San Joseans from all walks of life attended a community peace rally for Sikhs on August 9 at the Santa Clara County Government Center in downtown San Jose. It came in the wake of the death of six Sikhs in a Gurdwara (a place of learning and worship) in Wisconsin by a deranged supremacist. The hundreds of participating Sikhs were moved by the support and sympathy of Americans of all faiths and color. Although the occasion was somber, the evidence of common humanity lifted the spirits of local Sikhs and strengthened their faith in an inclusive America.
Leaders from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist , Hindu and other religious and humanitarian organizations - NAACP, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi - spoke at the rally. Posters reading “I Pledge Against Violence” and “When ONE American is hurt, we ALL hurt” underscored the message of the rally.
Speaker after speaker emphasized zero tolerance policy in America for hate, bigotry and prejudice. They bemoaned the culture of violence that seems to have gripped America. “Sikhs are peace-loving, law-abiding Americans,” said one speaker. “It is a terrible tragedy that a bigot chose to attack these gentle people in their place of worship. We must be united against such acts of violence anywhere. “
Another speaker, a lawyer and an activist, reminded the audience that the attack in Wisconsin was far from being an isolated incident. “Just a few days ago, a gun freak opened fire in a theatre in Colorado, killing several movie goers. Columbine, Arizona, Virginia, the list goes on and on. Only a few psychopaths are breeding domestic terrorism. We have become hostages in our own country. Violent people are using the Second Amendment to kill. With violence so pervasive in the U.S. today, the idea that anyone has the right to bear arms has become outdated. As a nation, we must have the courage to amend the Second Amendment.” Otherwise, she said, bigots and supremacists will continue to target Americans who do not fit their narrow definition of who an American is.
Within hours of the Wisconsin shooting, domestic terrorists burned down a mosque in tornado-ravaged Joplin, MO. Fueled by hate and irrational fear and by irresponsible, conspiracy-theory-prone politicians, violence is rising dramatically throughout the United States. Collectively, Americans own 300 million guns, more than cars and more than there are adults in the country. Without effective gun control, as several speakers emphasized at the rally, violence of the type at the Sikh temple will become a daily occurrence in America.
Sikh children sang devotional songs and songs of peace at the rally. Sikh leaders spoke of resilience, love and unity, tempering their thoughts with practical ways to halt the cycle of violence in America, their beloved homeland.