I heard about the bombs at the Boston marathon about twenty minutes after they were detonated. My first thought — and it was an ugly thought — was this: homegrown terrorists. Why did I think that? Three reasons.
First, today was Patriot’s Day in New England. Homegrown terrorists invariably think of themselves as patriots. Whether they’re part of the Sovereign Citizen movement, anti-tax protesters, white supremacists, neo-Confederates, Posse Comitatus, Christian Identity members, racist skinheads, Constitutional Patriot militia groups, Christian Patriot Defense League — they all devoutly believe they are the True Americans. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them act on Patriot’s Day.
Second, today was the traditional deadline for filing US income taxes. For a lot of so-called ‘patriots’ the notion of paying your taxes is seen as government oppression.
Third, this week ends on April 19th, which is an important date in the warped mythos of anti-goverment hate groups. It’s the date on which the American Revolutionary War started in 1775 (which is why it’s celebrated as Patriot’s Day). Many anti-government groups refer to the war as the First American Revolution, suggesting another revolution is coming.
April 19th is also the date in 1985 on which the FBI and the BATF began the siege of the compound belonging to The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. The CSA was a Christian Identity and white supremacist hate group, with affiliations with the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. In 1984 one member of CSA, Richard ‘Wayne’ Snell, murdered the owner of a pawn shop in the mistaken belief that he was Jewish. Shortly thereafter, Snell murdered an African-American police officer. He was caught, tried, and sentenced to death. Richard ‘Wayne’ Snell — remember this name.
April 19th is the date in 1993 on which the siege of the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas ended. The BATF and the FBI had surrounded the compound for 50 days; on the 51st they decided to move in. A fire was ignited inside the compound, resulting in the deaths of 76 members of the Branch-Davidians. The government maintains the fires were started by members of the group themselves; anti-government groups claim the men, women, and children inside the compound were deliberately killed.
Even though most anti-government groups disagree with the religious philosophies of the Branch-Davidians, they still see the Waco siege in terms of a conspiracy — primarily because the underlying criminal complaint against members of the compound involved the possession of illegal weapons. Several anti-government activists traveled to Waco during the 50 day siege as a show of support. One of them was Timothy McVeigh, who was briefly interviewed by a local news affiliate.
Two years later, on April 19th, 1995, Richard ‘Wayne’ Snell — the member of The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord community convicted of murdering a pawn broker and a black police officer — was executed by the State of Arkansas. Christian patriots believed the date chosen for his execution was a deliberate insult.
On the morning of his execution, Snell asked the correctional officer assigned to his death team if he could watch the news on CNN. The officer agreed. Shortly after he changed the station, CNN reported a breaking news story. A massive bomb had been detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. According to the death watch log, Snell “smiled and chuckled and nodded” as he watched the devastation. It’s worth noting that a decade earlier, Snell and one of his CSA compatriots had planned to attack that very same building. Their plan was scrapped when one of the rocket launchers they’d acquired for the assault malfunctioned and exploded.
Snell was unrepentant. A few hours after watching the destruction of the Murrah Building, moments before being given a lethal injection, Snell spoke his last words — a threat to the Governor of Arkansas:
“Governor Tucker, look over your shoulder; justice is coming. I wouldn’t trade places with you or any of your cronies. Hell has victories. I am at peace.”
Timothy McVeigh, who’d visited Waco to show his support for the Branch-Davidians, killed 168 men, women, and children that morning — April 19, 1995. He stated he’d chosen the site and the date intentionally.
Obviously, I’ve no idea who is responsible for this horror. What I know is my immediate thoughts turned to homegrown terrorists and hate-mongers. I hope that’s not the case. I also hope it wasn’t foreign terrorists. That leaves me in the unappealing position of hoping the bombing was the work of a lone crank — an angry, delusional individual who decided to punish humanity because his satellite television was disconnected or because he was ordered to do it by the voice of Siri in his iPhone.
If it was a lone crank, then we’re not in for more bombings leading to April 19th. If it was a lone crank, then Islamophobes might stop foaming at the mouth. If it was a lone crank, then it’s a mental health issue, not a terrorist conspiracy.
I hope it’s a lone crank. But I’m afraid it probably isn’t.