Sunday, April 19, 2015


Today is the 20th anniversary of the terror bombing of the federal building at Oklahoma City.

Grow old enough, cynicism aside, it seems many moral and ethical issues fade into shades of gray. There is right. There is wrong. And there is rationalization.

One thing difficult to rationalize, that truly cannot be rationalized even in this day when the Tea Party asks to see a president's birth certificate simply because he is a man of color, is the terror bombing of the Oklahoma federal building by Timothy McVeigh.


I've recently talked extensively with someone who suggested many things I consider moral failing—like constant lies—are the result of psychological diseases. We lie because we have an inferiority complex. We lie because we are depressed and cannot face what we perceive as unchangeable sorrow.

Was McVeigh insane? He didn't seem so. Is hate—as exampled by McVeigh's hated of the evolution of our society and the errors of our government at Waco—a form of madness?

I do not know. I do know I've read many things about the Oklahoma City terror attack, both to rationalize and to explain it. I know McVeigh is dead, executed because of the atrocity, expressing only regret that the building did not fully collapse. I still don't know what would motivate a person to participant in the massacre of innocent noncombatants, especially in a pre-meditated, cold-blooded attack.

There is one thing particularly that I heard, and have listened to many times since, that speaks to me about the tragedy. It is Robert Earl Keen's song "Shades of Gray." It is a spare, hard-bitten allegory about the nature of choices, with but a bare mention of the date of the bombing at the end of the song. If I were smart enough to analyze the song, had the insight to deconstruct the allegory, I would wonder over the meaning behind the federal officer being a black man. I have a suspicion it is there because McVeigh was a neo-Nazi sympathizer. In any event, it is one of Keen's better narrative songs, and I cannot listen to it without meditating on the scope of human evil.

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