‘Here lies a small, ignorant man best forgotten’I’ve been having a hard time remembering Wade Page’s name. I suspect others had similar difficulty because somebody started calling him Wade Michael Page instead, and reporters everywhere are now doing the same.
By: By Mike Nichols, Superior Telegram
I’ve been having a hard time remembering Wade Page’s name. I suspect others had similar difficulty because somebody started calling him Wade Michael Page instead, and reporters everywhere are now doing the same.
I know why. “Wade Michael Page” is more memorable, more sinister, and more grandiose. Using it gives him the gruesome heft of John Wayne Gacy or Jared Lee Loughner. Or maybe even Lee Harvey Oswald — at least for a few news cycles.
For a few news cycles, there has been nobody in the world with more notoriety than Wade Michael Page, which is likely what he wanted.
We now know quite a bit about the man. He was an unremarkable, inconsequential, transient person who, it seems, wanted one thing: A memorable epitaph. He wanted us to talk about him after he killed six others and then shot himself; and we have complied, I as much as the next guy.
I talked about him with a neighbor who lived in his building in South Milwaukee, a place he moved into last year to be with his then-girlfriend. I asked why he thought Page walked into a Sikh temple in nearby Oak Creek, a place of goodness, and murdered six people.
“It doesn’t make any %@*$@& sense,” said Andrew Beutin.
“Who did the Sikhs ever hurt?”
No one. A more tolerant, non-violent, and modest people does not exist.
I suppose there could be some grand irony in that, a lunatic embracing the sheer evil and anarchy of killing people so plainly decent. But that presumes he knew even the first thing about those he killed, and he may well not have. Page, basically a loner, rarely took time to interact.
Nor did he seem to stem from, or reflect, anything around him. In addition to South Milwaukee, he also lived briefly in Cudahy. I walked up and down Packard Avenue there after the murders, stopped in at Sumerland Auto Sales and talked to Raied Arhasan, who moved here from Iraq in 1986.
“I have never had any problems as far as discrimination,” said Arhasan, who manages the place. “Nobody ever said anything to hurt my feelings.”
Further down Packard, just over the border of St. Francis, Gurmit Singh Grewal stood behind the counter of the Cigarette Depot, a small convenience store sandwiched between an American Family Insurance and Frank DeRango’s Pizzeria. A Sikh and a member of the temple where the murders occurred, he is a soft-spoken, open man plainly grieving, and bewildered. Yet he is heartened by the 30 people who showed up in his parking lot to pray for him the other night.
He does not think Page ever entered his store and does not try to fathom why the guy killed his friends. He simply can’t believe it.
Some speculate Page was bitter over losing whatever power he once had in the military or over losing his girlfriend or his job.
And, of course, he was a virulent racist.
Some think it had something to do with 9-11. If that is the case, Page was too much of a simpleton to know the difference between Sikhs and Muslims, let alone the difference between the countless, peace-loving Muslims in the world and Islamic terrorists.
One thing is certain. One way or another, his legacy is one of ignorance built upon ignorance. He lashed out at the first thing different than himself that he could see.
Out in Colorado after the theater shootings, some victims’ relatives asked journalists to limit use of the killer’s name. I get that. But I think we should make sure Page, wherever his dust is discarded, does get an epitaph, if not the one he probably dreamed of. If it is accurate, it should say this:
Here lies a small, ignorant man best forgotten.
Mike Nichols is a syndicated columnist who spent 18 years writing about Wisconsin for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is now a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. This column represents only his personal opinion. Contact him at MRNichols@wi.rr.com.