The massacres continue. Most recently a Sikh congregation in Wisconsin was attacked by a gunman, most likely a white supremacist who was previously discharged from the Army for bad behavior.

During the ensuing gun battle with police, one officer was shot nine times. When other officers rushed to his aid, he directed them instead to care for the wounded civilians in and around the house of worship. We still have American heroes.

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Sikhs come from the former Punjab Province now divided between India and Pakistan. Following a religion founded in the 15th Century, they are not Muslims nor related to Muslims.

Sikhs are no strangers to violence. Indeed they fought with nearby Muslims over control of territory. They also fought and ultimately lost wars with the British East India Company in attempts to maintain their independence.

But in more recent times the denomination has not been in the headlines. Sikhs are expected to be saint-soldiers, and force is allowed only if there is no other path.

In the Sikh religion there is strong emphasis on equality among peoples, both male and female, of any race or religion. What Christians would define as charity is a principal tenet. They literally feed the hungry.

But Sikhs specifically forbid practices found in many other religions, including circumcision (practiced by Muslims and Jews), blood sacrifices, monasticism, priesthood, hierarchy, immolation of widows and so on.

When one reads the tenets or commandments of the Sikh religion, there is little for the rest of us to take issue with. Only the prohibition against cutting of human hair seems a bit unusual.

But this observance is unobjectionable, unless one happens to be a barber. Indeed the principles of Sikhism seem noble to a fault.

Yet Sikhs were murdered after 9/11 solely because they wear turbans. And the murderer who recently attacked the unarmed people in their house of worship was allegedly associated with white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations.

What can you and I take away from this tragedy? First, we should join all people of good will in expressing sorrow over this senseless and cowardly attack.

Second, we can take the opportunity to learn a bit abut Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world. I did, and am the wiser for it.

Third, we can do an examination of conscience with respect to our own associations and beliefs. Do we tolerate those who use racial slurs when talking about other peoples? The N-word is not the only racial insult we should excise from our national vocabulary.

Fourth, we need to raise once again the question of whether maintenance of the thoroughly obsolete Second Amendment is worth the American lives that it costs. We repealed prohibition. We can repeal the Second Amendment also, in the interest of saving lives in Virginia, in Texas, in Arizona, in Michigan - indeed in all the states and territories of the nation.

We already have a well-regulated militia. It is called the National Guard. Those who worship at the Shrine of the Gun need to find a more worthy, and less violent, deity.

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