I have read very little about Joseph Stack, the man who, yesterday, flew a plane into an IRS Building in Austin. So, I don’t know a lot about the particulars of his life. I don’t have to.
Even without reading one more word about him, or about what Liberal or Conservative bloggers are saying about him, I know many things I can say about this situation.
Without reading one more word, I know two things broadly:
1) I know I have overwhelming compassion for a man who had obviously gone so far over the edge that he could not see how wrong his actions were.
2) I know I have overwhelming contempt for anyone who attempts to politicize this, on the left or the right.
What follows then, expands on these two broad things “I know”…
I know I have not read his suicide note or so-called “manifesto.” I know I choose not to. I know that the moment Joseph Stack flew a plane into a building, he gave up his right to have me listen to him. I know what I need to know about him already, by his actions alone.
I know that he was hurt, confused, and angry enough to fly a plane into a building filled with innocent people. I know that this means he was, by definition, not rational or sane. Therefore, I know that any “rants” he may have left –any messages he wanted “us” to hear– cannot be logically evaluated by the general public in any meaningful way, because they are so tainted by the anger and despair of his sickness.
I know that he also apparently set his own house on fire. I know this means that the wife and child he leaves behind are not only husband-and-fatherless, but also now homeless. Again, I know this means I don’t need to listen to his words. I know there are no further meanings to be gained from it beyond attempting to imagine the pain, anger, and faulty thinking that leads to such horror.
By his actions, I know that he needed psychological help that he never got, or that he refused at some point.
I know that it doesn’t matter what the IRS did or didn’t do. I know it doesn’t matter what the government did or didn’t do. As with any terrorist, I know he alone is responsible for his choices. Period.
I know that people of the Left and Right will scurry to the internet to post blogs assigning blame for this.
I know that people on the Right will be wrong to excuse anything he did as any kind of justifiable anger. I know that for more than 35 years, the political Right in this country has denigrated the role of the Federal Government.
I know that, despite tax *decreases* for most average Americans, I continue to hear constant belly-aching about how odious our tax burdens are. I know this means that this specific anti-government tax-anger is non-sensical, even as it is clearly a real and genuine emotion in the hearts of those who express it.
I know, and have known for some time, that this constant drum-beat of anti-government sentiment re-enforces a cynicism about our fellow Americans (ie, government workers) that cannot help but incite anger in people.
I know I have been saying this over and over for about the last year. I know that until the Political Right admits and repents of the dehumanization of government workers (Federal, State, City) they will continue to be at risk…as they were yesterday…as they were in Oklahoma City.
I know that there have now been four major terrorist acts on our soil in my adult life:
The Washington Snipers
And now this.
I know that two out of four of those were perpetrated by white males.
But, as a white male, I know that despite this damning evidence, I am still less likely to get patted down or screened at an airport than is my wife, a sitting State District Judge in the State of Texas who happens to be a brown-skinned woman.
I know this is wrong.
I know that those on the Political Left will likely try to use this as an example of how the “Tea Party Movement” and right-wing hate is out of control. As I have just stated, I know there is likely some truth to the fact that *some* rhetoric is clearly over the line and out of control.
But I also know that it would be a horrible mistake to not hear the anger in this act.
I know that this sound contradictory, given all I have just said in this essay about not listening to Joseph Stack’s rant. But I know that we can understand the *anger* in these kinds of events, without having to glorify the terrorist himself, or without giving him a forum for his manifesto.
I know this because it’s what we need to do after September 11th. I know that, as a progressive, after September 11th I called for a greater understanding of the *anger* that led to that event. I know I suggested, over and over, that until we understood the anger that led to that attack, we’d be likely to face another attack in the future.
I know that this is still true, and that, unfortunately, many of the acts of our nation in the ensuing years –especially the prosecution of two seemingly endless wars– have likely *increased* the anger directed at our country by those in the Middle East and the Muslim community.
Therefore, I know that it would be a horrendous mistake, worthy of repentance, for the Political Left to crow about how “all” conservatives, or even all Tea Party folks, have gone so far over the line in their “anti-government” rhetoric that it creates events like this. I say this because I know that they “all” have not, and I know that there is genuine anger out there among many.
I know that whether or not it’s justified anger or not makes little difference. I know it is real in the minds of those who feel it, and it must be understood by everyone in our society.
I know it makes as little sense to gloss and blame ALL conservatives for events like this, than to gloss and blame all anti-war protesters for the Weather Underground.
Therefore, I know that until folks on the Political Left become less reactive and more compassionate to the many conservatives who find yesterday’s acts just as repugnant as they do, that conservatives will continue to recoil in defensiveness, and the whole cycle will simply start again.
I know that it’s likely that any wisdom contained in this blog will be widely ignored by folks on the Right and the Left.
I know that I felt compelled to write it anyway.
And that is just about all I know about the Joseph Stack situation.
5 thoughts on “What I Know about the Joseph Stack Situation”
You are so correct in knowing that one side, then the other, then another will soon be shouting 'your fault!' and there will be TV cameras to record it. But we can look closer (if we choose to, as you are) and see the contrasts between us are largely artificial, contrived and kept alive by the exaggerations of those in need of power, money..something or other beyond the basic wonders of being alive. It was an infused sense of unfairness that motivated Stack- exactly the same human root of ego-born unfairness that caused 9/11, the killings at Ft.Hood,Hitler's invasion of Poland, and the burning of Atlanta. AND, which is the cause of my own jealousies, fears, and many angry episodes- every single one of them. Those worst parts of us, are also the easiest to manipulate. Politicians do it, corporations do it, and plenty of preachers do it. In the end it will come down to Joseph Stack's desperate need for someone besides the fear-mongers (of whatever stripes), to talk to. To be a friend with. To ask questions beyond baseball scores, weather, and whatever-the-hell was on TV last night. To not listen to the bitching of a tax protestor but to hear the cries of a man with wounds. There is little doubt in my mind that that is what Joe Stack was starving for. The great human traditions of Individualism have become the great human tragedy of Loneliness, and it grows like a terrible bacteria in the veneer thin depths of our humanity. (David Weber)
One thing I know about the broader issue of "taxes" is that we should stop using that word. We need to start talking about our commitment to the common good. If the government isn't providing for the common good, or if some people are bearing too big a burden supporting the common good, then those are separate issues and we need to discuss them together. I for one want to understand the grassroots of any persuasion as long as we can have a discussion about the 'we' and not just the 'me.'
I live alone and often days go by without seeing, much less talking to, even one person. Part of this is because of my own inability to reach out due to physical or emotional constraints, or simple lack of effort. However a great part of my alone-ness is because my church and friends get so caught up in their own lives that they forget to check on me. I don't want to be a burden or considered to be a complainer, so I just let things go on. I do speak up from time to time trying to remind family and friends that I need them and that I need them to reach out to me and not wait for me to reach out because sometimes I just can't. The problem is that no one really listens. Oh yes, they hear me, but they don't really listen. I know everyone has their own troubles and isn't always able to reach out when I could use help. But is everyone in the dumps at the same time? I'm just one person. I could be anyone around you. Anyone that looks like a regular person with a smile on my face or maybe a look of concern, but I don't look like I'm in trouble or yearning for someone to smile at me or desperately needing someone to notice me and spend some time with me. I'm not going to kill myself or anyone else, but deep inside I'm dying. You could so easily be the one to save me.
Dear Anonymous: your note above touched me deeply and I went to a guy's house today that I had been putting off visiting, and then called another that I had been negligent in visiting with. More of that will happen as I quote a few lines of your note to others as well. Thank you. I know this is not why you wrote your response; nonetheless I would like to hear more of your thoughts, if you'd like share them. Anytime: email@example.com
I will second what David has said here, Anonymous. I was also touched by your note. There are many among us who are suffering in ways that are not apparent on the outside, and you have written a very good reminder to all of us. Please do contact me as well if you'd ever like to talk.