Anti-government sentiment leads people to say, do, and think some very strange things. How else do you explain the local support for domestic terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph.
Rudolph was finally caught yesterday. In a seven-month period in 1996-97 he set off four bombs in Georgia and Alabama. He killed two people and wounded over 120. While hiding he robbed a friend who took him in. His first bomb was a large satchel bomb set in a crowded public square during the Atlanta Olympics. His second and third bombs were detonated an hour apart at a women’s health clinic. The timing seemed to have been planned to catch the responding fire and police officers. His last bomb was in the doorway of a gay nightclub. Soon after that law enforcement groups identified him and chased him into the wood outside Murphy, NC.
For the six years this monster has been hiding, he has been supported by the inhabitants of this Appalachian county at the western tip of North Carolina. They have given Rudolph food, clothing, camping gear and portrayed him as a folk hero. Cars and trucks in Murphy sported bumper stickers reading, “Run, Eric, Run.” The basis of their support seemed to be that he was a good ol’ boy leading the feds on a wild goose chase. Local people like Crystal Davis could actually say, "Rudolph's a Christian and I'm a Christian and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion. Those are our values. These are our woods. I don't see what he did as a terrorist act."
“Those are our values.” Rudolph killed a cop and a tourist and tore the eye out of a nurse. Many of the people he injured have permanent marks on their bodies and minds. Reconstruction Christians may find it acceptable to kill abortionists and homosexuals, but his third bomb was aimed at firemen and ninety percent of the people he injured committed no greater crime than going to the Olympics. If, instead of blue-jacketed BATF and FBI agents, his pursuers had been the father of the tourist, the husband of the nurse, and the brother officers of the cop, would the good Christian people of Murphy have so cheerfully helped him? Would they have lied to the pained faces of his victims’ friends and loved ones?
The root of common law is that we all give up the right to individual vengeance and vest in the collective entity of our government. In so depersonalizing justice, we break the cycle of ambush and vendetta and assure that the weak have some chance of bringing down the powerful. For all its flaws, the system of common law is usually better than the alternative. But, when it allows people to make a folk hero out of a twisted little psycho like Eric Robert Rudolph, it has failed.