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Perhaps anonymity is not a realistic goal for a man convicted of the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history -- the 1995 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people. Still, it's too bad that Timothy McVeigh can't meet his fate in the obscurity he deserves.

McVeigh's request that his May 16 execution be nationally televised has sparked debate, even though the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has made the argument academic by refusing the request. Nevertheless, the debate says something about our society.

It shows an absence of sensitivity toward the victims and their families. Turning McVeigh's death by lethal injection into a spectacle would cheapen the memory of the people killed that horrible day. Their deaths should not be an excuse for others to be entertained.

It also shows we haven't changed a whole lot, Jerry Springer and his ilk notwithstanding. The last public execution in America occurred in 1936, and that Kentucky hanging drew 20,000 people.

It's understandable that relatives of those killed and blast survivors might want to watch McVeigh die. And they may get their chance. More than 250 of them have asked to view the execution, and the bureau is considering a closed-circuit setup so they can watch the former Pendleton native be put to death.

We hope it helps them deal with the tragedy. But the evidence says otherwise. "People don't get closure; they are just terribly dissatisfied," said James Alan Fox, the Lipman family professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, who has done extensive research into the death penalty. "There's a feeling of, 'the guy's dead, what do we do now?' "

Nevertheless, those most closely affected by this unspeakable act of barbarism deserve to make that choice. For everyone else, the Bureau of Prisons made a sensible decision.

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