"..this vengeance, this rage, isn't helping us one bit."
May 7, 2001 3:35 AM   Subscribe

"..this vengeance, this rage, isn't helping us one bit." The father of one of the victims of the Oklahoma bombing speaks out about why he's forgiven Tim McVeigh. The article also talks about the social pressure on Oklahomans who are against the death penalty and a Colorado politician who's upset because the killer of his aunt failed to apologize before his execution.
posted by jeannepickering (16 comments total)
interesting timing.

in light of the upcoming execution, i just watched (again) the film dead man walking.

if you haven't yet seen it, i recommend it.
posted by bwg at 3:43 AM on May 7, 2001

Indeed. Sean Penn is brilliant 1 in perhaps his best role; and the film fairly considers the point of view of both the victims' families and the condemned murderer. There's no screed here.

You have to admire this man for speaking out; the social pressure to conform on this issue is enormous. The media likes exactly two stories here: the tale of the innocent and allegedly "forgotten" victim; and the tale of the earnest and misguided death-penalty opponent. Anything more complicated or outside of those boundaries simply baffles them, and gets no airtime.

1 (just in case you were believing that hype about Robert Downey Jr. being the best of his generation ...)
posted by dhartung at 5:11 AM on May 7, 2001

Being opposed to the death penalty may not be socially acceptable in knuckledrag okie but this parent is still with the majority's view in the CIVILIZED world. How do so many so-called Christians justify supporting the death penalty is beyond me. I suspect it has something to do with "compassionate conservatism." And contrary to what Ashcroft said, an eye for an eye is no catharsis. Killing does not bring forgiveness or relieve anger, it only satisfies vengeance.
posted by nofundy at 5:52 AM on May 7, 2001

If it satisfies an emotion, as you say, then it is a catharsis.
posted by aaron at 6:41 AM on May 7, 2001

"Being opposed to the death penalty may not be socially acceptable in knuckledrag okie..."

You know, I've gotten upset about this sort of thing before in MeFi, and regretted it afterwards. Let me just try to explain, as one who grew up in Oklahoma, that there are some rather backwards elements to those that live there, but by no means is Oklahoma, or the south in general, some holdout for noncivilized society. There is a wide degree of nuance to the people that live there, and there is nothing that resembles the monolithic, homogeneous mass of redneckism that it is so frequently portrayed as in the mass media, and yes, on Metafilter as well.

Sure; Republicans have carried every presidential election there since the sixties. Do you think that happens unanimously? There is an ample minority of progressive people in Oklahoma; and if you go to the high schools you will find that the social groups resemble the ones at your high schools. There are punk rockers in Oklahoma; there are hip-hop fans, Amnesty International chapters, pot smokers, vegans, food cooperatives, Planned Parenthoods, and black people. Really. I've now lived in Kentucky, Oregon, and Minnesota, in addition to my fifteen years in Oklahoma, and I can tell you with reasonable assurance that people are generally the same in the United States. There are rednecks here in Minnesota; one guy I worked with until recently came in and announced every January 15 that it was "nigger day." No one ever said that shit to me in Oklahoma. So get off your high horse, and recognize that your home town is not any better than Okie-land, and recognize that I could probably drag up the dregs of humanity within two miles of your ass if I was looking for it. Okies are people too. Besides, we gave you Woodie Guthrie, and he was ten times more pinko than you are.
posted by norm at 7:20 AM on May 7, 2001

Oklahoma: OK :-)

This is a perfect example of why the death penalty is destructive to our society. Violence begets violence. Anyone who doubts that should ask McVeigh why he did what he did. It was in retaliation for the violence done at Waco and Ruby Ridge. So now the "good guys" are pissed and are seeking vengeance on McVeigh. He then becomes a hero and martyr to some fringe group who will commit more violence upon the innocent. Why can't we just break the cycle?

(That's a rhetorical question. Please let's not start another capital punishment thread here.)
posted by jpoulos at 8:17 AM on May 7, 2001

I see no evidence that the rest of the country is wildly different than Oklahoma regarding the death penalty actually. Which is why I second jpoulos' feelings regarding another capital punishment thread here. Talking like Dirty Harry and screaming "state murder" in repsonse is not a rational conversation.

The difference between the South and North has something to do with history, a lingering culture of honor/frontier justice thing, and also maybe religion. It may also have something to do with the region's political culture, which does not exactly suggest the use of the adjective "participatory." Voting rates are among the lowest here, even though voter registration rates are among the highest in the nation. Good people don't go into politics enough, nor do they care about it. This is more the case now nationwide, unfortunately, so this trait only gets reinforcement from outside. How many of those vegans or hip-hop fans or whoever would give you that horse*** line about how one can get more done at the individual level than through politics?

Woody G. was 10 times more pinko because, well, he grew up in the South of a certain age and was of a certain temperament. He couldn't help it. Know that mag "Mother Jones?" Know where the namesake comes from? The south's radical elements have almost always been 10 times more radical. Our radical elements have been more interesting and fun, and musical or lyrical.

Oklahoma is not the government putting the person to death here anyway. It's the federal government of the United States.
posted by raysmj at 9:56 AM on May 7, 2001

Judging Bud Welch not as an Oklahoman but as a member of the group that lost relatives in the bombing, I'd say he stands pretty much alone. Bless him for characterizing "closure" as an "empty notion." Right on, Mr. Welch.
posted by caraig at 12:55 PM on May 7, 2001

I was glad to read this article as I have heard little to none about dissenters to the process. I think that the craze to watch the 'murder' via close circuit is morbid and disgusting. The law should not exist as a means of revenge. I don't know what the framers thought (they probably supported capital punbishment) but murdering a man while having 300 people cheering via close circuit certainly sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. McVeigh deserves to die, but not by this society. His ideological difference to society caused him to commit this act and now our society validates his views by showing that we need to be the last ones with retribution. It makes me sick and, though I don't want to attack Southerners, I can't imagine the cavalier attitude people in that region seem to have toward life. Hopefully, the death penalty will be repealed in this state, NY, will be repealed soon as sentiment seems to be turning.
posted by wsfinkel at 4:30 PM on May 7, 2001

Actually wsfinkel, since public executions were the order of the day at the time of the American Revolution, the Framers most likely supported it just as long as it wasn't unreasonably cruel (by which they would have meant drawing and quartering etc.)
Sadly, this debate is essentially pointless. I applaud this man for choosing not to repay Tim McVeigh's hatred in kind but he won't change the minds of death penalty supporters anymore than this heinous crime changed my mind.
posted by Octaviuz at 4:42 PM on May 7, 2001

posted by wsfinkel at 5:08 PM on May 7, 2001

vengeance and rage i think are the key themes here, not oklahoma.

timothy mcveigh seems to me to be a bigger version of all the school shooters, etc.
when one of these incidents happens, people say "how can we punish!! we want blood!" not "how was this person's life so bad that they were motivated to commit this crime?"

this is a classic flaw of american society and is present all the way down to simple drug offenses. "put 'em in jail for life! that'll teach 'em"
jails fill up. we'll just build more!

what happened to rehabilitation and prevention?

i also find it ironic that jesus(mr forgiveness) lovers et al. seem to be the most motivated vengeance seekers. gettin' old testament on yo ass...
posted by leinad at 6:11 PM on May 7, 2001

Thanks for posting the link, jeannepickering. It was a great article; I've been teary-eyed since reading the part where Bud Welch met Bill McVeigh (I'd apologize for the spoiler, but if you've scrolled down this far without actually following and reading the link... bah.).
posted by lia at 2:08 AM on May 8, 2001

but murdering a man while having 300 people cheering via close circuit...

Is this just hyperbole, or do you really believe this? Do you really think this is going to be like a football game?
posted by aaron at 6:52 AM on May 8, 2001

Have you listened to these people, they want blood because they've convinced themselves that blood will heal them. If there aren't actual cheers I will be surprised.
posted by wsfinkel at 9:16 AM on May 8, 2001

Do you really think this is going to be like a football game?

Anyone remember Ted Bundy's execution? The scene outside the penitentiary was very much like a football tail-gater. When the switch was thrown, the celebration was raucous -- cheering, high-fives, woof-woofing, a lot of mugging for the TV cameras. You could see lit sparklers in the crowds. I expect this one will probably be the same.
posted by nikzhowz at 11:12 AM on May 8, 2001

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