Last week was the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, and a close examination of it is very important in this time of paranoid fantasies. That is what Rachel Maddow did in narrating a documentary called "The McVeigh Tapes."
Maddow is a person from whom strong, detailed reporting is expected, even though it sometimes falls into the tiger pit where Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and other supposed progressives unintentionally prove that they are just angry frat boys filling the air with four-letter words.
But when barely veiled threats against the life of the president are made by people at right-wing rallies, the hysteria rattles Maddow, and she responds with the best she's got -- a fine mind, great empathy and the inability to silently swallow willful distortions perpetually passed off as political discourse.
Maddow trusts the facts. McVeigh had left more than 40 hours of interviews taped while on death row, from which he eventually took a solo flight that was cheered by the many who hated him. At the conclusion, when the wounded and still-grieving citizens have their say, we are so humbled by their humanity that their agony and their insight become collective, hopefully.
McVeigh should not be forgiven. Nor should he have been executed. Murder in the mass is unacceptable, and so is murder in the single digit. Both are a form of revenge, but, as one of the survivors of the spring blast says, there is no magic to state-ordered bloodshed that removes wounds, surgery, scars and the losses of loved ones. The hot darkness of memory and grief can suddenly bring tears as if from nowhere. But that nowhere has a place and date -- Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995.
After murdering 168 men, women and children, McVeigh nearly gloated as he explained his belief that the country was being taken over by a bullying government bent on skinning freedom from the social contract as if it were the pelt of a possum.
But what emerges from "The McVeigh Tapes" is valuable intelligence about oppositional extremists. We have heard the right and the left echo each other at the point of homicidal action. They remind one of the apes in the zoo who attack images of themselves in mirrors.
Great unhappiness, alienation, loneliness and embittering narcissism add up to lethal actions when shook together in a consciousness as frail as a glass bottle. McVeigh was one of those glass bottles who turned himself into a Molotov cocktail.
As "The McVeigh Tapes" proves for a sorrowful and horrifying two hours, we are caught in the bitter need for attention had by some wishing to martyr themselves for a cause. But in the case of Timothy McVeigh, they can figure out how to build a 7,000-pound bomb. That can always get someone's attention, government or not.
Rachel Maddow did everything she could to make sure that you do not forget the bloodiest act of domestic terrorism in our nation's history and how it came about.
In doing so, Maddow brought great honor to her profession.
Stanley Crouch can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.