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My "Ties" to Timothy McVeigh

Long about Halloween, my editor called to inform me that someone had ordered a copy of my book, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution, to be sent to Timothy McVeigh.

At the time, Terry Nichols' trial had just begun. Wire service stories were preoccupied with proving "ties" between McVeigh and Nichols--"proof" largely consisting (at that point) of allegations that both men owned several of the same books.

The two, if I recall, each possessed The Citizens Rulebook. Terry Nichols even had a copy of the same Thomas Jefferson quote that was on McVeigh's tee-shirt at the time of his capture.

Damning evidence of conspiracy, indeed!

I was already quaking. What if the FBI discovered that I, too, own copies of The Citizens Rulebook? What if they found in my computer files not only Thomas Jefferson's seditious remark--but five or six repetitions of it? Clearly, by the standards of federal prosecutors and the Associated Press, this would implicate me--and most of my compatriots!--in a monstrous conspiracy.

And now, if my editor was telling the truth (And I had no reason to doubt him), I would not only own another book possessed by Timothy McVeigh, but I'd have written it!

With neither intention nor desire on my part, I now had undeniable "ties" to Timothy McVeigh. I trembled. How could things get much worse?

The Plot Thickens

However, during the same phone call, my editor informed me that the FBI had also ordered a copy of 101 Things. Same week as the McVeigh order. The fibbies said it was for their library.

So, dear readers, as you can see, that left me with an even worse moral dilemma:

I not only had "ties" to Timothy McVeigh. I had "ties" to the FBI!

Which is more reprehensible?

McVeigh played some role in slaughtering 19 little children. The FBI murdered just 17 infants and toddlers at Waco. This might lead moral relativists to consider the FBI superior. However, McVeigh didn't torture his victims for six weeks, then poison them with chemicals prohibited under international treaty before triggering the final inferno. Other relativists could thus argue that McVeigh was the more humane killer. These are not the kind of arguments in which I care to indulge.

On the question of total body count, McVeigh and the FBI are probably near equals. True, McVeigh and his still-unknown conspirators destroyed 168 human beings, while the FBI dispatched a mere 80-something at Waco. However, if we look at the fibbies total body count over the decades, it certainly surpasses that of the Oklahoma conspirators.

And there's still some question about whether the fibbies may have actually been among the Oklahoma conspirators, after all.

Finally, McVeigh is now paying for his deeds, while the Murderers of Waco enjoy freedom and promotions.

Frankly, I had to conclude that it was a more shameful thing to have "ties" to the FBI than to McVeigh. Given a choice, however, I certainly wouldn't encourage "ties" to either.

Ties Untie

Then today, January 9, I received a letter, forwarded from Loompanics Unlimited, my publisher. Dated November 24, 1997, the missive purports to be written by one John M. Hurley, Warden, U.S. Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum, Florence Colorado.

It says: "A publication entitled 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution mailed to Timothy McVeigh, Register Number XXXXX-XXX, an inmate at this facility, was found to be unacceptable for introduction into a correctional facility."

Thank heaven! After all that worry, it turns out I have no "ties" with Timothy McVeigh after all.

Perhaps I should be miffed at the implication that I'm not fit to have ties with a mass murderer. But I'll worry about that later. Right now, I'm simply relieved.

The warden goes on, however, to make a grave error. He adds that my book "encourages illegal activities," "promotes destruction of government property," and "promotes violence against the government." Anyone who's read the book knows how diligently I avoid "encouraging," "promoting," or "recommending" anything.

I'm a devout laissez faire sort. I don't advise readers about how they should conduct their affairs. I present options. If you prefer to work within the political system, I may snort, but I won't deter you. If you consider that the highest value of your life is to sit in front of the television, pausing only long enough to expel excess chips and beer from various orifices, that's your choice. If you decide to destroy government property, that's your choice, too.

Interestingly, on page 189, the place where the warden claims I "promote violence against the government," I'm actually discouraging it. I say I think violence against government isn't very smart. I guess the warden must not be very smart, himself, or he'd have understood such plain-English statements.

It's rather alarming to be accused by an employee of the Justice Department of inciting criminal activity. Nevertheless, my relief at not having "ties" to McVeigh overrules my apprehension at the warden's false and scurrilous accusations.

Now I await just one more thing to make my day: I'm looking forward to the letter from the FBI saying 101 Things is unfit for "introduction into a federal office."

Please, fibbies. Send it. Send it soon! I don't want anyone to imagine I have "ties" to you.



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