McVeigh and Oklahoma City Remind Us: Calm Down Before the Crazies Come Out

A civil war: Wouldn't that be good for the ratings?

By + More

By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I have in my workspace, resting on a bookcase with fragments of the Berlin Wall and some shrapnel I gathered at Verdun, an irregularly shaped chunk of red granite. It is a piece of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, which was destroyed by a creep named Timothy McVeigh in 1995.

The anniversary of the bombing, which took the lives of 168 people, is this Sunday—April 19.

One of McVeigh's victims gave me this chunk of the Murrah building, back in the days when I was a working newspaperman. We met in Oklahoma City, where he showed me the site where so many of his friends and co-workers in the Social Security office died, and where he bled, and barely escaped death himself.

We walked around, and marveled at the "survivor tree" that weathered the blast, and the place in the street where the bomb went off, so close to the building's day care center. And after the interview he opened the trunk of his car, where he kept a number of these fragments, and asked me to take one, as a reminder. I was a member of the press, he said, and could make sure his dead were not forgotten.

Like most Americans, I had shrugged off the growing number of signs of far-right craziness in the months before McVeigh's attack—the demonizing of federal workers and law enforcement agencies; the formation of half-assed "militias," and the wild tales about evil government and black helicopters.

Crackpots, I said. And most of them were.

Then came McVeigh and his yellow rental truck. It didn't take much. Just one crazed killer; some oil and fertilizer, and a couple of helpful pals. "Show me where I needed anyone else," McVeigh would boast.

And so Randolph Guzman, a patriot serving his country in the United States Marine Corps, died on duty on April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City, in the heartland of America...

And Julie Welch, who was looking forward to marrying the love of her life, an Air Force lieutenant, and starting a family...

And Jaci Rae Coyne, who was 14 months old, and liked the Itsy Bitsy Spider song...

And 165 others.

I hope I'm not overreacting in remembering them this week—a week when the growing hysteria in our national politics seemed to ratchet up a notch.

This was a week when a TV correspondent for Fox News still has a job after declaring on the air that we are exploited by a "fascist" government here in the United States; when law enforcement is once again being demonized; and when the governor of Texas publicly countenanced the idea of secession, which is another name for treason and cost us several hundred thousand lives the last time his state tried it, 150 years ago.

A civil war: Wouldn't that be good for the ratings.

We need to lower the temperature, folks. Wild and nutty flourishes may be fun, but there are crazies out there listening, and gnawing, and we don't need to stoke their feverish fantasies. My little chunk of hatred from Oklahoma City is smooth and polished on one side, and jagged and dark and sharp on the other.

On Facebook? You can keep up with Thomas Jefferson Street blog postings through Facebook's Networked Blogs.

  • Read more by John Aloysius Farrell.
  • Read more from the Thomas Jefferson Street blog.