Lessons for Today from the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial
On my final night in Oklahoma City, I visited the site of the largest act of U.S. domestic terrorism—the Oklahoma City bombing memorial.
Where the nine-story federal building once stood is now a lawn featuring 168 chairs, each with the name of an individual killed. Little chairs represent the children. In front of the lawn is a reflecting pool.
Behind and around the lawn is the base of the former building with crumbled edges and exposed rebar untouched since that day 25 years ago.
Outside the large gated entrance is a chain-link fence affixed with ribbons, stuffed animals, and photos of those lost.
This place of enhanced remembrance and healing and centeredness starkly contrasts the basic senselessness inspiring this terrorism. It exposes this naked evil always to be avoided yet somehow justified repeatedly throughout history. We’re animals armed with a big enough brain to twist itself into believing such radical means justify the ends.
Radicalism is a normal fixture in America—from both the extreme right and left. Both carry a similar motivation and target, a fact easy to forget.
Given the anti-state stance and actions from left-leaning groups today (in the wake of police killing George Floyd), we conclude that right-leaning folks are then on the side of police and the government. For this issue they are. But a mere three months ago, the script was flipped when conservatives protested COVID shutdowns and liberals supported these actions of the State.
Then, 25 years ago, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing was radically ring-wing, anti-government—to the degree that he did what he did. He was a young veteran brimming with fury for the U.S. government's role in the deaths of men, women, and children in then-recent standoffs.
This isn’t about the validity of the grievances toward government or whoever. The point made crystal clear at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial was in HOW we respond to such wrongs.
Occupying the Michigan State Capitol building with an armed militia in response to COVID shutdown?
Toppling of statues, riots, and demanding an end to police in response to the death of George Floyd?
What’s the fuel for such action? What's the fuel for how we proceed in the face of a wrong?
Anger and DEstruction?
Courage and PROduction?
As things continue as they are in the U.S., we're going to have increasing opportunities to challenge ourselves with this question.