Eric Rudolph is a convicted murderer currently serving time for several bombings including the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. Living on the run in the woods of North Carolina for years before being finally caught by a rookie local cop, Rudolph is a prolific self educated author who continues to write essays from his maximum security prison cell in Florence, Colorado.
Just as policy makers can learn from past attackers and criminals, so too can we laymen take away key lessons from one of America’s most notorious home-grown terrorists. Beyond security awareness and debates over how to fight terrorism, there are six life lessons worth mentioning from the memoirs of a fugitive turned prisoner.
1. Education can be free
While so many middle class families subscribe to college education at all costs, Rudolph only briefly attended college and went to a couple of different very bad high schools, but never lost his desire to learn. While on the run in the woods, he was first limited to dumpster diving for newspapers and magazines from the trash, eventually discovering discarded books from a local library.
Limiting himself to non-fiction, the continuing big book challenge went on for months, killing boredom through long winter months in hiding while absorbing an education.
…I connected with these people on a spiritual level, and in the process discovered my true identity: I was an American, and proud of it. All the hate and guilt and lies instilled in me by Mrs. Weaver and a dozen other public school teachers disappeared. In comparing these giants (Washington, Jackson, Patton) to the pygmies (Cesar Chavez, Malcolm X, Betty Friedan) they tried to idolize, I understood where their hatred came from. It was the kind of hate that the weak have for the strong, the mediocre have for the exceptional, and the lazy have for the industrious. In comparing what America looked like in its healthy heyday to the rotten carcass of modernity, I was able to begin my real education.
His literacy level extended far beyond many of his non-fugitive peers who had all the freedom necessary to improve themselves. Anyone could have borrowed the same books for free and learned just as much, and this was before inexpensive online education matured to present opportunities.
Nowadays it’s no wonder we witness the decreasing value (beyond status) of traditional and overpriced higher education.
2. Women haven’t changed much
Eric Rudolph came of age when the Internet was still in its infancy and most meetings with the opposite sex still had to happen in real time, in person. He had a love interest at one of the politico-religious groups he briefly belonged to, but as we can all guess, the moment she departed for college, she returned a changed woman.
…I eagerly awaited the Passover Feast, when Joy would return to the camp. When it finally arrived, her visit was a complete disappointment. Throughout the entire Passover Feast she barely spoke to me. Something had happened since the last time I saw her, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Whatever we had was over. If we had no relationship, then I had no reason to stay at the Church of Israel. I planned my escape.
I bet I can put my finger on it—any woman who has been away to college has no sense of fidelity or loyalty to the high school-aged sweetheart she left behind. It was beta even in the 1980s for Rudolph to wait it out at the camp, expecting Joy to return as a chaste virgin.
That he did not connect the dots to realize the power of the sexual revolution on a young attractive woman is understandable in the pre-Roosh era. Perhaps nowadays someone like him will have a clue before getting a case of oneitis and resolving to begin a violent crusade to rid the culture of corrupt influences.
3. Going it alone is extremely tough
Before living as a fugitive in the wilderness, Rudolph had hardscrabble life mostly in the American south, along the way picking up survival skills from his time in the US military and living the woods of North Carolina. There wasn’t a plant in the forest that he didn’t know whether was safe to eat or poisonous, he was a skilled hunter and fisherman, and had the foresight to plan for emergency food and equipment caches.
While his ability to persevere was impressive, in spite of his preparation and skills he was always looking over his shoulder. In life it’s prudent to never be too comfortable in your surroundings and always have a goal, a backup plan, and a slight dose of paranoia to keep you on your toes.
Rudolph’s experience took that to the extreme. He survived like few can alone in the wilderness, but his capture was inevitable. The lesson here is no matter how great your skills and contingency planning, no matter how much you might think living off the grid gets you away from everything, it’s nearly impossible to do for sustained periods of time – you just can’t escape civilization, and no man is an island.
4. The world is getting a lot smaller
Rudolph was on the run for years at a time when drones didn’t exist, GPS wasn’t commonplace, and not everyone had a cell phone. Nowadays, it’s doubtful that he would last as long in the wild as he did given the advances in technology.
The helicopter’s rotors grew louder as it flew across the gorge and began searching Tarkiln Ridge. Icicles attached to the bottom of the rock poked my face. In the gloom I noticed my warm foggy breath slowly seeping out of the shelter into the sunlight. “Oh no, it’s going to detect my breath,” I said. I held my breath for as long as I could stand it. At the point of passing out, I exhaled and then took in another breath. The chopper was right above me now.
Even though he eluded the federal agents in helicopters that particular time, what was next? Were he to somehow slip across the border to Mexico, the advent of facial recognition software, DNA databases, and cameras at every street corner would probably make short work of finding anyone not living in a cave 24 hours a day for the rest of their lives.
5. So long as women vote, elections will be decided by emotions.
In the months preceding the presidential election of 2000, Rudolph became so disgusted with the so-called conservatives at the GOP that he actively sought to derail George W Bush’s campaign in the hopes of a much more conservative candidate down the road, and he almost succeeded.
My immediate goal was to destroy Bush’s candidacy. Confronted with four to eight more years of leftwing-Al Gore-policies, conservatives would, I hoped, become more radicalized. I believed a bloody attack on an abortion mill just before the election might do the trick.”
…An attack on an abortion mill might be the catalyst to push those moderates into Al Gore’s camp. The Marxist media would pounce on the story, and they would hang the bombing around Bush’s neck. Bush’s moderates would change their votes. Key states would go for Gore, and Bush would go back to Texas to play cowboys and Indians on his big ranch. Eight years of Bill Clinton did more to radicalize the Right than anything in the last 30 years. I was hoping eight more years of such left-wing policies would push them into open revolt. That was the strategy.
Say what you will about his extreme pro-life outlook, Rudolph had a solid understanding of feminism and recognized that the modern, post-women’s suffrage electorate could be easily swayed by the right catalyst. All it took to spin the hamster of (mostly female and white knight) voters away from getting Bush elected was to initiate a bombing that would immediately be blamed on him, regardless of how truly committed he was to the pro-life movement.
Had he not been thwarted by a last minute inability to secure a reliable vehicle, Rudolph may have pulled it off. This was an election won by barely four thousand votes and a Supreme Court decision—it’s safe to say the plans of one terrorist almost changed the course of history. That said, his hope was no strategy for a conservative grassroots movement, since…
6. You can’t directly fight the cultural decline.
Eric Rudolph had tremendous foresight in his predictions as to how far down the toilet Western culture was sinking. He recognized a drastic cultural emergency, but his solution was to become a one man army and fight the fight, literally, as an unconventional warrior in occupied territory.
The only thing more foolish than thinking one man could successfully carry on a bombing campaign against abortion clinics and gay bars and not eventually get caught was the idea that a one-man war would ever make any significant difference in the world view of increasingly solipsistic, self-oriented Americans.
His attempt to influence was instead a brutally ineffective series of gestures that barely touched the symptoms of the underlying moral depravity. Eric Rudolph did nothing to recapture the dignity which continues to permanently slip from the American spirit.
He would surely agree the advent of smartphone ubiquity only accelerated the moral decline, but meanwhile, there is little else he can do about it now, except write. Ironically, had Rudolph stayed away from bombs and guns and instead improved his communication outreach, he would be better able to address and perhaps convince others through written and spoken word.
It doesn’t have to amount to “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” but neither does it do any good to go down with the ship.
Instead, he deprived himself of that opportunity by failing to recognize the Quixotic nature of the task he attempted. Everyone reading this knows you can’t turn a whore into a housewife. Similarly, if America is turning herself into a whore, then Eric Rudolph turned himself into the ultimate white knight by trying to save something that just doesn’t want to be saved.
If the spirit from within isn’t willing, no amount of effort from the outside can have any permanent effect. The challenge, then, is to change the spirit. It’s hard to see how else this could have ended.