Arno Michaelis was born in Milwaukee Wisconsin, grew up in a caring loving family but the combination of being told he could achieve anything while witnessing his artistic mother’s suffering from dealing with her husband’s alcoholism drove him to bullying and vandalism at school; to by age seventeen, becoming deeply involved in the white power movement and a founding member of what became the largest Neo-Nazi skinhead organization in the world. For years he followed the path of violence until he was confronted at a McDonalds checkout by elderly African American lady with a smile and pointing at his swastika tattoo – “Saying that is not you, you are better than that”. That moment started his path to redemption.
This is a two parter.
Part One Arno Michaelis recounts his early years and his descent into violence, and how a mass killing at a Sikh temple in 2012 led him to form a bond with Pardeep Singh Kaleka, whose father was murdered in the temple by a white supremacist gunman in a Milwaukee suburb. The gunman who killed Pardeep’s dad and five others, was a member of the white power group that Arno had founded years earlier.
Part Two we cover Arno’s path away from extremism, his recent book with Pardeep Singh Kaleka -The Gift of Our Wounds, the work he is doing to promote the practice of peace, traveling, speaking and working with all kinds of reformed extremists to confront hateful ideologies through storytelling, fearless creativity and compassion.
I hope you are inspired by the kindness, gratitude, and compassion of Arno Michaelis.
Thanks Stephen Hecht for the recommendation.
What we discuss?
The impact of his upbringing.
His Norwegian -Prussian heritage.
The vision of his artistic mother .
Arno’s Insurance salesman father.
Growing up with loving parents who left him to run amok.
Fueled by the continual praise from parents and teachers combined with him witnessing the suffering his mother, ignited anger in him and a destructive self image, driving his desire to cause pain and suffering to those around him.
The irony of loving hip-hop and being a white kid ahead of the trend before turning his attention to punk rock to help satisfy his desire to his desire to repulse people.
The paradox of being popular and able to connect with any group but wishing to cause revulsion.
How by starting his first punk band combined with his nihilistic view of the world and a fascination with Greek and Norse mythology and warrior self image became the gateway characteristics that led Anro Michaelis into the white supremacist movement.
How Arno Michaelis willingly embraced the white supremacist narrative and how it enabled him to reject what he considered the status quo and growing multicultural trend, all he was really doing was trying to offend and ‘piss people off’.
Laziness and blame in ideology.
The parallels of the jihadist movement and White supremacy.
The commonalities in any violent extremist narrative.
How he is now connected to ex-extremists.
How the murders by Wade Paige of seven in Wisconsin in 2012 led him to meet Pardeep Singh Kaleka.
How they have developed a connection and have written a book together called the Gift in Our Hate.
The process of forgiveness and why forgiveness is vengeance.
His exhaustion and walking away from hate and using Rave culture as his gateway drug.
His parents inability and willful denial of his activity.
Haram as a commonality