One of those unfinished project from my days as senior writer at The Jewish Journal was a piece on Southern California skinheads and neo-Nazis. I did the piece about the academic that white supremacists love, but I never finished an “American History X”-type piece.
The reasons such a piece would be of interest to L.A.‘s Jewish community are fairly obvious—specifically years of run-ins with white supremacists and some targeted attacks on Jews. It would have been less obvious to me why, say, the Sikh community would be interested in such a story.
That is no longer the case. Sunday, Wade Michael Page, an Army veteran and known white supremacist, allegedly opened fire in a Sikh temple, killing six.
There has been a long history of hate-based attacks on Sikhs, who bare long beards and turbans, and carry a small dagger (as is required by their religion). They are a peaceful, and misunderstood, religion.
Page, on the other hand, reportedly was not:
Page, who lived in a neighboring community, served in the military from 1992 to 1998, received a “general discharge” and was “ineligible for reenlistment.” A Pentagon official said Page rose to the rank of sergeant before being demoted to specialist and leaving the Army. News agencies reported that Page, who was never posted overseas during his six years of service, was discharged for being drunk on duty and other unspecified misconduct.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that monitors hate groups, Page was a “frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.” He had been “part of the white power music scene since 2000,” when he left his native Colorado on a motorcycle, attended white power concerts in several states and played in a variety of “hate rock bands,” the center said, citing a 2010 interview Page gave to a white supremacist Web site about his latest skinhead band, “End Apathy.”
One question that always gets asks after mass shootings, particularly against a specific group of people, is whether the shooter was a lone wolf or part of a pack.
But you also have to ask what this tragedy will mean for the families left grieving, and for the community that now might wonder just how safe their temples are.