The lesson the bomb at the Atlanta Olympics teaches is that this new phenomenon, US domestic terrorism, does not obey any rules of logic. First reports indicate strongly that the Atlanta bomber belongs to the same species as Timothy McVeigh, the former marine accused in the Oklahoma case. Sometimes such people band themselves into what they call "freemen" groups, or "militias". Usually they are described in the media as ultra right-wingers. Always they are frustrated, unhappy misfits who find escape from their condition in dark fantasy, hatred and paranoia.
When the IRA or ETA or Hamas explode a bomb they do so with a political rationale. However foul the means, the end is clearly understood. To drive the British out of Ireland; the Spanish out of the Basque country; the Israelis out of Palestine.
The pattern of the American way of terror, now beginning to emerge, is unique. The Atlanta bomb, like the Oklahoma bomb, was an act of rage, nothing more. How to explain this rage?
The McVeighs, the militias, the freemen, are white males who either through misfortune or inability, have failed to do what white males in America are under great pressure to do: to live up to the myths of the American dream, to make the most of the Land of Opportunity, to succeed by making money and living the kinds of lives idealised in Hollywood and on their TVs.
The insult that expresses deepest contempt in everyday American English is "loser". That is how these people are viewed by the affluent rump of American society and how, deep down, they view themselves. But it is too painful to accept responsibility for their failure, so they put the blame elsewhere. They seek to dignify their self-hatred by devising theories about the UN, central government, the judicial system, the police and their plans to create a "new world order".
Such notions suffice to invest the lives of these men with a half-baked dignity. They band together and pretend they must stand together and do battle against the shadowy forces of Evil threatening the American Way of Life. They are cartoon warriors. Conan against the barbarians.
For most, such fancies serve the useful purpose of making them feel better about themselves and thus rendering them harmless to society. In some the hurt is too deep, the anger too overpowering. Until recently such men would storm into a McDonald's and open fire with a sub-machinegun. Now, armed against what pass in their minds for evil conspiracies, they blow up a government building and wreck the Olympics, an event probably twisted in their unhappy minds into a celebration of the impending "one- world government". In truth it was a giant, all-American manifestation of the capitalist bounty in which they have failed to claim a share.
America's bombers do not make demands. They have no defined objectives. Terror is not an instrument of political persuasion. It is a means to vent spleen. Which, as the century draws to an end, does not speak well about the health of America.Reuse content