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Quite the World, Isn't It?

On the pervasive nature of hatred, guns, and violence

It almost feels like ancient history now, given what's happened since. In August, a troubled man by the name of Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and opened fire. He killed six people and wounded three others before a policeman wounded him. Page then turned his gun on himself before he could be captured and questioned. There was no note or other message and authorities still don't know what moved Page to enter a place of peace with such violence, but focus immediately went to his white supremacist beliefs and the hate-filled music he performed.

Man, did that bring up memories. This is a piece I wrote in the new issue of Orange Coast magazine on the links between Page and Orange County, and the persistent nature of racial hatred. In writing it, I couldn't help but think of the slaughters that have happened both before and since Page's rampage here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Rampages that more often than not involved weapons bought legally.

And it's also worth noting that three days before this article went live on the internet, another gunman opened fire on the innocent after apparently murdering his sister and torching his neighborhood. Yet as a body politic, we do nothing. This is madness.

From my story:
The photos don’t portray Orange County at its finest. In some, you can see Wade Michael Page, his head shorn to stubble and his arms covered with tattoos, churning away on a guitar. Other skinheads stand next to him on stage, their chests and arms a mishmash of inked symbols, including what look to be a swastika and a Confederate flag. One picture is from a gig Page played in 2011, but others date back a decade, to when Page made Orange County—and its fringe hatecore music scene—his home.

It’s chilling to realize that the chunky guitarist in the photo would open fire at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee last August, killing six people and wounding three others before, already wounded by an officer, taking his own life. But it’s more frightening to sense the sweep of time, and the persistent nature of hate and racism captured in those photos.

I first began writing about the hate movement a quarter century ago as a reporter for The Detroit News. Robert E. Miles, a former Klansman and one of the conceptual forces behind the modern white-supremacist movement, lived in Michigan. “Pastor Bob” preached a virulent religion known as Christian Identity in which Jews are seen as Satan’s soldiers, and God supposedly created blacks from mud to serve whites. Miles also once told me he saw himself as something akin to the Johnny Appleseed of white supremacy, sowing the seeds of racism wherever he went. He believed the white race would be preserved through “leaderless resistance”—by lone wolves primed to strike on their own, leaving no conspiratorial trails for prosecutors to follow. And the most fertile grounds, Miles believed, were prisons and the military.
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