Coming to PBS’s American Experience tonight, Tuesday, February 14:
American Experience (February 2017)
The story of a tragic standoff between US marshals and a separatist family.
A companion piece that grew out of Goodman’s fellow American Experience project, OKLAHOMA CITY, this is a harrowing account of the deadly 192 confrontation between Randy Weaver and government forces that contributed to the motivations for the 1995 Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. While the subject of media fascination at the time, Ruby Ridge is less remembered today, making this hourlong chronicle a worthwhile primer, particularly given the present tenor of political dissatisfaction. Weaver and his wife Vicki, driven by apocalyptic beliefs and economic hardship, left Iowa to live off the grid and raise their family on a mountaintop in northern Idaho. Seeking some social contact, they began to attend gatherings at a nearby Aryan Nations compound, despite not fully embracing white supremacist beliefs. There, Weaver, seeking some extra cash, agreed to illegally saw off shotguns, leading to an attempt by an ATF agent to turn him into an informant. Refusing, Weaver instead hid out in his home for the better part of a year and a half, refusing to appear in court to deal with his weapons charge – and instigating the standoff that was to follow. Faced with a fugitive from justice, US marshals will called in to arrest Weaver, but the confluence of his remote home, tendency to carry arms, association with the Aryan Nations, and a fear he might harm his wife and children led to grave missteps that ultimately cost lives on both sides of the confrontation – and fomented anti-government sentiment in the process. In addition to other participants, including a US marshall and James “Bo” Gritz, who helped mediate Weaver’s eventual surrender, Goodman most affectingly relates this tragic episode through the perspective of Sara, the Weavers’ eldest child.