Friday, June 13, 1997 – The Verdict

On my way to a meeting in Philadelphia, National Public Radio (NPR) was announcing the return of the McVeigh jury and promising immediate live coverage of the verdict. Then, in other news, five minutes were allotted to the passage of draconian gun control legislation in the United Kingdom. The bill will put an end to all private gun ownership in the U.K., it seems, including those used for target shooting. A Conservative MP described Parliament’s action as a hasty and emotional response to the murder of Scottish schoolchildren by a madman. He bemoaned the rising specter of ‘nanny governments’ and asked, rhetorically, why we don’t simply outlaw everything that could possibly injure anyone, including motorcycles and tobacco and alcohol products. It struck me that that such questions would not be taken rhetorically in the United States.
The verdict had still not been announced by the time I arrived in the city for my meeting. Two hours later, when I began the drive home, it was already old news, a second shoe that had dropped to everyone’s relief and short-lived satisfaction. The only slightly discordant note was the continual quotation of the prosecutor’s call to punish the ‘coward,’ separated by mere moments from the description of McVeigh’s reaction to the verdict – an ambiguous wave to the jury and a respectful nod to the judge as he was led from the courtroom.

This evening I finished In Flanders Fields, an historical account of the 1917 Allied campaign on the Western Front. A million casualties in a single horrifying year of incompetent military command. It went round and round in my head along with the lamentations I’d been hearing all week for the Oklahoma City victims. It’s too early to tell how I feel about it all.