An American Bombing

An American Bombing
An American Bombing
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29 years ago, the United States was forever changed by an unconscionable act of homegrown domestic terrorism when Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City – this act still remains as the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism that has ever occurred within the boundaries of America – it arose from a list of actual and perceived grievances that McVeigh and others like him had been ruminating over for years. This has made it a very popular subject among survivors, journalists, government officials, and scholars alike, recently in HBO’s An American Bombing: The Road to April 19th.

It is produced by Katie Couric and directed by Blowback Productions duo Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerton. This documentary attempts to understand McVeigh’s actions through archival footage from before his crime as well as expert testimony given by journalists, historians, and victims. It also identifies how white power movement grew out of Vietnam War era America with its ultimate cause being the Oklahoma city bombing through disturbing images during war scenes. The film provides solid explanations for everything that happened during that day but most importantly how we got there again or are we already there?

In other words, An American Bombing started early in the morning of April 19th, 1995 just moments before McVeigh’s truck exploded (Suhr 1). Beginning several hours before the bombing at the federal building, Sanders explains where she was on that fateful day: she was getting her grandsons Colton and Chase ready for daycare. As Sanders’ voice-over is heard while some home video clips play showing her young grandchildren together a feeling of pure dread sets in; what follows next becomes obvious though their loss remains emotionally wrenching.

This is highlighted when one sees a sudden cut to the chaos on that morning at almost immediately after the bomb went off in Oklahoma City which made it look more like an active war area. As Mike Boettcher remembers thinking on that day, “This can’t happen here.” But it did. That day there were 168 fatalities with 19 of them being children. It’s hard to watch, but we have to see death and destruction again, see more broken bodies and shattered hearts if An American Bombing is to teach its lessons well.

Most viewers are unlikely to have seen such footage, so leading off with it underscores the complete terror that McVeigh and his co-conspirators were able to instill in innocent civilians for their twisted brand of justice. Starting with the horror of it all and those who still recall their loss as if it happened yesterday makes clear that this is not about what McVeigh did, as much as explaining why he did it against a background of homegrown hate.

The terrorist’s narrative became true for many years after McVeigh’s act; this, however, is not the case with his accomplices Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier who were lone wolves according to McVeigh. But this is far from the truth as An American Bombing states that he was a “lone wolf”, a common myth.

It traces these movements over time, beginning in 1983 with the return of Vietnam veterans and the Farm Crisis in the late ’70s and early ‘80s. Thus, it’s easy how white power “patriots” stepped into this void and found easy prey among impoverished white communities that felt abandoned by their government. One of the most famous of these white supremacists is Louis Beam, Jr., who first advocated leaderless resistance within white supremacist circles.

Afterward was the Second Wave starting in 1990, following the Fort Smith sedition trial in 1988. The decline of American industry and the impact of the Farm Crisis were profoundly felt by many including young Tim McVeigh.

However, as much as it may appear so, Reagan’s War on Drugs also saw an escalation in federal militarization due to an insidious buzz about. This allowed actor redactors who had their minds set on promoting white guys’ views on government excesses to make more headway after both Ruby Ridge(1992) and Waco (1993).

The documentary further shows how McVeigh associated with various factions such as Aryan Nations etc., which influenced his political beliefs in a variety of ways. For all his eagerness to push for a lone wolf narrative even against legal advice from counsel; Timothy was instead inspired by predecessors whose existence cannot be denied. It also asks whether or not there could have been different approaches taken by authorities in light of what they knew about this plot.

This January 6th-centered conclusion highlights Third-wave American White Supremacist movements after last year’s U.S. Capitol insurrection. There is redefinition but: don’t forget that the stock of participants in the January 6th rioting came from the same ideological pool where McVeigh learned.

An American Bombing takes us away from the lone wolf narrative by instead focusing on McVeigh’s ideological predecessors as they relate to white supremacy in Oklahoma City, which is crucial for understanding modern acts of leaderless resistance. Anyhow, would it be enough? Yet, this stuff is still a far cry from anything that could make a dent in the minds of those who need to hear it most when political rhetoric echoes back to these movements during an election year marred by disinformation and misinformation run wild.

The media’s role in these cases was not discussed. An American Bombing does not adequately address this; it leaves out the part played by the media, either sensationalizing, focusing on or radicalizing audiences through extreme forms or mainstream journalism.

Kathy Sanders and her family frame An American Bombing. Kathy is an advocate for victims’ rights and she believes that McVeigh did not become a terrorist in isolation. She has spent years pursuing the truth about what really happened that day and it is through her that An American Bombing reveals perhaps its most important message – forgiveness.

An American Bombing does not offer a way to move beyond the hate that still infects our political discussions, nor does it claim that forgiveness is our sole weapon against such hatred. However, it does give us some insight into what fuels that hatred while HBO doesn’t have all the answers for its viewers. It seems like this knowledge plus forgiveness can be enough for us to fight for a better future with all our hands united in peace.

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