Late April watching and waiting

Stanley Fish reminds us that today is the fifteenth annivarsary of the Oklahoma City bombings, and that April 19 is significant to domestic terrorists for many reasons, but most of all because it was also the day of the invasion and burning of the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas in 1993:

For those who fear government and hold fiercely to the motto of New Hampshire — “Live Free or Die” — April 19 is both a holy and an unholy day; unholy because it marks the naked exercise of state power (at least in the case of Waco and before that of Ruby Ridge), and holy because it serves as a rallying cry for those who wish to “take back” their country from the socialists, communists and one-worlders who, they believe, have hijacked it. Blogger Eric Boehlert declares on that “April 19th remains an almost mythical date among dedicated government haters.”

For the government, April 19 is a day to worry about. When F.B.I. agents arrested nine members of the Christian militia known as the Hutaree in late March, they acted because of information indicating that the group was planning an attack on police officers sometime in April. The betting is that the date they had in mind was April 19.

Count me in the worried and watchful camp, not just because of these incidents of political violence (or of intercepted political violence), but because of the incidents of school and campus violence that were also in mid- to-late April.  Foremost among these are the murders at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999, and the Virginia Tech Massacre, which appears to have been planned in homage to all of these other incidents of domestic terrorism on April 16, 2007. 

And last week, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the University of Colorado can’t ban guns on campus if people may lawfully carry them (thanks to our state’s 2003 concealed-carry permit law).  Baa Ram U.’s brand-new no-guns-allowed policy is likely the next one to fall.  Time for me to armor up, I guess.  (Then again, without metal detectors or security screening, our campuses are open to whatever people want to bring on them, no matter what the Court of Appeals rules.)  I was totally unsurprised to see the report that the U.S. has seen such a spike in violence on college and university campuses in the past twenty years

I really don’t like this time of the year much any more, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with end-of-semester grading, or final exams.  It’s too bad, because I’d like to be outside enjoying my campus, and the warm sun, the green grass, and the sound of the birds.

I guess the terrorists have won.

0 thoughts on “Late April watching and waiting

  1. I don’t think it is a coincidence that it these school shootings have happened in the spring: it’s not only close to final exam time at many colleges (a moment of peak pressure). It’s also prom season in many high schools. As you’ve pointed out before, gender is one of the big undiscussed issues with these alienated individuals that elect to open fire. I think that the difficulty they also have fitting into this ubiquitous heteronormative (see Mississippi!) rite of passage may also play a role.


  2. It also sort of means General Gage has won, too, doesn’t it? Sending those mean Redcoats out into the countryside to activate the souls of minutemen everywhere and forevermore, it would seem. Taxation “without representation” in current political parlance means that if you only have 41 Senators and the other side doesn’t genuflect to your claim to be speaking for “the people” you just have to do what you have to do–kaboom.

    April 19 more prosaically has meant to me the Boston Marathon (which I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to) and the quaint custom of morning baseball in Fenway Park. (I went to a morning game at Fenway years ago, not on April 19, before Hedgefund Nation took the place over). But that morning-in-America stuff has sort of been gobbled up by the righteous and angry brigades.

    I well remember the Branch Davidian thing as the first ever major breaking news event that I first *learned* about on e-mail, with the receipt of the injunction to quick turn on a t.v.; only we didn’t *have* a t.v. in the windowless suite of the academic place I inhabited. And except for the futurist adopters out there, e-mail *was* the Internet, so you couldn’t just switch over to the WWW to find out what was going on. (Much less what “joeblowinbuffalo” thought it all meant). Seems like the last century, almost.


  3. I am enraged by the fact that the mainstream media does not correctly point out that these false “patriots” who wrap themselves in the trappings of patriotism actually despise everything decent that America stands for and embrace only its most despicable and discredited aspects.


  4. I think that’s why the killers at Columbine chose April 20. The Nazi/white supremacist connections run through most of these incidents. Please let everyone be safe at school, at work, and everywhere tomorrow.

    Interestingly, Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft thinks that the connections being drawn between Timothy McVeigh and domestic terrorism 15 years ago and domestic terrorism and eliminationist rhetoric today are totally overdrawn. (She was one of McVeigh’s trial attorneys, and she castigates the Clinton administration for “politicizing” the Oklahoma City bombing.) I really like Jeralyn’s blog, but with respect, I think (for understandable reasons having to do with her professional training as a criminal defense attorney) she totally misunderstands the use of revolutionary violence in American history, and that McVeigh belongs squarely within that tradition.


  5. Are bloggers drawing connections between the Oklahoma City bombings and all this Tea Party ish? The Tea Party stuff scares me and I don’t know why. Surely these folks have the right to express their opinions, although I roundly disagree with them.


  6. Here’s Merritt’s parting shot in her post on McVeigh and the anniversaries of OK City, Waco, and Columbine: “Anniversaries should be an occasion to reflect on an event. Instead, they are being used to advance particular agendas. That’s a shame.”

    That in and of itself is a political statement. The whole point of commemoration is co-optation of an event for a “political agenda.” Absent a political motive, there would be no commemoration of anything, ever, anywhere.

    Did the Polish president and much of his government fly to their deaths in Russia last week for a politicized commemoration of the Smolensk massacre? Was the Gettysburg Address a politicization of the deaths of thousands of men at the Battle of Gettysburg? Is the commemoration of the Battles at Lexington and Concord politicized? Is the memory of Boston Tea Party politicized now, as it has been repeatedly since the 1830s? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

    This is why domestic terrorists love to tie their agendas to these late April dates. All of public memory is political. We all have our opinions about the worthiness of some politicizations over others, but let’s not kid ourselves that there is such a thing as “pure reflection” on an event.


  7. In its most recent installment, the NPR program “On The Media” did a nice 5-min story on April 19 and its meaning to the anti-government crazies. I don’t have the link, but it’s worth checking out.

    And as for the fact that it’s open season on university students and professors in Colorado… yeesh. I mean, not that someone could really stop them, but I don’t like the idea of people having guns around just because they can.


  8. Bummer about the gun laws historiann. When that happens to Woebegone State, I hope to find a tastefully tailored flack jacket to wear to class. No time like the present to accessorize for the apocalypse.

    I think you are also right about the commemoration of April 19th. Public commemoration is always political. There are no innocent public or national anniversaries, someone is always making a move to advance an agenda or thwart someone else’s. McVeigh used violence to make that point about Waco after all.

    Jeralyn Merritt is a horse’s a$$. Its one thing to defend your client in court, another to be his apologist after a jury found him guilty and the sentence has been carried out.


  9. I don’t think Merritt’s a horse’s a$$–she has her point of view, and I can appreciate her perspective on McVeigh. Of course what he did was monstrous, but he was a damaged person (and a Gulf War vet) like many others who made some really bad decisions at a young age. He was just 26 when he blew up the Murragh building, and only 33 when he was executed. I’m not suggesting that I’m sympathetic, just that I can believe that he wasn’t inevitably evil, although he chose to do a very evil thing.

    I disagree with Merritt’s attempts to separate McVeigh from the militia movement of the mid-1990s. He was mobbed up with the Nicholls boys, who were in the Michigan Militia, IIRC. Just because he didn’t have a membership card doesn’t mean that he was unconnected from the racist, Christianist ideology of these extremist groups.


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