On the early morning of April 19th 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a truck filled with explosives in front of the Murrah Federal Building. Instantly, a hundred and sixty-eight lives perished while countless others were found in critical condition. Shortly before McVeigh’s involvement was announced publicly, many originally presumed that the perpetrator was ‘Middle Eastern’. This is partially due to the media’s consistent misrepresentation of Arabs and Muslims. Contrary to popular belief, the lure of terrorism can influence anyone- regardless of their racial/ethnic background, religion, or gender. Overall, the conditions of McVeigh’s socio-cultural environment played a substantial role in shaping his vengeful identity.
The PBS documentary entitled Oklahoma City visually pinpoints the key events that McVeigh believed justified his wrongdoing. These key events consisted of the Ruby Ridge stand-off and the Waco blockade where tensions arose between governmental personnel and people McVeigh personally identified with. During these correlated incidents, the two people of interest Randy Weaver and David Koresh did not comply to orders specified by law enforcement. Weaver refused to go to court for unlawful weapon possession and Koresh refused to come in for questioning after child abuse and statutory assault charges were placed against him. When the accused continued to disregard orders to surrender, things began to escalate and ultimately ended in bloodshed. Angered by how the sensationalist media depicted the two events, McVeigh became more disenchanted with the government.
As someone who strongly believed in the preservation of the Second Amendment, he saw Ruby Ridge and the Waco siege as two significant instances where Americans were denied their gun rights and civil liberties. Although the documentary did an exceptional job tracing back to the events that led to the Oklahoma City Bombing, it only examined the complexity of McVeigh’s motives at a surface level. While it is apparent that the radical right influenced him to specifically target the Murrah Building, there is another contributing factor that is commonly overlooked: the influence of hegemonic masculinity. McVeigh’s overall sense of masculinity plummeted after he was told that his physique was not up to par to perform well in Ranger School.
Prior to joining the Army, McVeigh often felt out of place and was constantly picked on because of his “un-masculine” physique and romantic inexperience. From a young age, boys are taught that showing emotion is too “feminine.” In turn, as these boys turn into young adults, they project their emotions through aggression and violence. Since others believed the physical aspect of his masculinity was lacking, McVeigh performed his masculinity to the highest degree to prove his superiors (and anyone else who ever ridiculed him) wrong. Twenty-two years later, a memorial stands on the site where the Murrah Building once stood to honor all the lives that were lost and those who risked it all to aid survivors. As of late, the Oklahoma City Bombing remains the most fatal domestic act of terrorism in American history.
Author: Lisa N.