Monday, April 19, 2010

Oklahoma City Remembered

Fifteen years ago today, domestic terrorists bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of six. Timothy McVeigh, who personally carried out the bombing, was a sympathizer of the Militia movement who wanted to exact revenge on the federal government for the Waco Siege, an attempt by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to search the Branch Davidian ranch for illegal firearms.

The Oklahoma City Bombing was the most murderous and destructive act of terrorism in the U.S. prior to the September 11th attacks. Now, fifteen years later, we find our country in a frighteningly similar situation, with regard to right-wing fury over both gun rights and the size of government.

Today, which is coincidentally also Patriots’ Day, gun rights advocates are holding protests around the country, wielding their weapons in National Parks (thanks to a recently-passed provision that allows such unnecessary displays of “freedom”), and demanding government to allow more unrestricted access to firearms. So while they demand a greater prevalence of guns, let's reflect on a few gun-related events since that tragic day 15 years ago:

I won’t go into gun control policy right now, because that’s not the point of what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about the fear and rage that has been roiling in our country since Obama’s election, fueled by incendiary talking heads and a proliferation of misinformation. Evocations of Nazism, Communism, and “government takeovers” scare people and get their blood boiling.

While many Tea Party rallies have been peaceful protests of the size of the federal government, there have also been alarming cases of racial and homophobic epithets, as well as downright horrifying displays of hatred and acts of violence and destruction toward elected officials.

The point is, many Americans are furious right now. Furious about taxes, furious about socialist Nazi takeovers, furious about Democrats who are trying to kill babies and destroy the economy and restrict freedom and convert us to a totalitarian state. But as President Clinton pointed out today,
"Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials. But we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way. Our founders constructed a system of government so that reason could prevail over fear. Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom."
I pray that nothing close to what happened in Oklahoma City 15 years ago will never happen again, but I think it’s the responsibility of demagogues like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michele Bachmann to ease back on their hateful, fear-inducing, anger-stirring rhetoric, because when people get furious enough, they may just do what Timothy McVeigh did, an act no different than the terrorist acts undertaken by the conservative, fundamentalist, foreign terrorists that the same demagogues despise so much.

Images: Oklahoma City Bombing memorial ceremony (Associated Press), gun rights rally flag (Talking Points Memo), Tea Partier (Chad Dalke)

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