Robert's Virtual Soapbox

(or, The Sanctimonious Professional Leftist's Blog)
Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 6, 2012 4:16PM

Wade Michael Page and the two Americas

Rate: 8 Flag

Wade Michael Page is seen in this undated picture from a myspace.com web page for the musical group

Wade Michael Page (shown in some news images above), who was 40 years old when he was killed yesterday as he was committing a heinous hate crime, didn’t look so different from the way that I look.

He was and I am a brown-haired white man in his 40s with a shaved head and a goatee. His eyes appear to have been hazel or green and mine are blue, and I have no tattoos, but still, just looking at us, just from appearances, you might assume that he was and I am on the same page.

But he was and I am not even in the same library.

Page, who yesterday gunned to death six people at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before he was gunned to death by a police officer, held a very different vision of what the United States of America should be than do I.

Page reportedly was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1998 for “patterns of misconduct” and was “ineligible for re-enlistment.” He also was a white supremacist. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and individuals who are involved in hate groups:

Wade Michael Page was a member of two racist skinhead [musical] bands – End Apathy and Definite Hate, a band whose album “Violent Victory” featured a gruesome drawing of a disembodied white arm punching a black man in the face. In the drawing, the fist is tattooed with the letters “HFFH,” the acronym for the phrase “Hammerskins Forever, Forever Hammerskins.”

The Hammerskins is a nationwide skinhead organization with regional factions and chapters that once dominated the racist skinhead movement in the United States.

Both of Page’s bands played with a revolving lineup of musicians, and their music was at one time featured on the Hammerskin Nation record label. In 2010, Page and his band mates – including Brent Rackley, a member of a Confederate Hammerskins chapter in North Carolina – played at a racist music festival called Independent Artist Uprise in Baltimore. Other bands featured at the show were Blue Eyed Devils and Max Resist, both influential mainstays on the hate music scene.

“Blue-eyed devil.” As one who possesses blue eyes, I never want to be mistaken for a white supremacist.

I don’t believe that the United States of America should be a white-majority nation, either in numbers or in political power. (Even when whites have only a plurality in terms of their population in a certain area, they still tend to wield majority political power in that area.)

I don’t believe that the racial makeup of the United States of America matters. An American, to me, is anyone who lives here. (I’m not even concerned about his or her citizenship status.) I am not disturbed that racial demographics in the U.S. are shifting, so that whites increasingly are becoming a minority in the nation as a whole. (Whites already are a minority in many regions of the nation.)

I don’t believe in an American monoculture, which is what Page and his ilk apparently have wanted: a culture of white, patriarchal, usually theocratic so-called “Christians” who believe that those who are different — those whose race or beliefs or language or customs or sexual orientation or gender identification differ from the white monoculture’s or from what the white monoculture dictates these things “should” be – should be relegated to ghettoes, driven out of the U.S. and/or even exterminated.

A monoculture of any type is dangerous. Biologists will tell you that when a species does not allow in some genetic diversity, that species’ genetic defects, which are not washed out, then, so to speak, will then threaten the species.

Ditto for culture. The closed-off white monoculture envisioned by Page and his ilk is a recipe for ruin because it lets in nothing different and new, making adaptability to a changing environment difficult to impossible.

Only by allowing in diversity can the United States of America adapt to a rapidly changing world. Others possess what the white monoculture does not possess – and what it needs. (And yes, even the white monoculture has some valuable things to offer other cultures.)

Far from the white supremacist viewpoint, mine is much like that of the late Mexican philosopher, politician and writer José Vasconcelos, who in his long essay “La Raza Cósmica” (“The Cosmic Race”)* urged the intentional mixing of all of the races in order to maximize the gifts that the various peoples of the world possess.

It’s a Utopian vision, I know. Indeed, Vasconcelos even calls the achievement of such a society “Universópolis.” You don’t get much more Utopian-sounding than that.

But is this vision really any different from the vision statement that is printed on our nation’s seal and on our currency: “E pluribus unum,” Latin for “out of many, one”?

I hold that this vision, however Utopian, is a much higher vision than that of Wade Michael Page, who was just one of millions of white American men (and women) whose vision, whether they openly admit it or not, is that of continued white supremacy — a right-wing, racist vision akin to that of Nazi Germany.

I hold that the vision of “E pluribus unum” is the true American vision, although the history of the United States of America is one big violation of this vision after another. Indeed, the American ideals were violated even as they were created. But because the vision repeatedly has been violated by those who have yet to rise up to it is no reflection upon the validity and the strength of the vision itself.

Speaking further of the truly American vision, I take the words associated with the Statue of Liberty quite seriously:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me …”

Therefore, I see anti-immigrant sentiment as deeply un-American. Anti-immigrant sentiment is as American as apple pie, you might argue, and I would agree with you that yes, in what we have seen throughout U.S. history to this present day, it sure is, but in terms of the vision, of the ideal, it is quite un-American.

The six Sikhs whom Wade Michael Page gunned down in cold blood — five men and one woman who ranged in age from 39 to 84 – they, I am guessing, were among the “masses yearning to breathe free.” They, I am guessing, responded to the promise that the United States of America had made to them that it wanted them, that it would embrace them, that it would grant them some freedom, or at least some opportunity.

They met a white supremacist coward’s bullets instead.

They met his bullets because he very apparently considered them to be a threat to his continued survival and that of the group(s) to which he perceived himself to belong.

I consider them and others whose culture is so different from mine not to be a threat, but to be an opportunity — an opportunity to learn more, to discover more, to grow, to expand my concept, and theirs, of what it is to be a human being on planet Earth in this cosmos.

Rather than spray Sikhs with bullets, or even with rubber bands, I’d much rather spray them with questions. I’d rather compare notes.

That doesn’t mean that I’d ever become a Sikh or a Muslim or a Hindu (yes, white supremacists, they’re all different) or that I’d learn a foreign language that is incredibly difficult for someone whose first language was English to learn, such as Mandarin or Cantonese or Japanese or one of the Russian dialects.

But it means that I’m not afraid to share the same space with people who significantly are different from me, and it means that I’m willing to engage in cultural exchange that benefits everyone.

Although they might look the same on the surface, there truly are two United States of Americas.

One of them is represented by the likes of Wade Michael Page.

I am proud to represent the other one.

*Written in 1925, the essay contains some sentences that seem racist or at least stereotypical today, so I don’t endorse every word that Vasconcelos put down in his essay, but I do endorse his overarching ideas, and it does seem to me that, as Vasconcelos posited those many decades ago, Latin America might offer the United States its best hope for salvation, which is ironic, given the United States’ historic oppression of Latin America.

Your tags:

TIP:

Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:

Comments

Type your comment below:
Robert, I would feel proud to join you in this, and I urge others here to do the same.

Rated.
Thanks.

It -- to discuss race, ethnicity and other differences and to try to bridge those differences -- is messy work, though, and it stirs up a lot of historic unpleasantness.

I acknowledge that all of us, myself included, of course, who fall short of perfection harbor SOME degree of racism and/or other kind of bigoted bias, and that we let nastiness from the past intrude upon the present, even when it's not warranted for us to do so.

(I have a co-worker, for instance, who every once in a while will bring up "40 acres and a mule" for no other apparent reason than to try to make those of us who are white feel horrible about being white and in order to make herself out to be a victim when she is NO victim, but gets away with murder in the workplace because she uses what I call the "race club" -- not the race CARD, but a race CURMUDGEON with which she likes to [try to] clobber others in order to manipulate them and to [try to] get her way. It's its own form of racism, and for her to assert that whites in the present owe her for what other whites did to other blacks before today's whites and blacks were even born -- that is bullshit, and it seems to me that she obssesses over race almost as much as does your typical white supremacist. [On the subject of reparations, I don't argue that reparations are totally unjust and uncalled for; it's that it would be impossible to issue reparations fairly, to make the individuals of today pay for what others did decades and even generations ago. To base reparations solely on race would result in undeserving recipients [not every black American is a descendant of slaves, for instance] and undeserving payees [not every white American is the descendant of a slave owner, for instance, and historically there has been plenty of white poverty in the U.S.].

Anyway, I think that I have just demonstrated how messy the conversation can get..)

In the end, though, it's not about being perfect, but it's about working on it, and as messy as the necessary conversations can be, it seems to me that we need to have them in order to prevent more Wade Michael Pages...
Thank you for this reasoned, thoughtful piece. I was drawn to it because the shooting occurred in my hometown of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, but also because of your "two Americas" theme.
Viva your vision of utopia. Diversity is what makes us grow.
What amazed me was that this guy was in a skinhead band. I didn't things like that existed.

The idea of having more than a handful of songs celebrating racism and violence is just astonishing. How many can they do without being utterly repetitive? I can't stand listening to two ABBA songs in a row, or three polkas. How could someone spend an entire evening listening to hatred put to music?
When you think that our national culture can not find a deeper ravine to slide into, we find the likes of this latest tragedy hitting us in our gaping mouth ... no relief in this season of defining oneself by the hand of violent-speak. We are entering something new, I feel. And many will think it a gross oversimplification, but these people who cry out, We want our country back, are making themselves known. They do not care about having the right country -- only one that agrees with their limited perceptions, deeply displaced internalized rage gone off its rails.
These Sikh's are quite peaceful and the concern is one of their appearance: racists feel that people who do not fit their profile, feel that they can easily target based on exterior appearances. In fact, men that I would hire of this Sikh faith, would have an attachment to their resume, explaining that the turbans worn were not to be construed to be akin to Al Qaeda or like groups in any way. They wanted only to be treated like anyone else. They would be very good engineers, solid guys to work with. But they looked different. No problem for most. But racists have a hard time with this -- and from where I sit, have difficulty expressing themselves.
Unless given the easy, swift power of the gun or means for controlling their moment . Sad state that we find ourselves.
Mary, violence upon Sikhs has happened near me, too.

Last year, two elderly Sikh men were shot in Elk Grove, a suburb of Sacramento (where I live), while they simply were taking their usual afternoon walk. One of them died on the spot.

(See: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/03/sacramento-area-sikhs-offer-30000-reward-in-shooting-of-elderly-men.html )

They are believed to have been shot because they were wearing turbans, as Sikhs do because of their religious beliefs. I don't believe that any suspects have yet to have been arrested in the hate crime, and I'm not sure whether the second man who was shot is still alive or not. I'd have to research that.

Of course, no Sikhs were involved in 9/11, and reportedly Wade Michael Page -- and a possible accomplice or accomplices -- wanted revenge for 9/11, and thus Page's attack on the Sikh temple. These white supremacists are so fucking stupid that they can't even identify the right target. Not to say that it's OK to target Muslims -- it's not OK to target anyone -- but to hate Muslims yet not even be able to identify Muslims correctly...

(I did some reading on Sikhs, by the way, and apparently Sikhism came about from Hindus who were living in land occupied by Muslims. Sikhism strikes me as a type of hybrid of Hinduism and Islam that came about from sociopolitical necessity; however, Sikhs are not Hindu or Muslim and do not identify as such.)

Bernadine: Thanks. Yes, we might never get there, but we most definitely won't ever get there if we don't even try...

neutron: Is that a rhetorical question? I'll answer it anyway: I don't know. I'm guessing that those involved in white supremacism have their own "body of knowledge," so to speak, their own "heroes," their own jargon, their own subcultural references -- perhaps enough to put them into little ditties.

Skinheads, I think, are just angry and ignorant. They take out their frustrations on others who are not responsible for their frustrations.

On that note, I've also read that Page had his house foreclosed upon. Economic desperation, it seems to me, is enough to push unstable people -- like white supremacists -- over the edge, and in this case, anyway, it seems to have been a contributing factor.
inthisdeepcalm: Ditto, ditto, ditto.

I remember, shortly after 9/11 occurred, seeing a young man in a turban -- I'm guessing that he was/is a Sikh -- walking to work every morning. (He must have worked in my office building or elsewhere nearby, because I saw him frequently.) I remember hoping that he never got attacked in the post-9/11 hysteria because of his appearance.

I would hope that American Sikhs don't think that all white men are like Wade Michael Page. But after the frequent attacks upon them, how could I expect them to trust me on sight?

Anyway, all of that said, I want my country back, too! But I want it back from those who actually stole it from us -- the powerful, treasonous plutocrats and corporatocrats, not relatively powerless minority groups, such as the turban-wearing Sikhs or the brown-skinned "illegals."
As a brown-haired white male over 40 with a goatee and blue-green eyes (green inner like an island surrounded by blue ring like the sea), I agree:

"I don’t believe that the racial makeup of the United States of America matters. An American, to me, is anyone who lives here. (I’m not even concerned about his or her citizenship status.)"

All of my ancestors who sailed to America between 1630 and 1850 were illegal immigrants. They just came and started living here.

My wife is a Chinese-Javanese Indonesian.
While it is wrong for any one to targeted on the basis of their community I feel particularly bad for the Sikh community.

Long before 9/11, the Sikh community was fighting the forces of Islamist terror in their home worlds of Punjab and Haryana. In most parts of the world outside India, the Sikhs have a peer competitor relationship with the Muslims. There is a great deal of bad blood between the two communities and the Sikhs are among the biggest supporters of the global war on Islamist terror. In many countries Sikhs form a sizable part of the armed services and the police and actually participate in the war as foot soldiers.

To see Sikhs targeted by idiots who think they look "Muslim" leaves me speechless. It really brings out how ignorant and mentally imbalanced the people that do this are.

That being said - I have trouble see the connection between harboring racial animosity, murdering people in a temple and suicide by cop. These are three completely different levels of mental escalation. Trivially linking these will only lead to an intractable problem.

If a person harbors racial animosity - it doesn't necessarily make sense for him to kill the object of his hate. Without the point of focus - what would be left to hate?

If a person is homicidal and racially motivated, then yes - they will attempt to kill the people they hate, but then why would they shoot at the policemen? If the case of Frank Royer is anything to go by - they would see themselves as a hero and attempt to live as long as possible before proselytizing their views before and after the incident.

The attack on the policemen signifies a hatred of the state. So far very few white extremist groups have done this.

It is possible that after the Obama election, the elements of the white supremacist movement see the state machinery has being subservient to their racial enemies. But to actually confront the police - that is a whole other level of escalation.

To me this appears to be one the far end of the predictions of the DHS report that came out after the Obama administration took power.

Most white supremacist groups are little more than a cover for gun and drug running operations. The whole "white power" angle is simply held out as an organizational unifying principle, effectively discouraging internal revolt by using fear of domination by racial peers. The same dynamics works in other criminal entities with a fixed ethnic recruitment base. For a criminal to go from spewing racial hatred to shooting policemen is a very big step.

It seemed reasonable at the start of the Obama administration to assume that as long as the core economic interests in drug running and gun running were left untouched, the white power groups would stay away from an escalation. This way at most the situation would never reach the Ruby Ridge or Waco levels. If this has not worked, and these criminal organizations are escalating without a specific provocation. To my mind that is a massive shift in the ground situation and merits a review at the highest levels of the NIC or NSC.

What is even more puzzling is that the Oak Creek shooter does not fit the profile of a militant white supremacist. He has no history of gun crime. He has no known association with anti-state militias. The only thing the SPLC and SITE have on him is that he is part of a white power music group. That doesn't sound like someone who is off-the-charts on the sociopathy scale.

It is plausible that there is an undercurrent of homicidal anger in the white male population in the US on account of the general decline in "white privilege" and the social standing of heterosexual white males of traceable ancestry. It is also plausible that some of this anger is directed at minorities and at the state.

However there is little direct evidence of that in this case.

An equally plausible alternative theory is that both the Oak Creek shooter and the Aurora shooter took the same bad drugs and had a psychotic break and a homicidal frenzy.

Unlike the Aurora incident where the lack of motive could be brushed under the carpet by the investigators - in this incident it is vital to explore the motive.
Racism, in my humble opinion, is a form of mental illness. The moment I learn that someone is a bigot, that person loses all credibility with me. With this post, you've earned a great deal of credibility, admiration, and gratefulness from me. Rated for courage.
U Sing: To my knowledge, a white supremacist who is going to shoot someone doesn't worry much about shooting a cop. Also, you indicate that Page committed suicide by having shot at a cop. I don't know that that is established fact, and since Page is dead, how could we know his intent? How could we know that he was not, in his mind, just shooting back at the cop in "self-defense"?

Anyway, I tend to believe that Page's actions were the result of a combination of things, not just one or two. It's established that he was a white supremacist. It also has been reported that he had a house foreclosed upon, which is a very stressful event for most people. I also have to suspect, of course, that he had significant mental illness -- and that all of this made for a deadly mixture. (And yes, of course, he could have had a psychoactive substance on board that made him go beserk. Definitely.)

"It is plausible that there is an undercurrent of homicidal anger in the white male population in the US on account of the general decline in 'white privilege' and the social standing of heterosexual white males of traceable ancestry," you wrote. "Plausible"? No, it exists. I surmise that it's not even so much that heterosexual white males are losing power, per se, but that over the decades it has become more difficult for heterosexual white males to oppress others and get away with it. I suspect that that is their main beef -- that increasingly, they no longer can use others as punching bags. And, of course, that they have to share money, resources and power with others who aren't part of their monoculture. I am being a little convoluted here, but my point is that I suspect that it's not so much that white males are losing an awful lot of power, but that others are getting some power, too -- and that many white males view this, fairly incorrectly, as power being taken away from them. It's not about power being taken from them; it's about trying to achieve higher levels of fairness and equality.

Deborah: Thank you. But I'm certainly no saint. At least part of my motivation for having written this post is to get the message out that not ALL white males are like Wade Michael Page. I guess that's kind of selfish...

Racism and other forms of bigotry are, to me, if not exactly mental illness, then spiritual illness.
Spiritual illness, yes.

Great post.