I must point out from the outset that I am not American
. My life is as far removed from US current affairs
as any that contains cable TV and a net connection can hope to be. I have not walked past newstand
s plastered with Timothy McVeigh's face with the word "Monster" over it in huge letters. I've not seen hours of interviews with the families of the victims. I have, in short, received very little emotional input
regarding him and his crime.
From this position I honestly don't see why McVeigh is more, as some seem to assert, deserving of the death penalty than any other murderer. Because he killed more people? Surely no coherent moral argument can be made for quantitative assessment of human lives. Because he is unrepentant? Give the man time. Your average death row convict can have up to 25 years in which to reinvent himself and find God, whereas McVeigh is probably one of the most swiftly tried and sentenced people this century - his trial lasted only a fraction of the time the OJ trial took to sort through, despite the obvious difference in the number of victims and the enormous scope of forensic evidence.
Timothy McVeigh is sane. That's why people hate him. He's not an oedipally obsessed psychotic oddball. He has academic prowess, demonstrable courage and stamina, the ability to work whithin the American system to high results, a loving circle of family and friends. He also happens to believe that US wartime tactics can bear being turned inwards for a change. This puts him a on a unique footing with the public - he is a mass murderer with whom it would have been possible in time to develop a meaningful dialogue. This is why everyone is in such a hurry to kill him - they don't want to see their own reflection in him, or hear their own beliefs echoed back through the medium of his mind.
This is of course also why no meaningful protest has emerged around the question of his excecution. The complacency of the American public during the last election is not conducive of serious and vocal debate on the issue, especially with a pro-death penalty President at the helm (it would have been a political boon for Bush, in fact, if any body tried to portray McVeigh and his death as anything less than justified - public feeling was so powerful in favour of the excecution that he and the rest of the pro-death lobby would have been riding the waves of righteousness for months). In this political and public climate, even anti-death penalty activists have reservations about publicly pointing out that the Oklahoma City bombing is a perverted extension of something their own tax money has been put to repeatedly and continually over the last 50 years.
Tim McVeigh will go down in history as someone who went through patriotic indoctrination and out the other side. He will be remembered as a revolutionary - bloody, merciless, misguided, but possessing ideological integrity and strength of conviction. There are two ways his personal story can go from here - out of the public conciousness and into the thesis papers of history graduates, or out into the realm of t-shirts and wall posters, shoulder to shoulder with that most recognisable of badly remembered revolutionaries, Che Guevara. The second option, being the more likely, is a shame and a pity. Society, denied the aforementioned meaningful dialogue with this oh so enigmatic zealot, will co-opt him into a pop culture icon and a catch phrase on the lips of white supremacists and disgruntled libertarians.