On Sunday night I turned on the TV to find that only CNN was covering the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin that killed six. Fox News had a program about a prison in Latin America, and MSNBC, something else that was equally irrelevant.
Compare this with the coverage of an incident that happened only two weeks ago, the shooting that killed 12 people in Aurora, Colo. Networks devoted themselves round-the-clock to the attack: Who was the shooter? Why did he do it? There were entire segments dedicated (rightly) to covering the vigils and a community in mourning.
This time, there was none of that. Instead, TV commentators asked tentative questions about a religion that few had heard of. There was none of the sense of outrage that followed the Aurora massacre, none of the national heartbreak and grief that seemed so pervasive only two weeks ago.
On the Sunday after the Aurora shooting, I'd taken a taxi to see The Dark Knight Rises. The cabbie told me to "be careful" when I stepped out and headed to the theater. This time around, even the man behind the counter at my neighborhood Indian grocery store found out about the incident several hours after it had happened. "We only knew when people from India began calling us," he told me.
So, obviously, the question is: Why is it that the American people, and the American media in particular, care less about this attack?
The Aurora shooting was purportedly the handiwork of a mentally disturbed young man. The attack says a lot about the lack of gun control in the U.S. but ultimately little else. Shouldn't this attack, with its label of "domestic terrorism" and possible political agenda, spark off a larger discussion about the dangerous insularity of American society? Shouldn't we be talking about why white-supremacist ideology would find a favorable recruit in a man with a military background?
Consider, for a minute, a situation in which the skin colors of the victims and attacker were reversed. What if, instead of a white supremacist, the attacker had been a Muslim fundamentalist, and the place of worship a synagogue or a church? Would Fox News have aired a segment about a Latin American prison just hours after the shooting? Would we be talking about the Olympics right now?
I'm not American. I'm Indian. But in the three years that I've lived here, I've come to love this country. I love the freedom and meritocracy that allows me, an immigrant, to work at one of the country's most well-known Internet news organizations.
I also love that America lets me, in theory, practice the faith I was born into -- another small, lesser-known Eastern religion called Jainism. Like the six people who died at the Gurudwara in Wisconsin, I have woken up early on weekends to go to a temple, mine being a Jain temple in Queens, N.Y. Jainism, like Sikhism, broke with Hinduism over the caste system. We're not as physically conspicuous as Sikhs, but we're a racial and religious minority all the same. Just like the hundreds of Sikhs who'd gathered at that Gurudwara in Oak Creek, I've marveled at this strange immigrant experience that allows me to feel at home while living in a foreign country. And when I read about the shooting on Sunday, I thought of all the people I know who were engaged in a similar pursuit at the Jain temple in New York.
America's greatest strength, in my opinion, is its ability to swallow up all its immigrants and create an inimitable blend of Americanness and individuality. The reason that so many of us come here, and then want to stay, is that we can be both American and something else -- Indian, Italian, Sikh, Mexican. We can have our feet in two different cultural milieus and feel comfortable in both. I can be part of the American mainstream without having to forsake my heritage.
Today, if we don't ask why a small religious community in the Midwest was targeted by a 40-year-old white man, if we don't make this discussion as loud and robust as the one that followed the attack on Gabby Giffords or on those young people in Aurora, we're in danger of undermining what America stands for.
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