Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines in Pieces on the Ground…

Joe Stack, it seems, has been collecting wounds and grudges for a long time.  In his manifesto, he cites at least 21 different agencies (Including the U.S. Government, the IRS, and the Catholic Church) that have done him wrong.  And in that long list of agencies and entities there is not one mention of his own responsibility in the troubles that have plagued his life.  And so, having “had enough”, he got into an airplane and flew it into an office building in Austin, TX yesterday because he felt that “violence was the only answer”.  Joe Stack was Dillon Kleibold with a pilot’s license. Mr. Stack’s manifesto makes the implied claim that his act of murder was actually a sacrifice of love on his part for the good of all of us little people out here in need of redemption from forces that we are powerless to control.   Life gets really, really dangerous when we forget that the real meaning of love is being responsible for our choices and our actions.

I have heard a few people say that Joe Stack’s reasons for his homicidal act would resonate with people.  I have heard them say that something must have “lit his fuse”, as though what lit his fuse and caused him to commit murder would in some way mitigate the horror that he has now visited upon multiple people and multiple families, none of which he has ever met or even seen a photo of.  My fear is that people, good people, are susceptible to half-truths more so than they are to outright lies.  The truth in the half-truth is that we are all a little bit un-trusting of the IRS.  It is almost the right of every citizen to bad-mouth the tax collectors.  Everyone is a little bit afraid of being audited and having the audit not go well.  And we are all more than a little bit afraid of going to jail over a simple mistake that we might have made navigating our way through an overly complex tax code system.  But the person whose life Mr. Stack took is not “THE IRS”. They were a human being with hopes and dreams and family.  The victim of this murder was probably more like you and me, than they were different from you and me.  What shall we tell the person’s child?  That their mommy or daddy was justifiably killed for the sins of the institution of taxation in a righteous act of indignation?  Anyone who has ever had to deliver news of the death of a loved one to a terrified family across the threshold of a front door and has seen their reaction might have more than a little trouble swallowing that explanation.

When did it become acceptable in this great country to sentence an office worker to death for holding a job in an office of the IRS in Austin, TX because they might be, in some long drawn-out way, loosely connected to someone or some agency that at some point in our lives did us wrong and cost us time and money?  When exactly did that become the law of the land?  What shall we tell the child of that office-worker to explain the unbearable loss of a parent? I sit in stunned silence as I listen to well-meaning people who I love dearly venting their frustration with economic forces bigger than they are by saying that what Mr. Stack did was in some way justified.  Murder is never justified.  This was not a depression-induced suicide – a tragedy beyond compare.  This was premeditated murder of an innocent (if any of us are innocent) that involved the collateral death of the perpetrator.  This was a narcissistic act devoid of any responsibility, a horror over which Satan is having a wonderful laugh at the expense of those who have lost someone they love and can never replace.  We all should think twice before we say that anything about this murder is okay or justified.  We should be careful about saying “amen” over these graves because every business, every church, every governmental organization, and every living person on this planet has done something that a selfish person with an hugely inflated sense of self-importance might see as a crime worthy of capitol punishment.  We are all guilty.  And we are all innocent.  If we buy into the half-truths and irresponsibility of Mr. Stack’s manifesto, the flying machine that we find in pieces on the ground might well be everything that we in this great country hold to be good, and worthy, and true.  How sweet will our dreams be when we consider that there might be some lunatic out there that considers it justifiable to knife down our loved ones because they think something they did justifies snuffing out their life?  Chaos has visited Austin, TX, and we should all fear that more than we fear the IRS boogeyman.


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