Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oklahoma City: 15 years later

A conference brought me to Oklahoma City this week, just in time for the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Federal Building on April 19, 1995 in which 168 Americans perished at the hands of domestic terrorism.

Although ill today, I would consider it in appropriate for any able-bodied American in Oklahoma City not to come to the memorial at the site of the bombing to pay respects to these victims, the survivors, the rescuers and their families.

The outdoor memorial at night is impressive. Notwithstanding the commanding architecture one finds stark symbolism in the remainder of the chain link fence that was erected to protect the site after the bombing.

Friends, family and the community put trinkets of appreciation on the original fence and continue to do so with what's left of it today. Most compelling are the laminated biographies and pictures of victims left by their friends and families to tell the stories of real people who were victims and not just statistics. I found myself weeping as I read as many as I could before I was too moved to continue.

The memorial is worth a visit and homage.

Next to it is a museum ($10 admission) and store about which I have a great deal of concern. It seems tacky and unpatriotic to commercialize, in any manner, the suffering of 168 families. Memorabilia available for sale include T-shirts, picture frames, ties, Christmas ornaments and so forth.

Not only doesn't this seem right, it's replusive.

No doubt the folks trying to run the museum and its educational programs have good intentions but it's simply wrong that a nation with the resources to spend countless billions fighting international terrorism can't afford a few million to honor those victims of home-grown terrorism. Shame on us. Shame.

This is beyond tacky. It's disrespectful and downright wrong.


Anonymous said...

Well, RAG, in the abstract I agree that it's tacky. But who's funding the museum? Perhaps the sales of these items are what's funding the museum. If that's the case, then I'd buy something, however tacky, in order to support the museum.

RAG said...

Anonymous both makes and misses the point. We should not have to support something like this by tackiness (or worse). In that respect Anonymous makes the point that however well-intentioned we piss on the memories of these people by exploitation, however noble.