The events in Wisconsin on the weekend are almost beyond comprehension.
A 40-year who was bounced from the U.S. army for being drunk on duty, a white-power skinhead, walks into a Sikh temple near Milwaukee and starts shooting.
Six people die. Then the killer kills himself.
It is a tragedy that is very close to home in Surrey, where many residents are members of the same faith.
The gunman was quickly identified and the hunt for every available detail of his life was underway within hours of Sunday’s tragedy.
We now know a lot about him.
His racist comments on various online forums have been exhumed, and his career path has been traced from a military missile repairman to a psychological operations specialist to a bass player in a white-power band.
With all that has been reported, we still don’t know exactly why he did what he did, and we may never find out. But his name and his history is not what needs to be remembered.
The name and life we should remember is that of 65-year-old gurdwara president Satwant Kaleka, a farmer from the Duggal village of India’s Patiala district, who moved to the U.S. in 1982 and helped found the temple.
It was the unarmed Kaleka who tackled the gunman at the door of the temple when the shooting started, suffering two ultimately fatal leg wounds. Kaleka delayed the killer’s entry by two minutes, giving others a chance to flee.
Nor should we forget Oak Creek police Lt. Brian Murphy, who was shot nine times while tending to one of the wounded in the temple parking lot, then reportedly tried to wave off fellow officers when they came to his aid, insisting worshippers indoors needed their help more.
We also need to remember 39-year-old Parkash Singh, a quiet, gentle man who served as granthi (priest) at the gurdwara for six years. And the others who died: brothers Sita Singh, 41, and Ranjit Singh, 49. And Paramjit Kaur Toor, 41, and Suveg Singh, 84.
The bravery of Kaleka and Murphy makes sense. Being a person of faith also makes sense.
What the killer did was, by any definition, a senseless act.
A man who may not have met the legal criteria for “insanity” nonetheless did something quite insane. He murdered people he did not know, and it appears he killed them simply because they were not like him.
That is a particular awful sort of madness, the kind that resists understanding.