America never really was the melting pot it was popularly depicted to be, but there has long been the dream that it might one day become that nation where neither color, place of birth, nor religion mattered.

The Sikh temple shootings Sunday in Oak Creek, Wis., tell us just how far we are from that day. Six people were killed and three others wounded when a gunman opened fire in that house of worship. Police killed the gunman, who was later identified as Wade M. Page, 40, an Army veteran.

Wade's was a familiar name to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama-based organization that keeps track of hate groups. It counted more than a thousand last year. Page played in skinhead bands, including one called Definite Hate, and posted comments on racist websites.

The actual motive for the shootings isn't known. Some thought the Sikhs might have been mistaken for Muslims, a frequent target for hate since 9/11. The SPLC said racist message boards erupted with comments after the tragedy, including one that said: "Take your dead and go back to India and dump their ashes in the Ganges. . . . Go home, Sikhs."

Intolerance in this country has been exacerbated by the economic uncertainty that touches us all so soon after the recession. America will get over the fiscal crisis, just as it recovered from the Great Depression. The more difficult job is to overcome the hatred that can't be obliterated in a political environment that stresses antagonism above cooperation.