Today is the 15th anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing in downtown Oklahoma City. Until 9/11, it was the worst single terrorist act in U.S. history. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and his cohort, Terry Nichols, were right-wing extremists who believed the U.S. government was the enemy. They retaliated against that enemy by blowing up a large federal building, killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6, and wounding more than 680 people, in the process.
This morning, survivors and family members of those who died in the bombing, along with hundreds of other citizens, gathered for a ceremony at what is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The bombing is getting extra attention this year because of the 15th anniversary. But people are also being asked to step back and think about the bombing in light of growing concerns about the bitter tone of U.S. politics today. Since Pres. Obama took office, the country has witnessed increasingly harsh or pro-violence rhetoric from the right wing in America, on top of the reckless, increasingly seditious rants of many conservative radio jocks and FoxNews commentators. And dont forget about the half-assed apocalyptic assertions of some members of Congress like Reps. Steve King and Michelle Bachmann, not to mention one former half-term governor.
Rep. King has expressed understanding of the anti-IRS motivations of Joe Stack, the disgruntled Austin man who crashed his small plane into a federal building; and at the big CPAC conservative conference in February, King unveiled an enemies list that included all American liberals and progressives. Not to be outdone, Rep. Bachmann has taken to calling the government, which she spent a lot of energy and money to become a part of, a gangster government that has its sights on Americans freedoms and money. Late last week, after Bachmann had repeated the gangster government accusations, former Pres. Clinton (who was president at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing) bluntly declared that the right needs to watch its rhetoric. Drawing parallels between the Oklahoma City bombing and the present atmosphere of anti-government anger, Clinton said that some militias, and what he called hatriot groups, are likely to take the wrong lessons from rhetoric such as Bachmanns. Clinton reminded listeners that there are people who advocate violence and anticipate violence, and conservative politicians should be careful not to rile up their more extreme followers. Of course, some of them, like McVeigh and Nichols and God knows what militia-type nuts today, dont need that big a push.