Not even a week after I wrote about the horrific and tragic murders in Aurora and Conch Key, caring people’s hearts were broken again as a hate-filled murderer took the lives of six others before losing his own at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Once again, tears flow. Once again, people mourn the loss of family members and friends. And once again, a community’s members are left bewildered, trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and wondering how something like that could have happened in a place they call home. And the rest of us try to understand just how something like this could have happened… again. With each new deadly event, we are still saddened to the core – but not as shocked as we once were.
Long before the shooter’s identity and background were revealed, as the details were first coming in, I had created a mental image of the person who did it – and I wasn’t far off. My image of a hate-filled pseudo-macho bigot bound and determined to rid America of invasive non-Christian foreigners was painfully close to the profile of the white supremacist hate-monger the shooter turned out to be.
What was incredibly revealing about the troubled psyche of this murderer was his involvement as a musician in a band in a fringe genre of music known as “hate rock.” The shooter led a North Carolina-based white-power band called End Apathy, and performed in several others. And because of his murderous actions in Wisconsin, the world now knows a lot more than it ever did about hate rock.
There is an actual market for this garbage – a couple of record labels put out tens of thousands of recordings of hate rock bands each year for their demented followers. These bands play shows and spread the hate anywhere in the country where bigots and white supremacists gather. What an abomination. Music is a gift from a much higher plane of existence than ours, a way to reach people’s hearts and souls – to uplift them and take them to a better place. What these hate-freaks do is a perversion of something wonderful… and we see just what happens as a result of this kind of perverted inspiration.
As Barack Obama was being inaugurated as our 44th President, some commentators who were caught up in the moment were talking about moving forward as a post-racial America. I knew better. While we have made great strides in the last 60 years, there is still a whole lot of latent racism left in America. From ignorant individuals all the way to more organized groups like the Klan, Neo-Nazis, Aryan Brotherhoods, and others, hate is endemic in large parts on our country. And it’s not just race – it’s intolerance of anything perceived as un-Christian and un-American. That’s why peaceful Sikhs were murdered in Oak Creek… and why a mosque was burned to the ground in Joplin, Missouri this past week… and why things like this will likely still keep happening.
To totally eliminate hate and bigotry, people have to change in their hearts. They have to discover for themselves that things they may have been taught or things they grew up believing aren’t necessarily right. They have to move past their pasts and open their hearts and minds. And for some, it’s not easy leaving it all behind. Consider a white child who grew up in a family that was prejudiced against African-Americans. Consider a Muslim child in Palestine who grew up hating Jews. Consider the Northern Ireland Protestant child who grew up hating Catholics (my Jesus is better than your Jesus). When bigotry and hatred go back generations, it’s tough for people to get past it.
Tough – but not impossible. Consider South Africa: after years of the oppression that was apartheid, blacks and whites managed to come together, forgive each other, and begin heal a nation’s collective soul faster than anyone could have ever dreamed. They still have a lot of work to do, but at least they’re working together.
And some of the progress we have made gives me hope that one day we will see more tolerance and less hatred here in America… and that a message of love and acceptance will be heard by more and more people who really believe that all of us are God’s children… and that events like those of this past week become so rare that they actually do shock us again.