“Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.”
Written by Justice Brandeis in a dissenting opinion, and quoted by Timothy McVeigh (the only thing he said during his trial) right before the government sentenced him to death.
The link is to Gore Vidal’s sympathetic September 2001 essay in Vanity Fair on “The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh.”
I learned of the essay from the comments to this recent post about McVeigh by Ioz, with which I concur.
Justin Raimondo’s essay on the unhinged critical response to Vidal’s essay is here. To such critics, writes Raimondo, “the idea that someone might have been driven mad by the madness of his own government is so subversive that it cannot even be entertained.”
Indeed, McVeigh, a decorated veteran of the Gulf War who was a witness to the Waco Massacre, appears more than most to have been taught, in the words of Justice Brandeis, for ill by his own government’s example.
Mad he was, but still responsible for the madness of what he did. Just as others, whose crimes unlike McVeigh’s were sanctioned by government madness, remain responsible though as yet unpunished for their own mad acts.