With the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing fast approaching on Monday, I took out a book I’ve owned but not read about Tim McVeigh.  American Terrorist by Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck resonates for me because I know both of the authors and come from the area where McVeigh grew up.  When we discovered he was from upstate New York, we were all shocked and horrified and asked the gasping question – WHY? Why did a man from a small semi-rural town come to be one of the nation’s most profound mass murderers?  Why did this very ordinary young man come to hate his nation so profoundly that he would wantonly take these lives?

Monday, April 19 MSNBC will run a two-hour special not just on the bombing but on McVeigh.  Back in 2001, before McVeigh was executed, Lou and Dan published their insightful book.  Based on hours and hours of interviews with McVeigh, it struggled to answer the question of what motivated McVeigh to do this dreadful deed, but the last word in the book remains – Why?

I cannot claim to have an answer, but I think it lies in much of what all of us have long discussed about hate, tea parties, disinterested yet opinionated progressives: we are a nation that has so fundamentally elevated hyper individualism that we are raising a nation of fragmented and isolated people.  We are creating monsters among us who have absolutely no compassion.  None.  Even within so-called progressive circles, we find the embodiment of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay’s famous line: ” I love humanity but I hate people.”

Lou and Dan recounted a rather pedestrian upbringing for Tim McVeigh.  Yes his parents divorced, yes he had some personal set backs despite what began as a shining career in the military.  He failed to make the cut for Special Forces, and it changed him from a perfectionist to a fairly grotty drifter before he found a renewed purpose in life: killing people to kill our government.

Throughout the book, his fascination with guns was obvious.  He said that the only person for whom he ever felt love was his grandfather, Ed McVeigh, who taught him hunting and marksmanship skills, but had he never laid his hands on a gun, he was already headed down a path of utter emotional isolation and lack of compassion for others.

Gun ownership became the medium for his distance from others – owning guns, all types and kinds, was a major objective of his life.  He hated the 1994 ban on ownership of assault weapons, and since gun possession was the reason behind both Ruby Ridge and Waco interventions by the federal authorities, it certainly was an issue.

But the bombing was not caused, in my opinion, by his love of guns.  It was caused by his indifference to people, to a sense of community and nation, by his utter coldness about the value of human life.  I believe that indifference has become pandemic in America, and it is contributing to the utter depravity of our politics, of our budget decisions, of our contempt for “the other” among us, and even of our neighbor.

The loss of community probably comes in part from our high level of mobility.  Most of us do not live where we grew up, and as fairly rootless people, we make acquaintances more than friends.  But that could not describe McVeigh who had much that we claim should have abetted a sense of connection to at least those with whom he lived.  It did not.  When he determined to do his evil act, he thought of his father and dismissed him and his sister as disposable – too bad they will suffer, but hey.  Worse, McVeigh knew of the babies and toddlers in the daycare center at the Murrah Building and dismissed them as merely “collateral damage”.

I remember during the early Civil Rights days that LIFE magazine had a feature on altruism. (Can you imagine such a feature today?)  It was a well-researched and written documentation of our belief or rejection of our connection to others and our obligation to support other people’s rights.  Overall the findings were that in the early 1960s, much of the nation felt a connection with others, not always around civil rights, but with respect for other people’s well being at least equal to their own.

I wonder what polls would tell us today about such compassion, such a sense of commitment, such a willingness to share.

I mark the absolute change in our national self perception to 1975 with the publication of Crisis of Democracy.  Virtually no ordinary American read this tome – it was the result of policy recommendations from three authors, Michael Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanabe who produced this global capitalist manifest for the Trilateral Commission.  It was the blueprint for the New World Order and directed that if we were to have a successful global economy, all nations needed to do several things, chief among them the destruction of democracy.  We needed to get past the direction of policy by the electorate and ground it exclusively in the hands of elites who obviously knew best for how we were to live.  They recommended curtailing a free press, abolishing unions, and generally imposing these massive changes in economic operations from the top down.  Working people were totally fungible – any worker who could work for less was preferable to one who worked for more.  It was thus the death knell for any value of the middle and working class in America and equally the death knell for our sense of compassion for one another.  Crisis of Democracy did not say but did support a return to a 19th-century sort of Social Darwinism – survival of the fittest who would become the ruling class while the others, all of us, would be left with scraps and with whatever they chose to give us. That turned out to be as little as possible.

By the 1990s, following Reagan’s relentless assault on government and its obligation to assure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for every person, compassion had been replaced by hyper individualism covered in a pastiche of “personal responsibility”.  We dismantled the self-help programs of the Great Society, and, leaving those in poverty bereft of help just as private industry and business was shedding jobs and any ability to help oneself, we blamed the victims.  Worse – we demonized them as lazy and shiftless or stupid.  Class and race became the markers for our distancing of self from others, and once that was done, it was only a short step from that to distance from all other people.

Living in upstate New York, I got to know hundreds of union men and women.  I helped document the last moments of Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna steel plant, shut down in 1983 costing over 20,000 jobs.  Some years later, a well to do liberal dismissed my concern for all those lives, all those families now without work and income, by saying, “Oh God – I’m so glad it’s gone!  It is so ugly!”  I asked him how he could dismiss all those jobs, and he just blew it off.  He was utterly without concern for them, and while he engaged in conversation about all kinds of causes, he did nothing to improve the life of one other human being.  Instead he tied up whole groups in bundles and threw them away.

And we now throw everyone away who is not “us”.  The new “liberalism” has a trope that in any circumstance,  people all have “agency” and could escape their fate.  This is the liberal perspective!  It has not quite extended to the Holocaust, but I’ve heard it applied to Native Americans and other groups who, in the best Reaganomic view, were simply not active enough in their own self interest.  In the highly popular book, The Secret, this same assertion applies – visualize what you want, and if you don’t get it, well, you just did not try hard enough.  Oprah does it, all our self-help magazines do it, and it has become pervasive.  It’s a left-right mantra – You’re On Your Own.  I am in no way responsible for you, and I do not have to care about you, and injustice cannot exist since it’s all up to you.

However – I may well be a victim.  It’s all about me.  If I don’t get what I want, it’s your/society/the government’s fault.  I lie outside the rules.  I deserve.  I am the one and only.  Not you.

Into this mix come sociopaths with absolutely no feelings and no limits.  Into this mix comes Tim McVeigh and his ilk who have taken hyper-individualism to its logical nihilism.  Nothing matters outside of what the individual desires and believes to be true.  Nothing.  No matter how they have screwed up their own lives (such as not paying taxes in the IRS plane disaster) it’s not their individual fault.  No matter that the government often supports them financially, it’s the government’s fault for – fill in the blank.

I have not a clue how we alter this pervasive self centered obsession.  Inch by inch, moment by moment, day by day, I hope we are changing the message.  Obama began it by reminding us we are one people and that we have a superior way of being when we care for the well being of each of us, and of all of us.

But the attractiveness of “me for me alone” will not be changed quickly.  In the meantime, we face April 19, the fifteenth anniversary of Oklahoma City, and we wait and wonder if it will happen again.  And even knowing that hyper individualism plays a major role, we still have not pinned down the final answer to – Why?

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An excellent article, coming at a disquieting time as a solemn and ominous date approaches.
I met a guy who talked about “The Secret”, saying how he no longer feels sympathy for people in tough circumstances because he realizes that through some choice they made or are making, they asked for the circumstances, and did so for their own purposes, ultimately. “All is in perfect order, the universe is unfolding as it should”. His beatific smile annoyed me, but I realized we were on such an entirely different wavelength that there was no point in arguing. It DID occur to me, however, that had I punched him in the face, he would have been hard pressed to accept that he “called it to himself for some purpose” and thank me!

The world is so confusing and big, and filled with so many horrible things, that it is mostly a coping mechanism that we attempt to go the narcissist route, to believe that only we matter. Too many victims, too many natural disasters, too much need and hunger and suffering. The easiest way to make it go away is to flip John Donne the bird and imagine that we are our own islands, with nothing but ourselves to concern ourselves with. I think part of the reason so many people are denying their own humanity and abandoning caring is the sheer overload of suffering taking place upon this fallen world.


You are such an eloquent and intelligent writer, WTS. As is C’lady, who gave us this fine article.

The whole “Secret” fad, propelled by Oprah is just so exasperating. I tend to react to it more viscerally because a good friend of mine was battling cancer when this wave of “insight” was at its peak. Some guy named Eckhart Tolle was pushing the same stuff, too, if I’m not mistaken. My friend became convinced that she had “chosen” cancer for herself, for some unhealthy reason, and that, if she could just figure out what that reason was and then “unchoose” it, she would be healed. With or without any medical treatment. I tried unsuccessfully to convince her that this was magical thinking and –really — a particularly cruel way of blaming the victim for illness or misfortune. But she just couldn’t see it. In a strange way, I think she felt empowered by this false “logic.” In her mind, if she thought herself into trouble and could think herself out of it, the locus of control was all in her. It relieved her of the mind-bending pain of recognizing the relative randomness of everything. Or of the notion that there might have been meaning in her (or other people’s) suffering, but that the meaning and purpose of it all is/was not determined by the sufferer or even immediately knowable by same. She died in January of 2009. And I’ll never believe it was because she “willed that for herself.”

The fact that suffering can produce positive results later on, doesn’t make it in itself a good thing. Americans have an odd relationship with suffering. They run from it like crazy, while refusing to recognize that there is value in some forms of suffering. They refuse to take meaningful steps to alleviate it in someone else (preferring to blame the other for allowing/inducing pain) and yet often use quick/easy short cuts past necessary suffering for themselves (e.g. riding around the grocery store in an electric cart to buy food when they’re too obese to walk, or getting drunk to relieve emotional pain rather than looking inward for the source). To have empathy for a fellow human is painful. It’s a lot easier to unplug the sympathy chip a la Timothy McVeigh and make it “all about me.”


Thank you, Kesmarn, and allow me to laud your eloquence and intelligence as well!
I am sorry to hear about your friend, and I think this situation is not uncommon. A little esoterica can be a dangerous thing. People latching onto, and then marketing, ideas that they don’t fully understand and that traditionally take years of disciplined study and practice to even begin to start sharing with others. You see it all over the New Age: people still in their twenties and thirties, novices by more traditional standards, giving seminars, “certifying” others to give same seminars (those certifications get progressively more expensive in some cases), and frankly dealing with energy that can do damage to people who aren’t equipped to handle it. I have some personal stories in this regard that I could share, but they are called “personal” for a reason, suffice it to say that I jumped, all starry eyed, into the New Age scene, and have come to see it from both sides now, its excellence and its excesses.


To say that I have a problem with “The Secret” and books of that ilk would be like saying that I have issues with being stabbed in the ear with a shiv. Therefore I adore the following review written by Ari Brouillette. About 10,000 people have read this review on amazon.com, and all but a couple hundred found it “helpful.”

Please allow me to share with you how “The Secret” changed my life and in a very real and substantive way allowed me to overcome a severe crisis in my personal life. It is well known that the premise of “The Secret” is the science of attracting the things in life that you desire and need and in removing from your life those things that you don’t want. Before finding this book, I knew nothing of these principles, the process of positive visualization, and had actually engaged in reckless behaviors to the point of endangering my own life and wellbeing.
At age 36, I found myself in a medium security prison serving 3-5 years for destruction of government property and public intoxication. This was stiff punishment for drunkenly defecating in a mailbox but as the judge pointed out, this was my third conviction for the exact same crime. I obviously had an alcohol problem and a deep and intense disrespect for the postal system, but even more importantly I was ignoring the very fabric of our metaphysical reality and inviting destructive influences into my life.
My fourth day in prison was the first day that I was allowed in general population and while in the recreation yard I was approached by a prisoner named Marcus who calmly informed me that as a new prisoner I had been purchased by him for three packs of Winston cigarettes and 8 ounces of Pruno (prison wine). Marcus elaborated further that I could expect to be raped by him on a daily basis and that I had pretty eyes.
Needless to say, I was deeply shocked that my life had sunk to this level. Although I’ve never been homophobic I was discovering that I was very rape phobic and dismayed by my overall personal street value of roughly $15. I returned to my cell and sat very quietly, searching myself for answers on how I could improve my life and distance myself from harmful outside influences. At that point, in what I consider to be a miraculous moment, my cell mate Jim Norton informed me that he knew about the Marcus situation and that he had something that could solve my problems. He handed me a copy of “The Secret”. Normally I wouldn’t have turned to a self help book to resolve such a severe and immediate threat but I literally didn’t have any other available alternatives. I immediately opened the book and began to read.
The first few chapters deal with the essence of something called the “Law of Attraction” in which a primal universal force is available to us and can be harnessed for the betterment of our lives. The theoretical nature of the first few chapters wasn’t exactly putting me at peace. In fact, I had never meditated and had great difficulty with closing out the chaotic noises of the prison and visualizing the positive changes that I so dearly needed. It was when I reached Chapter 6 “The Secret to Relationships” that I realized how this book could help me distance myself from Marcus and his negative intentions. Starting with chapter six there was a cavity carved into the book and in that cavity was a prison shiv. This particular shiv was a toothbrush with a handle that had been repeatedly melted and ground into a razor sharp point.
The next day in the exercise yard I carried “The Secret” with me and when Marcus approached me I opened the book and stabbed him in the neck. The next eight weeks in solitary confinement provided ample time to practice positive visualization and the 16 hours per day of absolute darkness made visualization about the only thing that I actually could do. I’m not sure that everybody’s life will be changed in such a dramatic way by this book but I’m very thankful to have found it and will continue to recommend it heartily.


I read that last year! I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever read online.


I remember this as the poem McVeigh chose as his last words:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


I think it gives a little insight into the subject. Although, I believe the writer probably never intended it in this context, nor to be chosen as inspiration for a terrorist.


C’Lady, while I am uncomfortable with your characterization of Liberals as being elitists, I do recognize that some of us are too dismissive of the values of the conservative, or, better stated I think, apolitical working class.

Here’s how I see them: They work hard at lousy jobs and scrape by. They want what the whole of humanity wants–to lead a peaceful life, raise their kids and avoid calamity. They are satisfied with the occasional luxury of a nice meal, a movie, a Christmas where they can buy their loved ones a few gifts. They want to worship their god and mind their own business, but they are also sympathetic to the plight of the less fortunate. They are too tired and too busy or sometimes too incurious to find out more than the nightly news provides–if that.

My husband works with these men and women and he is often frustrated when he hears them talk about taxes and the government. But from their perspective, DC is another galaxy, far, far away. The government they resent is the DMV, or the building inspector who gives them grief, or the dozens of bureaucrats who seem to live to torment them– not even the Feds. It’s all just “the government.”

They see shrinking buying power and blame the taxes they pay–mostly municipal–for which they see bad schools and crumbling infrastructure. They also see incompetence and waste– and fat cat politicians. Their paychecks don’t go far enough, and those taxes infuriate them, but they don’t really connect the dots. The “government” is an easy, thoughtless target.

They are low information voters. I am unhappy about that, but I understand it.

One last word about the Limousine Liberals– at least they contribute to progressive causes. That’s much more than I can say about the corporatists. I was a VP for many years at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and worked with the very people you describe. I loathed them– rich prima donnas who felt entitled. (Thank God I didn’t work in Development! But wherever one worked at the Federation, we were required to kowtow.)So I know where you’re coming from. But bottom line, without them, we wouldn’t have raised the $40 million a year that helped the community. I know you know this, but it was something I had to remind myself several times a day.


I myself will admit to having a little Edna St. Vincent Millay in me, but I would have never said that about the factory. I help out another when I can, and I hate walking past those begging for change (though it can be a racket, most often); because I do feel for people down on their luck, who but for the whims of fate, could be me.

By the way, I so despise those types of liberals too, but they are a necessary evil. I don’t come by them, though. I’m not exactly an upper crust type of socialite. And even if I were born into it, I’d not feel comfortable, I imagine.


This is heartening!

The Other 95% – Counter Tea Party Rally in DC 04-15-10

Let’s give these guys a hand:



By the way, it was indeed a gorgeous day today. But all I heard was the ruckus, I didn’t see any of it. I love this sign, though.


Tonight, I hope you write about your adventures!


Will do, Cher, just taking a break right now before dinner. 😉

KQµårk 死神

Excellent piece CL.

Into this mix come sociopaths with absolutely no feelings and no limits. Into this mix comes Tim McVeigh and his ilk who have taken hyper-individualism to its logical nihilism. Nothing matters outside of what the individual desires and believes to be true. Nothing. No matter how they have screwed up their own lives (such as not paying taxes in the IRS plane disaster) it

Blues Tiger
Blues Tiger



If I were one of Party Crashers


It’s ironic that domestic terrorists only lasted for a few years in the 1960’s and early 1970 on the left. The FBI and law enforcement were on the Weathermen, Symbionese Liberation Army, etc. very quickly. But with the rise of the right wing terrorists in the late 1980’s and 1990’s the government took a hands off approach even though they knew who many of these people were and what they were capable of. All you heard about was the Ruby Ridge and Branch Davidian events. And they were considered isolated events.

Now what is scarier is the instant communication that these right wing terrorists have at their disposal and the fact that they believe it’s OK to plot against the government and cry foul when they are exposed by wiretapping or informants. It’s obvious now that the Bush – Cheney administration with their failed policy of fighting terrorists by starting needless wars, set this nation back several years in protecting it’s citizens.