Quantcast

Nation Topics - Society | The Nation

Topic Page

Articles

News and Features

Gay-Baiting in the Military Under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

AOL's buyout of Time Warner may have been this year's largest new media/old media merger, but in terms of sheer market consolidation, PlanetOut's purchase of Liberation Publications in late March

This is the story of Gato and Alex, two Salvadorans who as children became refugees from America's war in their homeland only to become rivals in America's gang war on the streets of Los Angeles.

Which current candidate for President reversed the abortion stand he
espoused as a Congressional candidate in the seventies and adopted a
position more acceptable to the mainstream of his party

The hopes of many for the birth and sustenance of independent web journalism took a body blow recently when all 140 employees of the APBnews.com crime news site were let go with no warning, as th

The women's liberation movement, as it was called in the sixties and seventies, was the largest social movement in the history of the United States--and probably in the world.

A century ago, as America made clear its retreat from the egalitarian gains of Reconstruction, two powerful voices set out differing agendas for how black Americans should respond to the rise of

It's difficult to get over the idea that we failed Timothy McVeigh and that his execution fails us all. How deceptive a finale it is that leaves history neatly packaged in the cemetery of our imagination, safely removed from the festering reality of life. It happened, it's over, and we can now move on when we ought not to.

By killing McVeigh, we served only the purpose of avoiding responsibility for his creation. How convenient to not have a living reminder that this callow, awkward, unformed youth was a product of mainstream American culture--varnished by the "be all you can be" Army, no less--and not some easily dismissed dropout aberration. No, he was us in our darkest moments, even as we acknowledge gratefully that he was possessed by malevolent forces that the healthy can conquer.

If he was the devil, how did he get that way, this product of a strong Catholic family that raised a son to be a patriot, a son who then suddenly took his own government to be the enemy? What did he learn from us, his neighbors, the media and the government, that left him plotting in seedy motel rooms, manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction, while singing the disturbed loony tunes of the assassin?

His execution is to be denounced because it brings to an all-too-tidy conclusion a phenomenon that cries out for more complex and sustained examination. That's true in any capital case, but all the more so that 168 innocent men, women and children died at his hands, and scores of others were injured. It hardly serves their memory that McVeigh at worst will be venerated as a martyr by generations of lunatics to come and at best be dismissed as a weirdo actor in a script that is not of our hand.

We are told that the grieving relatives of those killed in the bombing need "closure," an unattainable state that has become the basic mantra of denial of harsh reality. It's a word now inevitably accompanied by the horrid phrase of "getting on" with the next phase of one's life, invoked even by McVeigh's lawyers before the execution to refer to their client's "future." But the so-called closure afforded by capital punishment, as some relatives of the dead have noted, cheapens the quest for real healing, which can never be an act of amnesia but rather requires the search for meaning in even the most dastardly of events.

For that we needed McVeigh alive, to be tormented every day in his own mind by the enormity of his crime, to the point where that smug self-righteousness of the killer would be pierced, and he finally would have to confront the pain of mass death as something other than a clinically ordered act of ideological game playing.

But we too, the uninvolved, needed his presence as an open wound to remind us of the pain that political madness, no matter its source, induces. In this case, the madness was, in effect, condoned when an unshaped youth was taught by his government to kill.

It should be a matter of deep national soul searching that we as a nation sent McVeigh to roam the desert on a Bradley fighting vehicle inflicting the "collateral damage" of the Gulf War. Did his military training prepare him to differentiate between what he did as his government's agent in Iraq and his own subsequent war on civilians? The absurdly celebrated mayhem of the Gulf War was the alternative to the college experience McVeigh never had. He was at least in need of a crash course on the distinction between what he called the "collateral damage" of the Oklahoma City bombing and the morality of shooting Iraqi draftees as they fled the battle.

Unfortunately, McVeigh completed his education at desultory gun shows in which patriotism often is equated with a defiance born of personal failure, and fire power is the means to dignity and freedom. That and the literature of angry white men, who believe their skin color and a musket should be all that is needed to make them meaningful players in the computerized global marketplace.

The merchants of madness will now exploit the government's execution of McVeigh as confirmation of their paranoia. Better to have had McVeigh as an aging reminder of how horrible the taste can be when the American brew is curdled.


"Biased" was the term used most often in the scores of letters sent
in response to John Dinges's "What's Going on at Pacifi

A week after she ordered federal agents to seize Elián
González from his relatives in Miami, Republican critics were
snarling, the Miami Cuban community was venting its rage in st

Blogs

Appearing on Al Jazeera America’s Consider This, Nation sports editor Dave Zirin comes to Hank Aaron‘s defense.

April 18, 2014

While Congress drags its feet, President Obama could make a real difference in the lives of millions of immigrants and their families.

April 18, 2014

The substance and tone of Nation articles on Marxism have tended to shift with the larger political, cultural and economic tides.

April 18, 2014

What does a positive test mean when your economic fate hinges on the result? What kind of “discipline” is maintained by subjugating bodily privacy in the name of “public safety”?

April 18, 2014

Two top editors claim they didn’t really know.

April 18, 2014

The wealth gap didn’t spring up from policy gone awry—it is the policy.

April 17, 2014

So far, no smoking gun. But there are now four separate investigations underway, with new leads to follow.

April 17, 2014

From the self-portraits in the shower, to his portrait of Putin, the paintings are amateurish—street-fair quality at best—but that hardly halted the media orgy. 

April 17, 2014

A Pulitzer-prize winning investigation found that law firm Jackson Kelly, now defended by Senator Joe Manchin, concealed evidence and shaped doctor’s testimony.

April 16, 2014

Winning on abortion rights means talking—and listening—to voters in a new way.

April 16, 2014