Monday, February 22, 2010

It's all in how you see it

I would think that flying a plane into a building is a pretty black-or-white act, especially in our post-9/11 world. What is terrorism if not an attempt to intimidate people into acting in a certain way because of violence or the threat of it? If I demonstrate that I am willing to kill people for what I believe politically, whether I believe in lower taxes or global jihad, I become a terrorist.

Or -- and here where it gets tricky; you might want to sit down -- a hero.
The daughter of a man who crashed his small plane into a building housing offices of the Internal Revenue Service called her father a hero for his anti-government views but said his actions, which killed an IRS employee, were "inappropriate."

Joe Stack's adult daughter, Samantha Bell, spoke to ABC's "Good Morning America" from her home in Norway. Asked during a phone interview broadcast Monday if she considered her father a hero, she said: "Yes. Because now maybe people will listen."
His actions, which included murder, arson, and the destruction of federal property, were "inappropriate." Because they were successful, however, and "now maybe people will listen," he's a hero.

The daughter went on to say, "'But if nobody comes out and speaks up on behalf of injustice, then nothing will ever be accomplished,' she told ABC. 'But I do not agree with his last action with what he did. But I do agree about the government.'"

That government workers deserve to be killed? That our taxes are so high (in Texas, mind you, where there is no state income tax) that we are entitled to resort to extremism and destruction? What exactly does she agree with? Or, in this age of Tea Partying populist anti-government paranoia, does it not even matter? "Injustice," she says. Injustice towards whom? About what? I am trying to stay calm, trying to understand what on earth she is talking about. I am not having an easy time.

I would like to knock on her door and ask to come in and have a nice quiet polite chat where I ask her whether she now identifies with the hypothetical daughter of a 9/11 hijacker who thinks her father is a hero. Because what's the difference? Are Muslims terrorists and white men who act out merely "inappropriate"?

And then I will put down my cup and look her in the eye. Very quietly, I will say, I have been to three funerals and four shiva calls in six months. I have traveled to Connecticut for death and to North Carolina and to DC and to Westchester. I am tired, and I am angry, so angry that I am probably clutching the table right now. Because how dare anyone think that he is entitled to kill people, to fly a plane into a federal building just because he believes something? My mother works in a federal building and my father used to. I don't care what you believe; you can die for your beliefs, if you feel that strongly about them. But how dare you take other people with you to prove a point?


Nathan said...

My revulsion at these kinds of sentiments, and the current right wing populist mood in general, has no equal. But I did read somebody make a good point when they wondered aloud what business did Good Morning America have even interviewing her? Her confused ramblings during a severe moment of distress do not constitute news. I know they (all morning shows) do this kind of a thing on a daily basis, that this is what they consider "journalism", but people are bound to go off the rails in these moments in the spotlight. I still hate that she even entertains these thoughts, that others are even celebrating them as we speak, but what passes for our mainstream media shoulders most of the blame here. We're way past the time when they should start behaving with something resembling a conscious, rather than this lurid tabloid fodder.

ester said...

That's an interesting thought. I agree that the media is also to blame, to some degree. But it is newsworthy, isn't it, to discover that he is not alone is the views that led him to his suicide mission? Especially as the news report locates his act of craziness as part of the larger narrative of anti-government craziness in America today.

Nathan said...

That is true. I doubt that's what GMA had in mind when the producer tried to get her on the phone, but yes, once that's revealed as part of the larger narrative, it becomes news. And I do believe in shining a light on this stuff. So I guess I'm mixed on ABC's dumbed down journalism, in this instance.

Though not to worry: on his actions, and her framing of those actions, I am very much unmixed.