Joe Stack Did Not Have Tea Party Principles

The dreaded event most tea partiers have been anticipating now has a name: Joe Stack. It also has a date: February 18, 2010. Mr. Stack will soon be part of the duo "Stack and McVeigh" touted all over the mainstream media for weeks. It will serve as the left-wing sledge hammer taken to the knees of the tea party movement.

Reading between the headlines reveals a more profound story: how a sheltered and wealthy nation that has lost its way may deal with the reality of impending poverty. We can choose to root ourselves in principled patriotism and prayerful humility, as documented in the relative social calm of the Great Depression, or we can descend into chaos under social degradation and vacuous ideologies.

On February 18, Joe Stack burned his house down and flew a plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. Before doing so, he left a manifesto detailing his financial troubles. We all knew this moment would eventually come, when some fool who had his pockets emptied by the government would snap. Although Stack may have listed common grievances expressed by many of the grassroots tea party conservatives, his cowardice is not characteristic of the patriots who are working to restore our nation under that movement. Stack’s mainstream grievances were expressed in the manifesto:

Here we have a [tax and legal system] that is … too complicated. ... Yet, it mercilessly "holds accountable" its victims claiming they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. …[Regarding IRS Section 1706] I spent close to $5000 … 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.

The rest of the manifesto smacks of a self-centered pity party, as if Joe Stack was the sole recipient of hard times and single-handedly financed the corruption of Congress. The majority of the world isn’t so lucky as to possess a house to burn and a plane to crash when carrying out what amounts to a childish hissy fit.

Stack whines in his manifesto that “we are brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place. ... I have spent … my adulthood unlearning that crap.” He goes on to defame the Catholic Church and organized religion while trying to justify his felony tax evasion and “creative problem solving.”

Stack recounts his college years with a story of an old woman advising him to try cat food for sustenance rather than a steady diet of peanut butter sandwiches. How pathetic and vacant does one have to be not to appreciate the opportunity for higher education? Many who put themselves through school do exist on meager diets (not cat food), but it is a situation of their own choosing. It’s called “sucking it up” and being grateful to live in a country where you are free to better yourself.

When describing how the government seemed to carry out a personal vendetta on his earnings, Stack digresses in what appears to be a belief that the government was responsible for 9/11: “Ironically, after what they had done the government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of tax dollars … [and] as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out the rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY!”

Apparently Stack sees himself as more important than the thousands of Americans who lost their lives on 9/11. It’s not as if the government came to his doorstep for a physical shakedown to collect bailout money. Government coffers now are filled by loans financed off the backs of our posterity; not that such skulduggery is any better. But let’s not interrupt Joe in his self-indulgent diatribe and contemplation of martyrdom.  It is after all the overarching theme of his rant.

The most stomach-turning page is when Stack tells his audience to “look around,” presumably at his carnage at the crash site, to see the results of his visit with a CPA. As if he didn’t realize “cannibalizing” his IRA would have tax implications. This man has the audacity to blame and kill others for his own ignorance.

Although the mainstream media will gobble up Stack’s rant as anti-government rhetoric from the “right-wing fringe,” there is nothing self-indulgent about the tea party movement or its patriots. Tea party people understand the coming collapse and are willing to do the honorable thing: live now as though we are in another Great Depression (or worse) and prepare themselves, friends, and family for such a possibility and sacrifice. They are the people who have looked calamity in the eye and said, “Take me, not my kids.” They don’t crash planes through government buildings just because times are tough.

When the desolate and unpredictable time arrives, there will be millions of people who feel betrayed by the false sense of security promised by those who think we’re too stupid to govern ourselves. Our apathy towards freedom was the precursor to this false security. Many will wake to this harsh reality in much the same way Joe Stack did -- with self-pity and vengeance. Self-reliance and personal responsibility will be necessary to weather tough times; and oddly enough, it is also required to maintain our liberty. “People willing to trade freedom for security deserve neither and will lose both,” said Benjamin Franklin.

In the end, I am still hopeful. Just as surely as one 9/11 brought buildings down with planes, causing chaos and despair, there was a new day -- 9-12 -- that embodied the best in Americans through unity and patriotism. The principles from the 9-12 movement form the backbone and defining characteristics of what it means to be a patriot of the tea party movement. Although elitists continue on the attack, it’s imperative we hold ourselves to high standards and remember who we are as a nation.

The “times that try men’s souls” are coming.