The Demise of A. Joseph Stack III

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By Gode Davis, staff columnist – February 25, 2010

I was watching my television the other day, and it seemed like déjà vu.

An aircraft, in this case a Piper Cherokee PA-28 single-engine small plane, was deliberately crashed into the IRS Building in Austin, Texas by one A. Joseph Stack III, in what I’ve taken to calling a “Stack Attack,” so as not to conflate it with the two jetliners crashed into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. My jaw hung open in amazement, as I silently mouthed “not again.”

Mr. Stack had burned down his home in an Austin suburb, and had left a six-page manifesto on the internet explaining his reasons for a bizarre suicide – prior to flying his Piper into the IRS building, killing himself and an IRS employee named Vernon Hunter, and wounding 13 other people who didn’t expect this particular interruption in their day.

Mr. Stack felt rage and hatred for the IRS, and also stated in his manifesto that he harbored similar feelings for the federal government in general, and also the Catholic Church.

Nearly nine years after what is blithely described as “9-11” by most Americans, as if the events of that day have been relegated to a euphemism, and when Ground Zero in New York City is still little more than a pit where that carnage occurred, with several buildings slated to replace the ruined ones in a perpetual fit of construction, nine years come September 11, 2010, we are still said to be involved in a War On Terror being waged in the United States and elsewhere, for instance, in places where our troops are deployed and placed in harm’s way.

It is significant to note that Mr. A. Joseph Stack III was not a Muslim “extremist.” He was a disgruntled white man, who seemed “pretty average,” for instance, to his friend Michael Cerza, interviewed on February 20, 2010 by the New York Times. Cerza played drums, piano, and trumpet with Mr. Stack in the Billy Eli Band, a gritty sounding and moderately successful local band with a rockabilly and country rock blend that tours nationally but is based in Austin.

“Anger was not even 1% of what that man was,” bandleader Billy Eli agreed. As for politics and policies, “he wasn’t passionately married to any of that stuff.”

That said — Mr. Stack, at least privately, was very unhappy with many of the things that Islamic terrorists are frequently said to hate about this country. Unlike America haters from the Middle East or even unauthorized immigrants from Mexico who might harbor mixed feelings about America –unlike these “Others” – Mr. Stack has many supporters within the United States, some with enormous media exposure and clout on Fox News, or CNN, others just “average Americans”– quite sympathetic with and prone to echo many of the sentiments expressed in his six-page manifesto. In essence, they might not publicly support his “Stack Attack,” but much of his ideology they agree with.

We are said to be fighting a War on Terror which has now extended into its second Administration. Despite this, when the “terror” emanates from “one of our own,” someone whom we find ourselves resonating with, we are willing to excuse an awful lot. Before anyone can say “Glenn Beck,” a willingness to say “what the heck,” may escape from our gobs.

When the identity of Oklahoma City mass murderer and bomber Timothy McVeigh was finally revealed to the public in the 1995 aftermath of his horrendous atrocity, Americans were genuinely surprised that he wasn’t an Arab terrorist of the Osama bin Laden ilk as had been speculated for days.

Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 12 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009, was quick to be vilified by Americans in a way that might have been very different if only he’d been a “nice” Caucasian everyman.

Mr. Stack, no relation to the actor Robert Stack known for his portrayal of FBI agent “Elliot Ness” on the vintage television series “The Untouchables” — has not been vilified as he would have been had he been a person of color associated in American collective mind with “terrorists” in the sense that President George W. Bush might have intended it.

In fact, in only a few cases during the media post-event coverage was Stack explicitly referred to as a “terrorist.” I’m not sure what that means except that I witnessed a mini-9-11 on my television the other day, and it seemed like déjà vu.

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