Springtime for America's Far-Right
Updated: Mar 11, 2018
Spring is upon us. Although it took a while to get here thanks to the ‘Beast of the East’, the daffodils are beginning to come out, the sun is rising earlier, and the extreme right of America is celebrating several anniversaries.
Looking into the past of the American extreme right is especially important in today’s world. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the extreme right was staunchly anti-federalist, pro-gun. Today, with the rise of the alt-right news outlets, such as Info Wars, we can see the impact that anti-federal government feeling has had in the long term. As well as this, with the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, gun control is once again being scrutinised.
If I say the date April 19th to you, what automatically comes to mind? Perhaps you thought that it’s the day Fidel Castro resigned in 2011. Or perhaps the day that Ireland won the Eurovision song contest in 1980 (a whole other story). When I refer to April 19th, I am in fact referring to the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1997 where 168 people (including 19 children) were killed after a truck bomb went off in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The attack was orchestrated by Timothy McVeigh, an anti-federalist army veteran. I should really say terrorist because that’s what he was. Though this was the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil prior to 9/11 and is the largest domestic terrorism attack the US has ever seen, it is not widely known outside of the United States. In fact, my history and politics teacher did not know what it was when I asked him for his perspective on the issue of domestic terrorism in the US. So, although it is a fairly unknown to outsiders, the questions of why it happened is key in understanding the current situation in the United States today.
To understand McVeigh’s psyche, it is important to go back a few years
prior - to the summer of 1992, in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Randy Weaver, a white-separatist, had moved his family out to an isolated mountaintop cabin without electricity or running water in order to escape from (what he saw as) a corrupt world. Weaver was targeted by the federal government after he was incited to sell sawed-off shotguns by an undercover ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agent. When the ATF tried to arrest him, it led to an eleven-day siege. By the end, his wife, Vicki, their 14-year-old son, Sammy and their dog had all been shot by federal snipers. Confrontations like these had happened in the past and had seemed insignificant but Ruby Ridge attracted hundreds of protesters and news media who mostly condemned the federal government’s action. In prison, after he was caught, McVeigh told people that this had been what had stirred up his hatred of federal government.
Flash forward almost a year later, in the spring of 1993. In Waco, Texas, a long established religious sect – the Branch Dividians – were under siege by who else but the ATF and the federal government. Their crime was suspected weapons
violations. This time the siege was longer, lasting for 51 days and eventually ending with mass suicide of 76 Branch Dividians who killed themselves by spreading gasoline and setting the complex alight. This siege was more significant in influencing McVeigh as he was actually there (see photo), selling bumper stickers to fellow protesters with slogans such as “Politicians love gun control” positioned next to a swastika. This event hit Timothy McVeigh closer to home because he loved guns, so he viewed the situation as the Federal Government violating the
Constitution by taking away the 2nd amendment right. The day the siege ended, 19th April 1993, was the day McVeigh exacted his revenge:
“If there would not have been a Waco, I would have put down roots somewhere and not been so unsettled with the fact that my government … was a threat to me. Everything that Waco implies was on the forefront of my thoughts. That sort of guided my path for the next couple of years.”
So, why am I writing all this now? I was born three months before 9/11, just one day after Timothy McVeigh was killed by lethal injection, and as a result, the main form of terrorism I know is that orchestrated by Islamic extremists. I believe that this is a similar feeling amongst my generation, who have not been exposed to other forms of terrorism, such as those committed by white, anti-government terrorists. When we are baffled constantly by news stories from all around the world about areas of conflict hundreds of miles from us, we tend to forget our interior issues. With Donald Trump’s increasing inward-looking stance and the Parkland shooting, it will be important for the US government to remember the 19th of April this springtime when looking to combat a form of terrorism which is much closer to home.