Have we forgotten the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995? Do we realize the danger that comes from domestic terrorism? You don’t hear as much about what happened at the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building any more. Its with that frame of mind that I write about what happened in Lansing, Michigan the other day. There are a number of questions that need to be asked.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
When people think of terrorism in the United States they think of what happened at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. What many people forget is that up until September 11, the worst terrorist attack in the United States took place in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I remember the Oklahoma City bombing well. I came back to my dorm when I was in college in Montana after being in class and saw a group of students sitting around the television watching the coverage. Not knowing what happened I asked what was going on? It was explained that an explosion had taken place in Oklahoma City but on April 19, 1995 it was too soon to know what happened.
In the course of time the nation learned what happened. Timothy McVeigh, a veteran of the Army became involved in anti-government activities influenced by white supremacists. Through his association with Terry Nichols he became radicalized and in time wanted to strike against the federal government. In addition to buying into conspiracy theories he was also motivated by the 1993 Waco siege and Ruby Ridge standoff. What Timothy McVeigh would eventually do is bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. With a rental truck he planted a large fertilizer bomb at the base of the building. It detonated on the morning of April 19, 1995 just past nine. The blast killed 168 people and injured 680 and caused an estimated $652 million dollars in damage. The blast was so powerful that it damaged buildings up to sixteen blocks away. In the building included a day care center of which 16 young children were killed. The defining image that was seared into the nation’s conscious was of an Oklahoma City firefighter holding a dying baby, Baylee Almon, just pulled from the rubble. That photograph which you can see above won the Pulitzer Prize for best photograph of 1996.
Timothy McVeigh was arrested after the blast and quickly tied to it. The Oklahoma City terrorist attack was the worst terrorist attack in the United States until September 11, 2001. The attack is a reminder of what can happen when anti-government groups are active and stew in hatred. Timothy McVeigh as I read did not care that children were killed in a day care center. He was someone obsessed with hate, influenced by propaganda who wanted to cause as much pain as he claimed the government did at Ruby Ridge and Waco. The problem is that in both of those situations the those events were brought on by people who broke the law. If you are going to acquire illegal weapons then yes, the government has the right to intervene. Does a cult like the Branch Davidians have the right to stockpile weapons, intimidate and does David Koresh have the right to sexually abuse minors? No. Eventually Timothy McVeigh was tried in Denver, Colorado and convicted by jury. He was found guilty of eleven counts on June 2, 1997. On June 13, Timothy McVeigh was given the death penalty. He was convicted on the charges of the deaths of federal agents. He was executed on June 11, 2001 in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Storming the Capitol in Lansing, Michigan and Some Questions…
The other day in Michigan I saw something in the news that troubled me. Its what led to this post. On May 1, 2020 a number of protesters gathered at the Michigan State House of Representatives in Lansing. They claimed they were protesting the shelter in place order that Governor Whitmer issued. What these protesters did was storm the capitol with some wearing bullet proof vests and carrying automatic rifles and other weapons. Now as of May 2, 2020 there are 42,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 4,000 deaths in Michigan. Michigan is one of the hot spots on the COVID-19 pandemic. Under those situations Governor Whitmer extended the stay at home order until May 28, 2020. The protesters who rushed the governors office were protected by the Sargent of arms. If you would like to read more you can do so in the following articles.
- Daily Mail, “We remain in a state of emergency. That is a fact’: Michigan Gov. Whitmer extends coronavirus state of emergency another month despite armed protesters storming the capitol as lawmakers donned bullet-proof vests to vote on bill allowing them to sue he.”
- The Guardian, “Armed protesters demonstrate against Covid-19 lockdown at Michigan capitol.”
- The Sun, “SHELTER IN PLACE Cops rush to protect Gov Whitmer as armed militia members storm Michigan state house protesting virus stay-at-home order.”
- BBC, “Coronavirus: Armed protesters enter Michigan statehouse.”
- Washington Post, “After a day of armed protesters and a GOP lawsuit threat, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extends state of emergency.”
- Axios, “In photos: Protesters storm Michigan Capitol over coronavirus restrictions.”
As the infamous Rick Wilson would say on Twitter what happened in Lansing, Michigan was quite a shit show. There are a number of things that bother me and I don’t know quite where to start. One of the issues on my mind is asking how many professing evangelicals participated in the rally and storming of the Michigan state capitol? When it comes to certain aspects of government some evangelicals are quick to talk about Romans 13 towards the presidency of a person they follow and support in office. I am waiting for the same evangelicals to then do a 180 and say that Romans 13 does not apply to the governor of a state. When that happens the stench of bullshit will reek to high heaven. But alas we’re talking about evangelicals and should one expect much? Here is another thought where in the Bible does it command people to arm themselves better than the government? Where does Jesus command people to join militias that challenge the legitimacy of government? Can someone out there point to John, 1 Corinthians, Colossians, etc.. and show me?
Now here is another question on my mind. Up above I wrote a brief summary of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. When you look at the protesters storming the state capitol with weapons and assault rifles it begs me to ask the following. How far ideologically are those protesters from Timothy McVeigh or Terry Nicholas? If they are capable of storming the capitol what is next? Manufacturing a fertilizer bomb? Have the protesters and those rallying outside, whom I will refer to as snowflakes learned from the disaster and loss of life in Oklahoma City? Or do some of these people regard Timothy McVeigh as the hero? Don’t get me wrong I am a firearm owner myself. If you want to go to a rifle range (when the pandemic is over) I will support you. You want to buy a guy, I will support you. But when does the privilege of owning a gun mean that you can threatens the safety and well being of others? Carrying a weapon into a government building is often a crime. And I am forced to ask the following question. Why are ‘t these terrorists – yes you read that right, terrorists not arrested for trespassing and brandishing a weapon in an illegal manner? Just because you have a car doesn’t mean you have the right to drive under the influence of narcotics or alcohol. Why does owning the of a gun mean you can threaten people around you? Don’t get me wrong organizations like Hezbollah, ISIL, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Haqqani Network of Afghanistan, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Lashker e Taiba, among others are all terrorist organizations. In that description historical organizations such as the Weather Underground, Students for a Democrat Society, Shinning Path of Peru, and the Sandinastas of Nicaragua are also terrorists. But those who stormed the Michigan State Capitol should also be defined as terrorists. In my view if you can storm a government building wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying armed weapons; then you are just a hop, skip and a jump from going the next step.
Then finally I want to make one final observation. And I say this as someone who studied history at the college and grad school level. My graduation essay was on the Weimar Republic which is the government that exists from 1918 until 1933. When the Nazis (NSDAP) were a political party in Germany they had a para-military organization that assisted in their operations. The organization was called the Sturmabteilung, or the SA. They did the dirty work of the NSDAP. They carried weapons, stormed places (like beer halls, businesses and government buildings) and enforced the party will. Sometimes they beat people up and other times they used their weapons to threaten and intimidate people. They were a force that undermined law in Germany. There are a lot of good books out there that explore the SA. My question as someone trained in history how is what happened in Lansing any different than what the SA did in Germany? Honestly I see a lot of similarities. That is why what happened in Lansing needs to be halted. Those who stormed the capitol need to be arrested and and prosecuted for violation of the law. One of the legacies of the Weimar Republic is that it was too soft on far right, as that is why the NSDAP was allowed to grow in time.
In bringing this post to a close I want to go back to Oklahoma City and the tragedy that took place in 1995. Have we forgotten what happened in Oklahoma City in 1995? Lets be determined not to forget those who died on that infamous morning from a terrorist. The loss in life at the Alfred O Murrah Federal Building remains profoundly sad. Have you forgotten? Just spend some time looking at the photograph leading this post. That was somebody’s daughter, a life that cruelly ended at a young age. Any ideology that justifies an attack on a day care center which leaves young children dead is evil. It has no place in society or our culture. This is part of the reason why after I processed what happened I wanted to stop and do this post. Let’s learn from the dead and the lives lost in history to find a path forward guided by integrity, empathy, compassion, and sound principles.