Hoodies and Turbans
The Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, so close to my hometown of Chicago, troubles me for many reasons. I’m saddened to understand that in 2012 I live in a country where people get killed just for wearing a hoodie or a turban.
I’m an atheist. I have no religious conviction, only philosophical opinions that change when new information becomes available. And very often I find that I harbor animosity against certain religions for certain reasons. Sikh traditions impose a number of unnecessary restrictions on people, and attachment to these traditions is sanctioned very strongly by the community and carry strong emotional and communal bonds. I can understand emotional attachments to one’s roots. But the choice to assume such unnecessary restrictions should rest in the conscience of each Sikh and each individual should be respected in his or her choices.
Having said that, no one who chooses to wear the turban, or a hijab for that matter, or any other culturally significant head dress or piece of clothing, should be punished, hated or persecuted, much less killed, for that choice. Some people make choices out of pride and loyalty, not out of fear of being marginalized by one’s own. And these choices, particularly when made in the spirit of pride and loyalty, are noble and should be respected.
I used to be a Vaishnava, a so-called Hare Krishna. I still love cows, vegetarian food, the music and the people I met when I went to temple. I still feel tenderness when I remember some of the mellows I experienced there. And I would imagine it’s no different for Sikhs when they listen to their peaceful kirtan.
I would like to share a sample of the type of ecstatic love songs that Sikhs dedicate to their God when they gather to worship. Please try to imagine that this is the kind of peace that the worshipers were seeking when they were gathered in temple and some of them were killed. Perhaps, in the sweetness and innocence of this melody, some of my readers will understand my sadness and my solidarity with the Sikhs.