On Sunday, August 5, Wade Michael Page became America’s newest mass murderer.
The 40-year-old Army veteran, who was the frontman for a white supremacist rock band called End Apathy, was already being tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2000 for trying to purchase supplies from the neo-Nazi group National Alliance, according to a report by Mother Jones. Tattooed and stocky, bald-headed and full of hatred, Page walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, eventually unleashing hell on people who did not even know this man existed.
Six people would fall by his hand, never to rise again. Page would ultimately be gunned down as well after exchanging fire with a cop he wounded. And possibly for the next several days and weeks, there will be both speculation and confirmation of what Page’s true motives were.
The Twitterverse has sparked a heated discussion over the need to finally tackle gun control in an effective manner. While noble and necessary, discussion of gun control only answers the question this new shooting raises halfway. In fact, the discussion of gun control is the distraction; the one thing that so many would jump to in a reactionary fashion when things like this happen. The issue this country should be discussing right now, and probably will not because of its serious nature, is domestic terrorism, specifically Right-wing terrorism carried out by angry white men.
In 2011, the SPLC counted a total of 1,018 hate groups active within the United States. In 2008, that number was 926. While the speculation of why the number of these groups have spiked in the last 3-4 years, there can be no denying that the increase of diversity of this country, combined with the shrinking of the white majority and the advent of a Black President, have created abject fear, paranoia, and desperation by those in rejection of an increasingly brown America. Instead of embracing diversity in its many forms, people like Wade Michael Page see their skin and status as providential favor or evidence of a divine order, rejecting others of different skin tones, religions and bedroom partners as a tide of immorality and chaos that must be stemmed by any means necessary.
We have been warned in the past about people like Wade Michael Page. On April 7, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security released an assessment entitled, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, that should have alerted the nation as to what was about to happen. This assessment, which was also brought to light today in a piece by The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, delineated precisely what to expect:
out violent acts. to obtain credit—could create a fertile recruiting environment for rightwing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past
as well as potentially spur some of them to begin planning and training for violence against the government.
Until we can solve for the problem of rightwing terrorism, and combat this issue where it lies, the gun control debate will prove forever meaningless. The debate over the need of hundred-round clips and assault weapons are perfectly appropriate with examples like Jared Loughner and James Holmes, but Wade Michael Page’s massacre at a gathering of Sikh worshippers is a clear signal of the need to address domestic rightwing terrorism. And as Capehart wrote today, “the scary warnings have proven prescient.”
UPDATE: Upon further investigation, it was determined that Wade Michael Page in fact turned the gun upon himself.