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April 19, 1993 - April 19, 1995: “Something dark was moving in society.”
The end of a 51-day standoff between government forces and the Branch Davidians. The events would inspire another domestic terrorism event.
In contemporary times, America has a former president that will cultivate violent anti-government fervor by holding a campaign rally during the anniversary of a 51-day siege of a compound holding the Branch Davidian cult and children under the group’s control. The open signal to violent anti-government resistance and tacit facilitation of political violence by a former president (and his enabling party members) is a dark low for a nation mired by a long history of morbid ideological displays.
On March 25, President Donald J. Trump held a campaign rally in Waco, Texas that featured radicalizing lies about the nature of the 2020 presidential election. The president defended supporters who attacked the Capitol in an orchestrated effort to subvert a fair and free election. Years of Republican politicians pretending to be unaware of Donald Trump’s worst excesses led to this attempt to subvert democracy during a winter when Americans were dying from a pandemic. The plan saw the continued radicalization of Republican base voters (and those who feel obligated to terd polish) as collateral damage or a necessary evil. It was also in the range of dates that sorrowfully remember the 30th anniversary of the raid on the Branch Davidian compound.
The raid on the Branch Davidian compound was a siege beginning with reports of federal firearms offenses by the group. They were transforming semi-automatics into automatics. Agents of the ATF (Tobacco and Firearms) showed up at the compound where Koresh was also committing statutory rape and child abuse. The resistance lasted 51 days after a ceasefire was called due to the outcome of the initial raid, which ended in the death of both ATF agents and Davidians. Eventually, the building was injected with gradual amounts of CS gas to inspire the people to leave. However, the building combusted hours later with surviving members from both sides of the conflict blaming the other. Though the FBI promised the Attorney General, Janet Reno, to not use combustible rounds, they did use them.
However, the fire started hours after the rounds were released. This fog of conclusions gave life to anti-government theorists and conspiracists as they argued shadow forces working with or within the government set the building on fire. Others have also pointed out that cults often are incentivized by martyrdom in their most extreme iterations.
Still, images proliferated the nation and inspired other citizens to honker down as they interpreted the events as another step closer to a tyrannical government that will come and collect their guns.
Timothy McVeigh was three miles away on a nearby hill during the final moments of the Waco incident. He was already radicalized by his admiration for The Turner Diaries, a piece of white nationalist literature that has inspired violence in the present day. Of course, he viewed the events at Waco as a step too far. McVeigh was also on the path to radicalization after the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992.
Exactly two years after the end of the Waco catastrophe, Army veteran Timothy McVeigh bombed a building holding veteran's counseling services, the Social Security Administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Secret Service, and the ATF. He was explicit about his vendetta against government based on the events at Ruby Ridge and at Waco.
He was executed in 2001.
It’s tragic that individuals can be led astray and radicalized into doing unspeakable acts. Human history is littered with people engaging in this trade.
It is another thing when a former president of the United States also honors anniversaries of domestic terrorist events, especially ones steeped in the psychology of white grievance and white supremacy. It means a destabilizing force had made its way to the shadows of the Oval Office and that it was enabled by one of the world’s oldest political parties.
The fact that Donald Trump can potentially win a GOP primary despite all of the violence, constitutional betrayals, and attacks on civil servants is another indictment of the state of some factions within American society. America’s long history of creating surface solutions for racial strife and class divisions in an effort to push a noble but often flawed historiography creates weak points in the nation’s ability to adapt to multiculturalism and international trade.
The U.S. did have a fascist government rebel against the nation at one point and it did feature racialized and localized autocracy for a much longer portion of its history.
So, reckoning with this history and facing it with clear eyes is the only way to make sure our nation’s democratic contributions live on.
It’s an arduous task but one where our future generations can reap the benefits.
Unfortunately, the early 1990s also featured our nation’s victory hubris, which emanated out of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the spread of international democracy.
Unresolved problems within our nation were ignored or believed to be evolving out of our national DNA. Today, we know this to be wish casting.
Dan Rather states in the documentary series The Nineties:
Seeing the 1990s as a whole if you will, and looking at major pivot points: Columbine, the shooting of schools in Colorado, the bombing in Oklahoma City, the Davidian compound in Waco…they were indicative of something deep within the country.
Something dark was moving in society.
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