At the Oklahoma City Memorial, there are bronze gates emblazoned with the words, “May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”
The site commemorates the bombing, 25 years ago, of the Alfred P. Murrah building, by right wing extremists. The explosion killed 168 people, including children and babies at a daycare center there. The maimed and the scarred were even more numerous.
Recalling the exhortation on the gates, Leah Sottile says, “It’s such a simple statement, so profound to consider right now when everything seems so violent and ready to blow.”
Sottile is the principal reporter and host of “Two Minutes Past Nine,” the excellent BBC podcast on the Murrah building bombing.
Unfortunately, I share her sentiments. The anger of the extreme right wing feels like natural gas building up under a manhole cover.
On Thursday in Michigan, state federal law enforcement officials described a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and take her to Wisconsin for a treason trial. Six people were arrested in connection with the conspiracy, which included surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home and plans to blow up a bridge near the home to cut it off from police response, officials said.
Seven other men, members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia group, were arrested on charges related to their support of the plotters, officials said. They may face additional charges of mixing comic book franchises. Wolverine is Marvel. Watchmen is DC. You can’t do that.
The plotters were unhappy with, among other things, COVID-19 restrictions on gyms. You read that right. Gyms.
“The lockdown has been a lightning rod for anti-government extremists in this country, and Gov. Whitmer has been on the forefront of their targeting,” Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, told the Detroit News.
Perhaps your thoughts return now to April when armed right wing COVID protesters strode around the Michigan state capitol, and President Donald Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.”
Buried under the noise of last week was the delayed release of a Department of Homeland Security threat assessment which cited white supremacist extremists as “the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.”
The report continued, “We also remain particularly concerned about the impacts from COVID-19 where anti-government and anti-authority violent extremists could be motivated to conduct attacks in response to perceived infringement of liberties and government overreach ...”
The former intelligence chief of Homeland Security filed a whistleblower complaint last month claiming the release of the threat assessment had been blocked by the top two officials in the department because it could have reflected badly on the president.
What does this have to do with you or me? Hopefully nothing, but we have our own Connecticut cohort of anti-government COVID soreheads.
It’s sometimes hard to separate bluster from threat, but comments on the CT Liberty Rally Facebook page include:
“I am at a point where I am wishing for assasinations (sic).”
“I AM A FREE PERSON
AN AMERICAN CITIZEN
AND WILL FIGHT YOU TOOTH AND NAIL IF NEED BE.
As the saying goes
Give me a clear 1 mile chance
End it in a second.”
(In apparent response to a post about impeaching Gov. Ned Lamont): “So give me the A-z and I’ll have it done, we have the army to push, we just need the perfect shot, the deathstar we call Connecticuts (sic) government can and will be destroyed and rebuilt.”
I don’t attach any serious intentions to those comments, though the Michigan arrest affidavit demonstrates how reckless people can be on social media. One of the arrestees made a June Facebook video calling Whitmer a bad name and saying “we gotta do something.”
But the problem with fighting words is that, sooner or later, somebody does start fighting. You may not mean what you say about “assasinations,” but somebody else may read it and get ideas. Words can be kindling.
We’re less than one month away from a national election that Trump will probably lose by a significant margin. Some of the COVID restraints will still be in place and may even get ramped up right around then. That’s a volatile mix.
It will be a miracle if we’re spared violence from right wing extremists.
So pray for a miracle.