the senate.

    We can do no less if we want peace and prosperity in our land.

    Posted by Gabriel Falsetta, 08/09/2012 2:18pm (2 years ago)

  • This is a very important article, one that does what most of mass media is not doing, that is, focus on the muderer as a neo Hitler fascist, not a lunatic with 9/11 tatoos or some who played in Neo Nazi rock bands. It is interesting also to mention that when the media needs to know about these fascists, for whom "terrorism" at all levels is not only what they are about but what they would do if they had state power, it turns to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a private non profit organization which has long done the work that media and particularly government should be doing.
    Communists through the world were both pioneers in exposing fascism everywhere, pointing to what Sam calls its "wealthy backers" everywhere, and organizing and educating working people to fight against it. This article really helps to do that and should be widely distributed
    Norman Markowitz

    Posted by , 08/08/2012 8:05pm (2 years ago)

  • u got it rite sam it's no accident this racist coward was being checked out by the southern poverty law center time for all decent folks to stand together against these extremists who would destroy this great country of ours

    Posted by jim, 08/08/2012 4:59pm (2 years ago)

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