(The Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, photographed by Dustin M. Ramsey.)
Fifteen years have passed since the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City which claimed the lives of 168 men, women and children. Nine years have passed since Timothy McVeigh was executed for the crime.
Tonight I watched The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist on MSNBC. I wasn't sure what to expect. The "state-of-the-art computer re-creations" were annoying and creepy, but the documentary as a whole was a rather dry textbook time line of the events plus stories of the survivors.
As the special was advertised in the previous week, I was a little worried that MSNBC might inadvertently glorify the anti-government fanatic McVeigh -- that's the last thing this country needs right now -- but I should have realized that Rachel Maddow, as the narrator, would never allow such "hatriot" propaganda. Instead, the tapes revealed McVeigh as a killer without much insight, compassion, or charisma. Years ago I used to wonder if McVeigh's dreams were haunted by the children he killed, but all he had to say to their surviving families was "get over it."
Besides that shocking callousness, I didn't learn anything new about McVeigh or his motivation. He said some stuff about Waco and Ruby Ridge. These catalysts have been discussed many times over the years, and they're probably the closest thing to an explanation that we're ever going to get. Yet I could never understand how McVeigh could be so damn vengeful over those tragic deaths and yet not give a shit about the children he murdered.
And here we are again all these years later. This time we're faced with new fringe hate groups and their incoherent threats of violence over all the things they're misinformed about. Of course, one of those things is health care. They're angry because people less fortunate than themselves might get health care. Yep, the callousness is still there along with the violent rhetoric.
Today former President Bill Clinton wrote about the lessons learned from Oklahoma City:
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.Well, only some of us learned those lessons, and we're the same ones who remember just how dangerous an angry few can be.
The inscription that accompanies the Survivor Tree reads, "The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us."