my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there
has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes
of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the
least bit interested in me or anything I have to say." ~ Joe
Feb. 18, 2010, 53-year-old, financially strapped software engineer
Joseph Stack crashed a small plane into an IRS office building in
Austin, Texas. He left behind a wife, a stepdaughter and a suicide
note he had posted on his software company's website. By the following
day, the various media pundits on the right and left had already
dismissed Stack as a fringe lunatic, and anyone who agreed with
Stack's diatribe against an unjust government was labeled a crackpot.
However, while you can — and should — disagree with the method of
Stack's madness, Americans shouldn't be too quick to discount the
source of his frustrations.
is neither a hero nor a martyr. Nor is he technically a terrorist.
Rather, he is the end product of a system that pays little heed
to the disaffected, discontent and voiceless. And while Stack may
have been alone in the cockpit of that Piper Cherokee plane, he
is not alone in his discontent and frustration.
Stack is representative
of a burgeoning class of disaffected Americans who are waking up
to the reality that the American governmental system no longer works
as it was intended — that is, it no longer works for them. In its
place, a government of elites comprised of politicians and unelected
bureaucrats has emerged that views the average American as little
more than a source of tax funds and labor to keep the massive machinery
of government operating. We have shifted from having a government
that is "of the people, by the people, for the people"
to one that is largely seen as predatory, a "government of
most Americans are so caught up in their own hectic day-to-day lives
that Joe Stack stands to become just one more passing media sensation
without anyone giving any real thought as to why he chose
to end his life as he did. Yet if we allow this incident to quickly
fade into media oblivion, we will be doing a great disservice to
all those like Stack who are suffering under the crushing weight
of economic hardship, hopelessness and despair.
So what should
we glean from this seeming exercise in futility?
Is it a populist
lesson, as Stack states in his suicide note, "that there are
two u2018interpretations' for every law; one for the very rich, and
one for the rest of us"? Is it a reality check that we "live
in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete
lie"? Is it a social commentary on the "incredible stupidity
of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the
crap about their u2018freedom'… 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 would venture
to say that it is all of these things and one thing more: an act
of abject desperation from a man who had been pushed to the breaking
point. "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," writes Stack.
"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 u2018big 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."
Joe Stack is not "D-FENS," the white-collar worker in
the 1993 film Falling
Down who goes on a shooting rampage after being pushed to
the edge by a myriad of frustrations. This guy didn't work within
the system to fight back — he's no Tea Party patriot. Instead, he
checked out — and that's an important distinction — and is signaling
to others that perhaps they, too, need to follow his lead.
The Joe Stacks
of the world should be a wake-up call to Americans that it's time
to shake themselves out of their zombie-like stupor and realize
that there is a growing segment of our nation that is at the end
of their ropes. These are not bad people, nor are they extremists.
Rather, they are average Americans who have lost faith in the government's
ability to meet their most fundamental needs.
is: what are we going to do about these disaffected, disconnected
and discontent Americans? How do we reach out to them and persuade
them that there is a better solution than the one-way exit proffered
by Stack? Note, by "we," I'm not referring to the politicians
or law enforcement officials or any other government official who
might view this as a problem behavior to identify, stamp out and
sweep under the rug.
It comes back
to what I've said all along: if there is to be any hope of turning
things around, it will have to start with "we the people"
first recognizing that there is a problem and then working toward
a solution together.
are right in front of you. They're in your local communities, in
the neighbor who is out of work or the co-worker who may be in danger
of losing her home. It's in the growing number of children who live
in poverty and go to bed every night hungry — now estimated at nearly
14 million children in America. It's in the more than 39 million
people who are subsisting on food stamps — 6 million of whom have
no other source of income. That translates to roughly 1 in 4 children
in America on food stamps, and 1 in 50 Americans now living in a
household with a reported income that consists of nothing but a
food stamp card.
These are issues
that Stack addressed generally in his suicide note, only to be derided
by some commentators for spouting socialist or populist propaganda.
But that's the problem with people who can't distinguish between
politics and basic human decency. They have lost sight of their
humanity. Frankly, there is nothing wrong with suggesting that a
nation as affluent as the United States should not abide by this
kind of suffering.
that our politicians are not about to change. They are going to
continue to promise a lot while doing very little, all the while
spending our hard-earned tax dollars on lavish, jet-setting lifestyles.
The problem with the Joe Stacks of the world is that they keep relying
on government to fix the problems, but government officials are
not going to fix them because most of them don't really seem to
give a damn.
So what's the
cure to the disaffected and alienated ones among us? It's you and
me. It's our churches and synagogues and private institutions. In
fact, if the churches in America would open soup kitchens and open
their doors to the homeless, no one would have to go hungry or sleep
out in the cold.
each and every one of us — young and old, single and married, white
collar and blue collar, liberal and conservative, religious believer
and atheist alike — reaching out and chipping in and working in
our communities to fix these problems from the ground up.
wake-up call, America. Is anyone listening?