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Thursday, February 18, 2010

White Collar Terrorism

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
- Langston Hughes, "Dream Deferred"

At first glance, Andrew Joseph Stack's desperate act in Austin today looks more Cory Lidle than it does September 11th. The last reports have remained unchanged from the first: Apparently, the only fatality of the single engine collision with an IRS building in Austin, Texas seems to be Stack himself. Two were injured and one is unaccounted for.

In our hyper-partisan age, it's inevitable to play the blame game. Which lunatic who carried out the freshest atrocity belongs to which camp? Did he leave a manifesto or suicide note, did he post to a white supremacist/anti Semitic/left wing/Socialist website? What reading materials were found in his apartment/shack/car? Was he a reader of Sean Hannity or Michael Moore? Was he a tree-hugger or a teabagger? And, most importantly, which political party did he belong to? Hurry, dear Watson, the game's afoot!

Oh, horrors, suppose it turns out that he'd voted for Obama and hated neocons and teabaggers. Please, God, anything but that. He can't be one of us! It's in our nature, hardwired in our very DNA, to crawl away and publicly disavow ourselves from anyone who visits violence on others. It's OK to admit it. I'm guilty of it, too.

But the usual rules of finger-pointing simply don't apply in this case.

And one suspects that instinct for political self-preservation is what's really behind Robert Gibbs' oleaginous assurances that the Austin crash wasn't an act of terrorism. Personally, I agree with the Obama administration's official stance but there the agreement ends.

Because I believe that Joseph Stack was neither a teabagger or a terrorist but simply a snake-bitten American like so many of us who felt as if he had no other recourse but to fly a single engine Cherokee 140 into the IRS building. He was a man who had obviously felt so isolated that he had to content himself with publishing his manifesto/suicide note online because he felt or knew that in the real world no one was listening to him.

It would be very easy to dismiss Stack as a typical teabagger or a right wing terrorist because he chose to target the IRS building in Austin as a way of having the last word in a long-running feud with the IRS. But there are too many things that run counter to that. Stack, like so many of us, felt the Republicans were just as corrupt as the Democrats and in one part of his 3200 word screed, Stack even had this to say:
As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone. The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government.

Earlier, he wrote this:
That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

I don't know about you guys, but I've heard the same exact sentiment on just about every left wing/centrist blog, including my own at Pottersville. And anyone who'd ever written to their Congressman or one of their senators can certainly appreciate this experience:
I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time...

From inveighing against George W. Bush to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Enron, the Texas S&L fiasco to the bailout to the IRS, Stack was scattershotting not so much hatred but impotent, bottled up fury at a nation of corporate tycoons, corrupt government officials and an electorate living under an impenetrable state of denial that things really are as fucked as they truly are.

Andrew Joseph Stack's horrific act today in Austin wasn't an act of terrorism any more than was Cory Lidle's crash in New York City years ago. If anything, it was an act against terrorism, namely the quiet, white-collared terrorism of corporate America newly empowered to buy whatever part of our electoral process that hasn't already been bought and sold.
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Blogger Jill said...
Well, jp, I have to respectfully disagree. I think we've all at various times cursed the IRS, and we've all had our run-ins with various authorities. I myself am having a situation with the highway authority which thinks I should have to pay for repairs to the guardrail that the kid who sideswiped me last summer hit as he careened off the road after hitting me. I could tell you about other run-ins with authority, but I won't.

However, most of us don't burn our houses down, nor do we fly planes into buildings full of people just trying to do a job.

So I have to respectfully disagree with you. This guy is a terrorist just as much as the guy who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day is.

To the extent that you have a valid point, it's that if the teabaggers ever stopped letting themselves be manipulated by corporate interests, they might find that they have more in common with us than they think.

Blogger jurassicpork said...
Well, Jill, I guess it all comes down to one's personal definition of terrorism. To me, it's a politically- or religiously-motivated act that tries to, well, terrorize people.

In my mind, Stack wasn't trying to terrorize anyone, it was an individual act and this was his only recourse to make his grievances heard, according to him, anyway.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Can you believe it? Joe the plane crasher's name wasn't even really Joe!

I have to agree with him, though, about 1706. That certainly derailed my career as an independant consultant.

Damn that recent presidential puppet!

Blogger Nan said...
I don't care how frustrated anyone gets with bureaucracy or corruption, there's absolutely no excuse or rationalization that covers taking out your anger on a bunch of low-level IRS cubicle rats as Stack attempted to do.

Isn't 1706 something we can thank Reagan for? I have a vague recollection of it being part his tax reform package in the '80s.