What the Austin Incident might tell us

The incident on Thursday in Austin where a man crazy man flew his airplane into an office building that housed the local IRS office has given me a lot to think about. I struggled whether to touch on this subject or not, since what I want to say could be construed as I support or am defending this guy’s actions. So let me say up front that I do not. One of the great things about our country is that we have largely avoided political violence as a part of our national experience. Yes, there are some exceptions – but for the vast majority of time, while we may be loud and a bit rowdy at times in our political discourse, it stays largely within the battlefield of ideas.

So, for those of you hard of hearing (so to speak), let me reiterate it: Stack was absolutely wrong in what he did, and all right thinking people should condemn it. Having said that, here comes the (potentially) controversial part of what I have been thinking. There is a link between the incident in Austin and an increasingly intrusionary governemnt apparatus. Let me expand on that.

Stack’s complaint (or one of…his “manifesto” wasn’t exactly coherant) was with a government that seemed to have little disregard for his plight. Anyone who has ever dealt with the IRS, or heck even the local DMV, can relate to that one. He say the government as something that simultaneously was more intrusive into his life and at the same time less and less concerned about his welfare. The leftist rantings aside (oh yeah, read the manifesto…the Federalist Papers it ain’t). Unfortunately, you combine the sense of frustration and inattention he felt with his craziness, and Stack comes up with his murderous idea.

Now I am certainly not saying that the people working in that building deserved what they got, no more than I believe the people working in the World Trade Center towers deserved what they experienced on 9/11 (you hear me Ward?).  What I am saying is that this incident serves as a signpost to us. Incidents like what happened in Austin are part of the reason why the Founding Fathers sought to design a limited government. Most of them understood political violence, the Revolution notwithstanding. The years leading up to the Revolution was filled with attacks on officials, tar and featherings (and worse), and other acts that  came about, in part, because of people’s frustration and anger at a distant, impersonal, and seemingly draconian government (sound familiar). In their view, a government that left people alone as much as possible was also a government that would not become a target of the people’s ire.

Fast forward to the present, with government at all levels increasingly telling us how to live, what to eat, what to drive, what temperature to set our thermostats to, what pressure we should have in our tires…is it all that surprising that crazy finds government to be the biggest target out there?

In the end, outside of the human tragedy, it is also a worrisome sign. Think of it as a proverbial canary in the coal mine. If the canary died, the miners knew to get the heck out of the mine because they too would soon be overcome. While you can always argue that these kind of acts are singular events perpetrated by the crazy and the fringe, maybe they are also a kind of warning. Maybe I am wrong, but it is something that ought to be thought about at least.


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