Oklahoma City and Hate: You Have to Be Carefully Taught

Today we mark the somber fifteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, an act of terrorism (the second worst in the country’s history) that was altogether homegrown.  No unfathomable strangers, speaking in tongues and armored in an alien dogma, crept upon our shores with the intent to bring death and mayhem upon a citizenry with which they had no connection apart from a fanatic vilification.  Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirators called the United States home.  They grew up in its heartland, had their shot at its bounty and opportunities, and yet, through some toxic, deluded concoction of upbringing, religious fundamentalism and anarchy disguised as patriotism, felt their beliefs entitled them to target federal workers and random visitors in the Murrah Building, including the children they knew would be in the onsite daycare center. 


Unfortunately, the cautionary tale that is Timothy McVeigh seems to have largely been lost.  We’re engaged in two wars that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (depending upon your point of view) warranted or rationalized.  American Muslims, as well as Islam itself, have been demonized.  The very fact that Barack Obama is accused, by some crazies out there, of being a ‘terrorist,’ is proof that, in too many minds, terrorism and dark skin are synonymous. 

Now a new iteration of terrorism has emerged: a group of religious fundamentalists who call themselves the “Hutaree” (or “Huratee” or “Hurare”), a neologism that apparently means “Christian warriors.”  (In light of the many confusing iterations of their moniker, I think I’ll just refer to them as the “Huckleberries.”) As with fundamentalist Islamacists, the Huckleberries have corrupted a venerable, imperfect, at times contradictory but ultimately compassion- and ethics-based creed to justify a worldview of hatred and bigotry and permit the brutality that inevitably follows such convictions.


Stupefyingly, the Huckleberries claim that their militaristic, nihilistic campaign against all government and agents thereof, is based primarily on the teachings of Christ. I guess my version of the New Testament is mistranslated: God isn’t love – God is WAR! Replete with training videos (disturbingly Al Qaeda-ish) and camouflage wallpaper, their website is full of ominous references to the “Beast” and the need for armed response toward anyone perceived as threatening the anarchy they demand as the only truly Christian state.  As Emily Patterson-Jackson notes in a recent article about the nine recently apprehended Huckleberries, who allegedly were conspiring to commit mass murder of police officers: nothing quite says “Jesus” like camo.

In 1949, when segregation was the law of the land, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II as well as the producers of the musical South Pacific, refused to cut the song, “You Have to be Taught,” from its productions, even in the combustible South.  The lyrics avow that hatred, bigotry and racism are learned, not inherent, responses:

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

The song continues (in this clip, you just might recognize a ‘gleeful’ favorite). 

The point is: religion, as opposed to what I believe is our human impulse for spiritual connection, is a set of doctrines, rituals, and rules that can only be passed on by teaching.  Religion is as much about belonging to a group, learning its practices and protocols, as it is about communing with one’s deity.  Organized religion supplies not just answers – it controls the questions.  Because most religions are, to a greater or lesser degree, us-versus-them constructs, and because they make the heady claim of being exclusive purveyors of the “truth” (especially the skinny about that greatest of all mysteries, death) religion itself, as an inevitably flawed human system, is highly vulnerable to being co-opted.  What better rationale can there be than: God made me do it?

Oklahoma City, the Twin Towers, the various foiled killing plots all stand as proof that the color of terrorism is black and white – the truth is that while terrorists come in all shades, beneath the skin they are all the same: depraved by believing in their own infallibility, and blinded by an utterly rigid, no-shades-of-gray worldview. Those among us who (in my view) have the supreme arrogance to claim to speak for God, to interpret the texts to fit agendas and hold sway over the sacraments, be they priests within huge organizations or tatty leaders of inept rag-tag militias, must be held accountable for any false gospels they spread. And we must be responsible for what we pass down to those who have no choice but to listen.

Much of the time, critiques of education focus on what is lacking: what students don’t know (how to read, how to do age-appropriate math and science, etc.). Maybe we also need to consider what children are learning, from the adults around them and the communities in which they live. 

I don’t mean to suggest that children can’t be pintsize savages, perfectly capable of fighting, arguing, teasing and stupendous egocentrism.  However, to hate a person or a group because of characteristics that have nothing to do with behavior or character, well, I think that’s largely a family value.  Perhaps the most important lesson of the terrorists – the Al Qaedas, the McVeighs, the various flavors of Huckleberry – is this:  If you want your children to be skilled at intolerance, bullying, cruelty, and ignorance – to never know doubt or recognize ambiguity (those blessings of growth and open-mindedness) – teach them carefully; teach them well.



catherine s.
catherine s8 years ago

people have and always will distort goodness for their own gain.......... this is called evil.............

Mollie H.
Mollie H.8 years ago

The national press and TV are getting wealthy off of fueling the flames of anarchy and hatred for a perceived fear of government control i.e. "Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization...And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did. That's what Al Gore, the U.N., and everybody on the global warming bandwagon [are doing]." –"The Glenn Beck Program," May 1, 2007 (Source)

Free speech has its consequences...The media participates in grooming people who are in a state of fearfulness by allowing them to be preyed upon by self-appointed, sick gurus like Beck and is ilk in the name of profit.

Casey Loufek
Casey Loufek8 years ago

"as threatening the anarchy they demand as the only truly Christian state."

No, theocracy and/or fascism is hardly anarchy. When you equate two ideologies that are totally different because you dislike both it doesn't make you look rational. charmaine c. has the measure of things. There have been intentional anarchies like the Paris commune and those in the Spanish civil war, there are unintentional ones like parts of Somali and Afghanistan but the part ruled by warlords and/or the Taliban are not anarchy.

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann8 years ago

Unfortunately the world's rulers discovered long ago that the way to hold a nation in abject subservience was to induce fear of other ethnic groups. In my lifetime I have seen "filthy Huns", "Reds under the beds" and "Imams on the divans" promoted, amongst many others.
Too, despicably inadequate education systems implemented in many countries, the English-speaking ones amongst them, have been employed to keep the populace in the necessary state of abysmal ignorance. One has only to see the sensationalism, bias, distortion, mendacity of TV "news" programmes to perceive how evil indoctrination is being pursued today. It is by no means only pseudo-religious groups that pursue such devious tactics; governments are also on the band-wagon.

Kerrie G.
Kerrie G8 years ago

And like I know...'prayer is the strongest force in the universe!'

Steve P.
Steve P8 years ago

" I'm praying for you Adam G. "

And like I always say..." Nothing fails like prayer."

charmaine c.
Charmaine C8 years ago

The Fundamentalists want a strict adherence to basic principals. The Anarchists want no rulership or enforced authority at all because they think the populace can work it out amongst themselves...hmmm... The Capitalists value money and the things you can buy with it, fine for the guy who's got it, rubbish for the people who don't! Socialism doesn't work either because there is always someone who thinks they know better..see the anarchists, capitalists and fundamentalists. So where does that leave mankind? See The Ruling Elite. We teach no values, no respect, no love and no tolerance. We do teach 'stick it to the other guy whenever you can', always take care of number one first, don't accept responsibility for your actions and it's your right to say and do whatever you want, any time you want. Society is a rudderless ship afloat on a sea of discontent.

"All men are born equal, but some are more equal than others" - G. Orwell.

David K.
Dave K8 years ago

"The problem does not lie with the Bible or the Koran. It likes with the self-serving interpretations that people twist the words of their religion into to justify unjust actions."

Like the Manson Family's interpretation of "Revelations"? Boy were they ever on a weird trip, enough to turn me off religion for a very long time... although I still listen to the Beatles' White Album because I know Manson's interpretations were no less out of context there, too.

Do you know what "Helter Skelter" was really about? A slide in an amusement park. Manson, on the other hand, twisted it around to make everyone think it was about a race war that he and his followers were "destined" to start. Talk about sick disillusions...

Judy P.
Judy P8 years ago

I'm praying for you Adam G.

Dave Tohunga
Dave te tohunga8 years ago

The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable, americans were behind 911, it was an inside job. Yet those criminals are still above the law. Causes, not symptoms are what recquire addressing. When there is no trust of govt officials or the media BECAUSE THEY BREACHED THE PUBLIC'S TRUST, when justice is a sham, when criminals in positions of privilege gut the economy while a black or hispanic gets 5 years jail for minor drug or larcency charges then expect more backlash. And expect 'authorities to use that to commit worse crimes and entrench their elitist above the law status... until Madame Guillotine chops their heads off once again. This is a pattern repeated because humans seem lacking in the wisdom and intelligence to learn.
Here's to a paradigm shift in human consciousness before we join the dinisoars, the dodo, and the thousands of species we are currently exterminating.