Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Act V, scene V
Everyone is shocked to the core by the tragic events this week at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. Politicians, experts and the public alike are asking, what drove Page to take so much arsenal and guns to kill defenseless men, women and children who are in prayer? Why did this happen? What can we learn? What can we change to avoid this in the future?
However, as horrific as these events are, I am sad to say these are but "walking shadows" - just stories that we will tire of hearing about soon enough, before they erode into into cocktail chatter and small talk and in the passage of time to signify nothing.
Nothing will be learned. Nothing will change. This is because as a society, we will not have the patience to sit with the pain and anguish long enough for change to take effect. We will not ask the tough questions long enough to make a real change in the way we think, live, educate and relate to one another.
Our media is a reflection of our incapacity to feel deeply and stay with a tragedy long enough to get to grips with its cause and take action to resolve such causes. We the general public get caught in murder fatigue. Killings are reduced into stories of "mishaps", misunderstandings and one off crazy people with a gun.
The anti-gun lobby will try to score some points. The gun lobby will lay the same script out. And this sad news story will fade till it is "heard no more" as it is replaced by another, new story a couple of weeks from now, and that one again, after that by another story.
The media frenzy over this story reflects the public emotional outpouring over Wisconsin. Both will die away in a couple of weeks. The public will tire of the "Sikh story" and a new hysteria will be found to fill the void. The public will bore and the ratings will require flesh supply of meat. And it is sad to say, there are enough crazy people out there to provide the means.
All the hate killings, the spousal abuse, child abuse, old age abuse and all the attacks and fights and pain and anguish we cause each other for no reason will continue. Why? Because hate begets hate. All this 'sound and fury' will signify nothing because angry young men will always destroy themselves and the innocent around them to prove a point that is not worth making.
There have been many attacks on innocent people following the 911 tragedy. An Sikh man (Balbir Singh Sodhi) trying to make ends meet by working in a gas station near Pheonix, Arizona is shot to death because he was wearing a turban. A young Christian Brazilian is shot by police in London (Jean Charles Menezes) because he looked like a Muslim. An Islamic taxi driver (Ahmed Sharif) is stabbed in the neck and face by an ignorant arts student in New York. Two Sikh pensioners taking a quiet evening walk in Elk Grove, California (Surinder Singh and Gurmej Atwal) are shot by kids screaming racist slurs. Surinder is wounded, Gurmej dies. Jaspal Singh is beheaded by the Taliban in Pakistan whilst on a pilgrimage to Sikh temples, for refusing to convert to Islam. Hundreds of such hate crimes but few of them ever make the headlines and those that do are reported as one off incidents, tragic mishaps. There is no attempt to surface a pattern, no time for any in depth analysis, they simply do not register. No candles are lit for them. There are no all night vigils. No long, heartfelt debates on news programs. No speeches. They do not matter. They signify - nothing!
Defenseless, innocent children, women and men praying in a church/ temple/ synagogue/ gurdwara/ mosque attacked, maimed and killed by a crazy gunman. This hits home. People who go to worship in their community feel vulnerable and unsafe, fear they might be next. They do not drive taxis or work in gas stations, so how could they relate to these one off incidents, even if the death toll and injury is just as great as this one event?
Even though the mass media lives off such tragedy, this is not about the media. The media is merely our mirror. The sound and fury it projects from its stage is the play we feast on. Blaming the media is like smashing a mirror because we don't like what we see. Our cold harsh reality is presented back to us not by an idiot but by a story-teller about idiots, us.