The Domestic Nut Crop

As I was driving to work today, I caught the tail end of Fresh Air. Terry Gross was talking to Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism chief during both the Clinton and W. years. The majority of the interview focused on his new book, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It, but it was his comments about the OKC Bombing Anniversary today that really stood out to me. It wasn’t anything too radical or unprecedented. He basically just reiterated the danger from right-wing groups that have glommed on to the Teabagger movement. He pointed out that these are the same “Patriot” groups that came to prominence in the 1990s, drawing on conspiracy theories and dark visions of a New World Order to justify violence against the government, culminating most famously with OKC. The most salient point he  made, however, was the same one Bill Clinton made in an interview with Jake Tapper Sunday on This Week:

“And the only point I tried to make was that we ought to have a lot of political dissent — a lot of political argument. Nobody is right all the time. But we also have to take responsibility for the possible consequences of what we say. And we shouldn’t demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials. We can disagree with them. We can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, you know, you — you increase the number of threats.”

[…]

“I just think we all have to be careful. We ought to remember after Oklahoma City. We learned something about the difference in disagreement and demonization.”

I’m not surprised in the least that the far right fringe has taken advantage of this national disorientation to gain more political ground. It’s the perfect environment for it to survive and prosper. When people are confused and anxious, lots of unreasonable propositions start to sound ok. For some, it’s the economic straits we find ourselves traversing; Wall Street seems to be doing just fine while Main Street is hung out to dry (tax cuts notwithstanding). For others, it’s simply nostalgia for a White, Christian America that never truly existed except maybe on television circa 1958. Not to mention the continuing war, threats of nuclear proliferation, etc., etc., ad nauseum. In short, it truly is an un-nerving time to be alive. What the right-wing terrorists would like is to use the opportunity to open these chasms further and fill them with their own brand of fanatical ideology. It’s a very real and very dangerous threat but it’s not a surprise.

The astonishing part of the whole phenomenon is that people who should know better are falling for the bait. Some Oklahomans who today marked the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building are treading on the same rhetorical ground as Timothy McVeigh and his cohorts, most of whom we never identified and are likely still active today. Truthfully I don’t know whether to be ashamed, appalled, or angry at the sheer historical ignorance of people like State Sen. Randy Brogdon, who is running for governor. It’s bad enough that he and his cronies can’t bothered with facts about what they consider “tyranny”. Worse still is that they would use this ignorance, deliberate or not, to further his political ambitions. Finally, the most egregious lapse in judgment is to foment this call to violence on the backs of Oklahomans who are just as disoriented as the rest of the country but have the added burden of having actually dealt with right-wing terrorism. I haven’t been in OK in two years, during which time the state seems to have further devolved into a Christianist right-wing nightmare. However, I also know that the progressive movement in OK, albeit small, does not shy away from a fight. I don’t understand why the push-back from the left has not been stronger. Perhaps the media would rather create their narrative around the crazy Okies rather than the sane ones. Whatever the case may be, I am truly offended by the cynical hubris of Brogden, et al. I believe they know exactly what they’re doing and it really is the worst our political system has to offer.

So, on this grim anniversary, I want to offer a  comforting hand to those Oklahomans touched by the bombing, including several people I know personally. 1995 was not the first attack on the government from the right and sadly, it won’t be the last. My hope, on this, a day which should serve as a bulwark and warning to all Americans against being caught up in violent populist rhetoric, is that Oklahoma itself does not let itself become the perverse opposite of what it was on that day in 1995. We all denounced the ideology of hate then. we came together. It certainly wasn’t the awakening of a solid progressive movement in OK but it was a show of solidarity in the face of needless tragedy and unfounded hatred. What the right wants is a population that is too incurious and too scared to see through their flimsy arguments for rebellion. I want Oklahoma to be better than that but I fear that years of gutting education, hyperbolic religious grandstanding, and the influence of Big Oil money on the state government might be so far gone as to render a turnaround impossible.

The national GOP has made its bed and is currently trying to avoid having to lie in it. That’s fine for them. The Oklahoma GOP and its radical sympathizers, however, should fucking know better.

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