Tuesday, August 7, 2012
http://www.presstelegram.com/opinions/ci_21258876/shakeel-syed-we-need-journey-beyond-violence Unlike other sluggish Sundays, this past Sunday I woke up early and excitedly log on to the NASA website to follow the 154 million-mile journey of Curiosity. Instead, I was shocked to read the breaking news about the horrendous act of terrorism at a Sikh gurdwara in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Instinctively I knew this American terrorist intended to kill Muslims at a mosque but ended up killing Sikhs at a gurdwara as similar acts of terrorism have occurred more than once since September 11, 2001. So, after all, what’s the difference between Sikhs and Muslims and gurdwaras and mosques? I found the answer in a devout Jewish friend’s email: “An attack on one house of worship is an attack upon all of us. An assault on one faith community is an assault upon all of us.” Until America embraces this paradigm, some American terrorist will keep killing some innocent and faithful worshiper somewhere. And this reminds me of a man who lived and died for that America: to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We may have traveled into galaxies and reached stars but have not yet learned how to live on earth like brothers and sisters.” This sage reminder is especially apt at the convergence of the Curiosity completing its 154 million-mile journey to Mars while Wade Michael Page, a former U.S. military PsyOps specialist-turned-terrorist, massacred seven innocent faithful Sikhs. Teresa Carlson, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation of Sunday's massacre, said “no motive for the attack has been established.” I must ask what else would be necessary to establish the motive? Page was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military where he served as a Psy-Ops analyst AND the Southern Poverty Law Center identified him as a neo-Nazi AND he shot innocent people at a place of worship. Several other questions keep bothering me. Did Mr. Page’s neo-Nazi instincts precede his U.S. military career or are they a result of his service? Does Mr. Page’s level of education reflect the U.S. military’s criteria for those whose hands are permitted to take lives of others in the name of our country? What about a citizen’s constitutional right to own a firearm versus the State’s privilege to grant a driver’s license: a dishonorably discharged psycho from the U.S. military can own a firearm and massacre innocent people but a law abiding tax paying citizen’s driving privilege can be suspended or revoked if he’s unable to pay couple of parking tickets. While I pondered these questions, I was alerted to another act of terrorism. On the day after the Wisconsin shooting, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was torched to the ground in the pre-dawn hours during the most holy season of Ramadan when Muslims fast, pray, and give to charity each year. Of course, this is not the first mosque that has been burnt down. A few years ago, a mosque in Adelanto was razed to the ground and some months thereafter an Imam in the same area was tied to a chair in his house and burnt alive. The slow wheel of justice is still turning and no one as yet has been held accountable for this heinous act. We may have reached Mars and may even travel beyond but will that stop massacres and mayhem on our planet earth? Our country has spent $2.5 billion to reach Mars and to study stones. Today, will you spend 2.5 minutes--or a bit more--and force your heart to hear the sobbing orphans and wailing widows in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? While fasting today, I am reading and reflecting on all the darkness that seems to be surrounding us. I am reminded of the sage words, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And I add, whether on Mars or on Earth, without selfless love and sincere empathy we may continue our curiosity but will not cure the darkness in which we live.