Today at 8 a.m. convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to be the first federal prisoner to be executed since 1963. The questions involving whether McVeigh is a monster or martyr will continue but his life will not. The execution will not resolve any of the debates about capital punishment’s place in modern society. The struggles with this issue in the future will not be argued in legal fields but instead will be addressed through the question of what role revenge has in decisions about death.
Polls have been conducted and protests have been staged for and against the execution of McVeigh, but death sentence aside, no one is questioning that he is deserved of some punishment.
Perhaps revenge is easier to swallow in McVeigh’s case because the media coverage has encouraged it. From news magazine to morning talk shows, the media has given McVeigh a forum and made him a celebrity. It seems that McVeigh will be remembered for his stoic soldier manner in the courtroom, where a man responsible for 168 deaths sat with no expression of remorse on his face. The media and the country need to be careful not to place too much importance on the man, that his actions become things that influence others who may consider “fighting” the government. The media coverage needs to treat McVeigh as a prisoner, not a celebrity. Things like biographies and allowing him to speak at length to media makes him a martyr and disgraces the memory of the victims and does not respect their families.
McVeigh, who in his final statement is expected to quote the William Earnest Henley poem, “Invictus,” will not as the poem states be “the master of my fate,” his fate was decided for him. His legacy as a possible martyr on the other hand should not overshadow the severity of the crime or the people who died because of it.