What a terrifying experience it must have been. Sitting in one’s office, doing what can only be imagined as extremely tedious work, when suddenly a loud burst, followed by silence and then chaos as fire and debris envelop you. The government building in which you work has been attacked because of what it represents, something that some have come to see as an over-arching and overly intrusive force in society. The incidence of which I am speaking is not the recent airplane attack on the IRS building, but a similar attack that occurred 15 years ago in Oklahoma City.
I was in the first grade at the time, sitting in church when the doors flew open and panic quickly spread. Mind you, we were several miles from the blast, but mass confusion, even at such a distance, was bound to ensue. This event is important because it was not only the largest domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history at the time, but it was also the first time an American citizen had inflicted such devastation on his own country in such a large scale, as more than 160 people were killed.
A similar act occurred nearly two weeks ago in Austin when a man flew his small prop plane into an IRS building. The result was a small number of injured people and only one additional person killed other than the pilot. Joe Stack, the perpetrator of the act, claimed to have been mistreated by the IRS in collection of his taxes. His response was continued vilification of the government organization, primarily through his Web site.
What is so disheartening is that instead of universal reproach, groups have arisen in support of his actions, as has Chuck Baldwin, a pastor in Florida who defends Stack on his Web site, newswithviews.com. They view this as the ultimate form of sticking it to the man.
In a similar story, Timothy McVeigh, disillusioned by the federal government’s foreign and domestic policies, bombed the Murrah building in downtown Oklahoma City. He was in turn decried as a heinous murder, not as a valiant vigilante. How is it that this man’s recent plot (debate remains whether to classify it as ‘terrorism’ or not) was not equally claimed as such? Does the result of fewer people killed deem it more honorable? Both men were extremely fed up with their treatment by government organizations, treatment that they saw as unfair. They both reacted violently, in a manner they saw beyond reproach because of its larger, “nobler” purpose.
At what point does outlandish violence become an answer? I can think of another, large-scale attack involving disillusionment with the U.S. government and a violent response: the terrorist attacks committed on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. This is, of course, the most horrific event that has happened on American soil, except perhaps the Civil War. Why should an equally motivated action be responded to differently simply because a U.S. citizen was behind its organization?
To claim that “the sentiments expressed (by Joe Stack) are shared by millions of Americans…fed up with Big Brother,” as Chuck Baldwin did, is ludicrous. The attack itself was horrific enough, but to justify the action reinforces a dangerous precedent of approval. It is miraculous that more people were not injured or killed last month in Austin, but that does not make flying a plane into a building any more acceptable. I hope that the 2,000 members of a Joe Stack support group, which has since been removed by Facebook, will reconsider their membership once they realize their frustration with the government, when expressed through violent sentiment, only promotes a more injurious method of thinking in which violence is deemed acceptable.
Matt Boaz is a senior political science major from Edmond, Okla.