Saturday, February 20, 2010


How desperate must an American man be to fly a small airplane into an IRS building? What drove Joe Stack to make such a deadly statement to his fellow citizens last week? At the risk of being disrespectful to the deceased, I would posit that Stack’s desperate last move can be seen as merely a symptom of a much more pervasive crisis. Many American seem now consumed with a frantic powerlessness that increasingly shows itself in anti-government rage. How many Joe Stacks might there be out there? How many Americans are one more missed mortgage payment away from becoming a Joe Stack?

Stack, we learned after his fiery suicide, left a lengthy written explanation of his act. It revealed that his struggles with the IRS dated way back to the early 1980s, and that in the end, score one more for Big Brother:
ABC News summarized Stack’s frustration:

Stack’s story will resonate with many of his fellow citizens. Whether it is a battle with the bank to hold on to a home, or a plea to the State to extend unemployment payments, or a fight with an insurance company to cover a needed surgical procedure, many Americans are not concerned with their personal dignity as much as they are with simple survival. Some, like Stack simply run out of steam. The same day he flew into the IRS building, Stack had already burned his modest suburban house to the ground.

Because Stack’s violent move was so extreme, media was (and is) all over it. But what about Terry Hoskins of tiny Moscow, Ohio? The same week that Stack did himself in, Hoskins drove a bulldozer into his $350,000 home and leveled it. Nothing left. Just boards and roof tiles. Hoskins, who had never once missed a payment on his home, was another IRS target. The home was cross collateral for his business, which was in deep debt to the government. Instead of allowing the bank to foreclose, he destroyed it. Watch:

A little over a year ago, Ervin Lupoe went much further than Hoskins. Lupoe, in deep financial distress with the IRS and his mortgage holder, shot and killed his wife and five children,(below, right) and then himself. It is the brand of murder-suicide that makes no distinction among race, geographic location or prior socio-economic status. Desperation is desperation.

So, what is really going on here? In his suicide note, Stack mentions the need for a body count to affect change in America. As usual, the numbers tell the unbiased truth. Consider: More Americans have been unemployed for six months or more than at any time since 1948. One of the fastest growing population segments of unemployed are women between the ages of 45 and 64. More than 15 million Americans are officially unemployed, but that figure does not reflect thousands who are no longer looking for work because they gave up. And then there are the Catch-22 victims: There are Americans who are denied food stamps because they are deemed to be bringing in too much money on unemployment. There are others who would like to go to work even for minimum wage, but actually bring in more on unemployment than they would after their paycheck is taxed.

Was Joe Stack a domestic terrorist or spokesman for desperate Americans? Was he truly experiencing insanity, as many quickly claimed, or was he simply expressing his resignation after decades of trying to live? You be the judge. It is telling that a number of online groups have surfaced in support of Stack, who wrote this in his suicide message:
“I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand.
It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their
freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor
immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are
sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to
the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking
over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose
not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend
that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.”

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