Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lest We Forget

Like many people, I was stunned on April 19th, 1995 to hear about the truck bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I also figured that it was the work of a foreign agent. The 1st bombing of the World Trade Center was still fresh in my mind, and the idea of a terrorist cell trying a kind of soft target attack in a place like Oklahoma City.

I was surprised to find out that this attack was the work of Americans. And it could happen again. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been monitoring the radical right for decades, "Patriot" groups are back.

I can see why. Much like the 1990s, America is under the leadership of what by American standards is a more liberal government. What makes things different now is that the "liberal" President is African-American. If the idea that a member of a right-wing outgroup sitting in the White House wasn't bad enough, the fact that Obama got such strong support from younger people could be seen by those on the right as a sign that their ideas are losing support with the next generation.

These events could be leading to the notion that can lead people to turn to rebellion and revolt. The idea that the political process has failed them. For the right, it may be more a case that their ideas have lost resonance with the American people. The elections of 2006 and 2008 should have sent a message that right-wing ideas need to change to reflect an America that is more diverse, tolerant and urban.

But rather than change their ideas, the right has turned to tactics of obstruction and fear. The "Town Hall Mobs" and "Tea Party" movement are both examples of these tactics. With FOX News seeming to provide factual backup for the rhetoric of folks like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, these ideas are echoed and amplified.

The "Patriot" and other armed movements, some of which will be ironically gathering in DC on the 19th for a rally, represent this fear taken to it's highest levels. The idea that the American Government would turn on its own people, ludicrous as it may seem to most Americans, seems plausible to those who buy into the rhetoric of people like the Hutaree Militia.

Is another Oklahoma City likely to happen, perhaps not. But the incident in Texas, where a tax protester crashed a plane into an IRS building, the shootings at the Holocaust Museum, or the killing of the doctor in Kansas show that the ideas that fueled the Oklahoma City bombers may be alive, well, and perhaps even in some form, part of the ideas of the American Right. Even one of the Hutaree's legal counsel said that statements their leader made on tape were no worse than what was heard from the mainstream right. A statement made to rationalize a groups efforts to start a revolution should perhaps be seen as a warning.