Monday, April 19, 2010

Know Your History: Oklahoma City Bombing Anniversary

Today sadly marks the 15 year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings by American terrorist Timothy McVeigh.

In addition to reflecting on those who lost their lives, I am struck by the similarities in American political culture now and in the time frame leading up to that tragic mass murder.

In 1995 you had:
  • A nation coming off a major economic recession brought on by more than a decade of conservative economic, unemployment and dissatisfaction up, massive budget deficit
  • A first term Democratic Party president
  • A president attempting to bring reform to the health care system
  • The U.S. military recently in action in the middle east - Kuwait, Iraq
  • Domestic right wing, anti-government and racist groups calling themselves "militias" or "Freemen" becoming more and more visible and angry based on the vague notion that somehow "the government" was going to come get them, their guns or both
  • A suddenly out-of-power conservative/Republican movement desperately trying to regain power and the associated...
  • Complete freak out by the Republican party that was way out of proportion to what was actually happening in politics and government...and also highly hypocritical given the leading role conservative government had in creating the problems the country was going through at the time
  • Talk radio fanning the negative flames associated with all of the above.

Sound familiar?

It does to me. You could associate pretty much all that with 2010 as much as 1995. And that's what's scary when you contemplate that all it took back then were three or four American citizens who bought into the hysteria and "decided they were going to do something about it." Their chosen action? Blow up a government building in Oklahoma, killing 168 people and altering the lives of hundreds of others.

Flash forward to today. Since Obama took the oath of office 15 months ago, we've already seen a man walk into the Holocaust Museum and start shooting. We've also seen a man fly his airplane into an IRS building in Texas in protest against the government. We've seen a "militia" group in Michigan caught planning to kill a police officer and then blow up everyone attending his funeral as a form of protest against the government. And, we've seen some very ignorant and hateful speech from a group billing itself as "The Tea Party" about what it believes are the evils of government.

Get the picture? History is starting to repeat itself.

With all the similarities with 1995...will there be another McVeigh in this decade? Obviously and sincerely I hope not. I hope that we as a people can learn from history...and not that distant of history that because of previous tragedies like Oklahoma City and 9-11 the police, FBI, and military are more on guard and can disrupt or stop home-grown terrorists before they can act.

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