Photo right by Mick Murray (In Your Face Photo)
When a white supremacist targets a specific minority group in a deadly rampage, people are appalled. He was clearly a Grand Wizard of Dickery, a bigot of the highest degree.
When a couple of artists are misinterpreted as promoting headscarves, it sparks a public debate. People are suddenly willing to engage in a discussion about the intentions behind the act, and its repercussions. Were they being deliberately provocative?
Why does one situation merit discussion, while the other is dismissed as a freak occurrence?
It’s easy to dismiss the recent killing of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin as just one lunatic. But, sometimes even lunatics start out as merely frustrated people, who do things for admittedly deranged reasons.
Wade Michael Page, the gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on August 5 before being shot dead by police, was reportedly a neo-Nazi who played in White Power bands. Though his intentions will never be known for certain, all signs point to “hate crime.” Prof. Robert Futrell of the University of Nevada, who wrote a book on American neo-Nazis, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying that Page’s shooting could be seen as a call to action for his fellow neo-Nazis, to take up arms and fight non-whites.
It’s easy, even tempting, to dismiss this as just one lunatic who hated minorities just because, without any origin for his beliefs or actions. But, sometimes even lunatics start out as merely frustrated people, who do things for admittedly deranged reasons.
As Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano argued in a report released three years ago, deranged lunatics can start out as relatively normal, thoroughly frustrated people who do things for a reason. Hatred, though not rational, has its roots; it’s those roots, then, that should be removed before they grow into a full-fledged disaster.
Os Gemeos, the Brazilian brothers who put up a mural in Dewey Square just a day earlier, have the opposite problem.
Their painting has been receiving intense public scrutiny for the messaging behind it. Some people, including the provocateur Fox News, are willing to believe it is meant to offend any American who doesn’t like terrorism, and even to promote it. Everyone else believes it is meant to start a conversation on the role of public art.
Why should we ascribe so much thought to the meaning behind this mural, but not the causes of a shooting?
The situations, of course, are different, and the loss of human lives can never be compared to the ignorant conclusions of lazy people about a mural. But if we’re discussing the fallout of both incidents, which one is worse: a single man full of hate, or hundreds of people exercising overt racism at the least provocation? At the very least, the American people should be able to sustain public discussions around both.