Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has been executed, and his death changes exactly nothing. The lethal injection that was administered by federal authorities on June 11 in Terre Haute, Ind., will not bring back the lives of the 168 children, women and men that he killed with a Ryder truck filled with 7,000 pounds of explosives on the morning of April 19, 1995. Nor will his quiet, sterile execution untwist the wrecked lives of the families and friends of the victims.
It’s hard to picture McVeigh, one of the worst cold-blooded killers in our history, as the poster boy for those opposed to the death penalty. If anyone deserved to die for his actions, it was McVeigh. His execution, however, cannot bring with it justice for the victims and the others whose lives have been defined in some way by the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. Timothy McVeigh’s death will bring neither satisfaction nor closure.
On the other hand, the state-sanctioned killing of the bomber and the attention paid to it by national and international news media does offer him up, to some right wing, gun-toting crazies, as a martyr. Waco, Ruby Ridge—add another one to the list: Timothy McVeigh.
Those who wanted to punish McVeigh might have sought life without parole as a better option. Hidden away in solitary confinement, he could be ignored there for the 50 or 60 years he might have survived in a cold and lonely manmade hell.
But executed or not, the forces that forged Timothy McVeigh, terrorist, are still at hand. Right wing hate mongers who take to the air, whether preaching their version of the gospel or politics, continue to push their stock in trade. All that preaching, in whatever form, has consequences. That much Timothy McVeigh proved. He was, after all, just another middle-class kid from an average American town.
That McVeigh’s parents were divorced doesn’t make him outstanding. But during a tour of duty with the U.S. Army, McVeigh was turned on to The Turner Diaries and other manifestos of hatred. The seed was sown that led him toward the so-called militia movement and a shared quest with his brothers in arms to throw off government repression like a true patriot.
If there is some good news, it is that the militia movement is not growing but seems, ever so subtly, to be shrinking in the wake of the bombing. Unfortunately, hate mongering remains in political vogue for right wingers who sling deadly words at their opponents without bothering to consider consequences outside of their immediate goal to win at any cost.