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August 9th, 2012
04:45 PM ET

Inside a life of hate

In the wake of the deadly attack at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a former skinhead tells his story to CNN's Brian Todd.

Arno Michaelis says he’s never met Wade Michael Page, the white supremacist who gunned down six people before killing himself, but he can identify with him. "If it wasn't for things- very fortunate things that happened to me along the way and help I got from other people, many of whom I had claimed to hate, I could have very easily ended up where Wade Page ended up on Sunday," Michaelis told Todd.

Thanks to what he describes as “a twist in life,” Michaelis left behind his life of hate and now runs an organization, Life After Hate, dedicated to helping people transition out of that existence.

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Filed under: Brian Todd • hate crime • race
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Brimarie

    That was a great interview! Seriously CNN, Thank you for airing that tasteful piece, and even raising awareness on the existence of this organization. These are real people, dealing with real issues. In the face of tragedy it's so important to take a few moments and reach out to people, and communities who are dealing with the effects of hatred and violence. If you had only covered the act of violence and the mourning community, there would be a void left in the hearts and minds of people who desperately want a solution. No, this interview doesn't put a band-aid on it and make it all better. But it certainly does make an impact to know that there are people out there combating hatred every single day, and making such a commitment to change the current state of things. Our incarceration systems, our government systems and policies cannot do enough to address the places where hatred and violence are born from. Our governments cannot put a stop to these senseless murders. But the people who have walked those paths and now dedicate their time and lives to reach out to others should certainly have their opportunity to speak their peace! We talk about politics and policies every single day- we moan and groan about who's doing what wrong. When everyday people take a stand and take action, and actually DO something positive we should certainly allow them to! What better off are we when we fail to address the need for hope and healing in the hearts of a divided country?

    August 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  2. Phyllis G Williams

    Thank God for saving this person "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost" (Matthew 18: 11)

    August 10, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  3. humrights4peace

    It takes real strength of character to be able to openly admit mistakes and even more strength as a human being to be able to do so publicly; true strength rather than the false idea of strength promoted through self-righteousness and violent, aggressive behavior. It is Mr. Michael’s brand of openness and honesty that is going to change hearts and minds, make a lasting difference in the life of others, and keep young adults from traveling the same destructive path. Our country, and the world, would be a much better place were there more individuals willing to fearlessly explore the darkest aspects of life. And being the kind and compassionate person that Mr. Michaels is, I’m confident that despite your unhelpful, negative remarks, he still loves you because you are fellow human beings.

    August 10, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  4. Todd from Florida

    Wolf, I have been a fan for many years and I must say I am very disappointed in your Situation Room lately. For the last 3 days you have covered the pro-Obama super pac commercial relentlessly, without even giving equal time to the completely false pro-Romney adds. Now you are doing a story about a former skinhead. Seriously?? There are plenty of good people out here that actually have good ideas about policies, working hard to make a difference and deserve more of an opportunity to speak to the Nation than this guy. Shame on you guys. Go home, think about your format and regroup. Help us be informed like Irving R. Levine, Mike Wallace, Walter Cronkite and Edward Murrow. You have it in will be proud of that and so will we.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  5. Gilbert

    So what is Mr. Michales looking for? A peace prize? A pat on the head? What gives him the right to hate anyone other than himself? It is ironic, that the members of society who have enjoyed the greatest amount of privilege, compared to everyone else... seem to produce the most sadistic and depraved animals walking the face of the earth. Given the history of America and how white Americans have always treated their neighbors, including the Native Americans who showed them great hosptality, the Africans who were brought here and forced into slavery, and anyone else with just a tinge of color... one would suspect that the situation would be reversed... that a member of the under-priviliged would take it upon himself to go out and gun down his oppressors. But such is not the case. Any time we hear of such crimes, we know exactly who did it, long before the perp-walk on the news. Something is wrong with the diseased minds of this segment of our population. Only a coward thinks behaves in that fashion. These cowardly losers, pick-up their racism and hatred while growing-up at home, and they go out into society with a perverse sense of who they are with respect to their fellow man. If there ever was a case for the testing of traits and based upon findings, the abortion of a certain kind of foetus... this is it. The world would be a much better place without these people. Why take a chance? Just kill every skin-head before he is born. The guy from last week, at the movie theater... It seems to me that he forfeited his rights. His depraved act makes him sub-human. It isn't the gun... its the fool holding the gun. People want to give him credit for going into the Army? He went into the Army to learn how to kill. He did nothing noble. The Army was his cover. He is a low-life, dirt-bag, piece of trash... nothing more. Thank God he is gone!

    August 9, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • B

      Yes, Mr. Gilbert, wishing people dead is such a respectful, humane, loving way to think about and treat others. In making the statements, " Just kill every skin-head before he is born." and "Thank God he is gone!", aren't you in a way, propagating the exact emotion that people like Mr. Michaels are trying so desperately to change? Did you even bother to WATCH the video and listen to what he had to say? He did not grow up in a place of "privilege", but instead had some real social/familial problems growing up, that influenced him. Kids are easily led and influenced in their search for identity, and desperation to fit in somewhere.

      Mr. Michaels definitely deserves some credit (at the very minimum) for not only changing what had become a core belief for himself, but that he's doing some incredibly positive things to try to erase some of the hate and damage that's a part of this world. Other than ranting on here (which wasn't exactly a peaceful one), when was the last time you volunteered in your community, wrote a book, or did something positive to try to eradicate racism, prejudice and hate?

      August 10, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • DJ Shiva

      Wow, Gilbert. Way to miss the point in the biggest way possible.

      Not only do you talk about killing people and forfeiting rights to live and a bunch of other macho hooey, but you completely miss the idea that when guys like Arno begin to climb out of the pits of hate, and do their best to bring understanding and a real life experience to the table, in hopes of bringing other people out of the hate...maybe, just maybe, each of the people they change is one less jerkface with a gun shooting up a theater or a temple or a burning a mosque, or whatever.

      This is called connecting the dots by using logic. It's pretty simple. You should try it.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Glow

      Very Well said Gilbert! Could not agree with you more!!!!

      August 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

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