Thursday, August 9, 2012

How Unique It Is

"In 28 years of law enforcement, I have seen a lot of hate. I have seen a lot of revenge. I've seen a lot of anger. What I saw, particularly from the Sikh community this week was compassion, concern, support. What I didn't see was hate. I did not see revenge. I didn't see any of that. And in law enforcement that's unusual to not see that reaction to something like this. I want you all to understand how unique that is." 
--Oak Creek, WI Police Chief, John Edwards

I was late to Gurdwara on Sunday...

A visiting kirtani had just finished a shabad and was about to begin anand sahib, when our local Bhai Sahib gently interrupted him. Bhai Sahib then took to the stage and led the sangat in one more shabad, followed by simran and asked us to keep the Milwaukee sangat in our thoughts as there was a shooting at their local Gurdwara.

I thought I misheard...I wished I did.

I immediately pulled out my phone and saw my Twitter feed to find out in fact a shooting and possible hostage situation was in progress at a gurdwara right outside of Milwaukee.

It’s strange the way the Sikh psyche works. Even though a shooting was in progress at a gurdwara, for some reason, in hearing this tragic news...a gurdwara was still the only place I wanted to be.

The next few hours were a blur of tweets, emails, phone calls and conference calls...all with CNN running in the background. All of this kept me distracted...just enough to ignore the emptiness I was feeling inside. But later on that night, when I read a tweet stating “Sikhs at Oak Creek temple are providing water, food to journalists and police as part of religious tradition of hospitality”...I was overcome with emotion.

Like many of you, there are so many thoughts and emotions I’ve experienced over the last few days, nothing I can summarize in one post, but for now, I would like to focus on the resilience of the local Sikh community of Wisconsin.

From the calm and collected interviews, to the hospitality shown to journalists, police, representatives of Sikh organizations, to the resolve of the victim’s families...the only thing that comes to mind is 'Chardi Kalaa'

Over the last few days, I’ve been so amazed by the response of all the Sikh organizations and community members across the country who have so eloquently explained our way of life, our practices, and our experience in the media – on TV, radio, and print...but I believe it was the Sikh community of Wisconsin who set the tone. Before any of us could even process what happened, the eyes of America were on them in their darkest hour...and they made us proud.

Even in this tragedy, some good will come of this...we’ve seen it already. Our nation will have been educated about Sikhs at an unprecedented level. Partnerships and alliances may form between Sikh institutions and other local community and interfaith organizations, and perhaps we will some broader unity across the Panth that we’ve so desperately been lacking. And the Sikhs of Wisconsin will have had a huge hand in all of this.

Even now...only hours after after the gurdwara has re-opened, the sangat has already begun seva of cleaning up and serving langar...amazing!

Anybody who has even skimmed through a Sikh history book knows that we are a community that has experienced struggle, not just recently...but throughout our existence. And it is through this spirit of Chardi Kalaa, the collective strength of our community, and guidance from our Guru that has helped us overcome struggle and grow stronger. It always has and it always will. We all know it...but thank you Sikhs of Wisconsin for reminding us.