The shooting of Sikhs at a temple in Milwaukee is generating the usual blather about senseless violence, the paranoid racialist right, and the patriotism of Sikh immigrants. I finally heard, this morning, the inevitable, "Today, we are all Sikhs."
Excuse me, but no, I am not now and shall never be a Sikh.
Sikhs, because they are frequently confused with Muslims have been subjected to harassment since 911. The confusion is unfortunate but not inexplicable. (people from the subcontinent with beards and turbans and a history of violence. It is true that there was an anti-Sikh pogrom in India in 1984, but that was after Indira Gandhi was murdered by her Sikh bodyguards.
Sikhs claim, probably sincerely, that theirs is a religion of peace, but it is a pro-active kind of peace that requires them to carry a dagger at all times. This custom has led to numerous legal battles in which, generally speaking, Sikhs have won the right to carry their kirpans in places where all other weapons, including small pocket knives, would be banned.
In interviews Sikhs in America have stressed their patriotism and called for better education about Sikhs. I wonder. Is it really the duty of Americans to study the cultural oddities of every group our anti-American government decides to foist upon us?
Speaking personally, I have nothing against Sikhs, and of the peoples who have come her from the Subcontinent, they seem the most admirable. But if the term "American" still means anything, Sikhs are not Americans, and their incessant demands that Americans learn more about this very alien culture and religion comes very close to whining.
The shooter did something very evil. Let us make no mistake about that. And decent people should resist the temptation to sympathize with a killer, simply because the Southern Poverty Law Center calls him a racist and a Neo-Nazi. This is a great moment for the SPLC and for America-haters everywhere, but please remember that the enemy of your enemy is not your friend. One of the main reasons I disapprove of the pagan ethnic nationalism that is on the rise is the disastrous moral effect it has on weak-minded people.
While I wish no harm to Sikhs, I have no idea why such people have been permitted to take up residence in the United States. Yes, I know, their children go to public school, play football and video games, drink and probably snort coke. But so long as they belong to an extremely alien religion, they can have little or nothing in common with Americans who understand that their heritage is classical, European, Christian, and British.
When Sikhs had their own empire, they privileged their co-religionists. In the end, they lost out and have a hard time in their homeland, squeezed between Hindus and Muslims. The old prover, "You have made you bed so you can lie in it," might be applied to them, but, no. So long as America exists, there will be a bed for every failed revolutionary or violent loser in the world.
I take it back. If everyone in the world can be an American, then we Americans can all be Sikhs.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.