Our VoiceNews & Politics

Fifteen Years After Oklahoma City Multiracial America Still at Risk

Eric Ward • Apr 19, 2010

racistteabaggerIn Oklahoma City, on the morning of April 19, 1995, far right activist Timothy McVeigh detonated an explosive device beneath the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building murdering 168 people and injuring 680. Fifteen years later the lesson of Oklahoma City is disregarded, leaving a multiracial democracy at risk.

Americans responded with horror as news emerged that the explosion at the federal building was an act of terrorism. The majority of pundits speculated that the perpetrators must be foreign terrorists and Muslim, only reluctantly dropping the news angle after the arrest of Timothy McVeigh four days later. Since that time the public has tried to come to terms with the fact that the originator of one of the largest single acts of terror in the United States was not an “other” but an American who considered himself a “patriot.”

What America couldn’t accept was that rather than an isolated incident the bombing of the federal building was simply the latest eruption of a growing political movement opposed to a multiracial America built on the principles of a democratic republic.

For months leading up to the bombing this patriot movement had engaged in a war against the United States by threatening judges, county clerks, local law enforcement, civil rights activists, and environmentalists. In “A Force Upon the Plain” Kenneth Stern writes that “despite early warnings from the nation’s civil rights organizations the American public and its leaders chose to ignore what was occurring right in front of its eyes.”

While the “patriot” movement stated publicly that it was made up of “constitutionalists” opposed to “out of control federal spending,” “taxes,” and so-called “minority special interests,” the real goal was to undermine any move by the American government to truly represent all of its citizens regardless of race, religions, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Instead of being “anti-government” as the media and elected officials like to label them, these “patriots” simply sought through intimidation and electoral activity to pick and choose parts of the law that would allow them to be treated as “white males” with special privileges.

Fifteen years later some things haven’t changed. The so called “Tea Party” activists sever gas lines, physically intimidate public officials, and call for armed insurrection. The American public and its elected leadership lull itself to sleep by trying to believe that this uproar really is just about opposition to health care and taxes instead of outright rebellion against the idea of a black president. Today, elements of the tea party movement claim to be “patriots,” but there is nothing patriotic about racism and bigotry. It’s time for us to say so—both loudly and clearly.

McVeigh wrote that “There are most likely many lessons in my story. Americans have the choice to try to learn from me or they can choose to remain ignorant, and suffer the consequences.”

McVeigh knew that what made the patriot movement of the 90’s successful was not its violent actions but the silence and inaction of those who opposed it.

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