By now, unless you've been living in a cave in Ethiopia, you have heard the news about someone allegedly, with deliberation, crashing a small airplane into what looks like an IRS office in Austin, Texas.
Joseph Andrew Stack, alleged to have been the pilot at this point in time, also appears to have burned his own house down and left a suicide note; a long manifesto, as it's being called, about what his pet peeves were before he took such drastic action. Speculation is that his beef was with the IRS, but the 'manifesto' makes it clear that he thought he had a lot more to gripe about.
You can read some of it here (via Ann Althouse).
As someone who has had experience with both suicide pilots (having been directly under the first plane to hit One World Trade Center on September, 11), and mental health issues, his ranting on the Fed'ral Gubmint, and his choice to use an aircraft to get it's attention, is telling.
I have never been more frightened of anything in my life than the sight of an airliner heading in my direction. I think I would rather be slathered in gravy and dropped into a shark tank than to ever be in that position again. That's a feeling of utter helplessness on a scale that is just too enormous for words to convey. It's the very fear that something that big and that powerful is headed your way, and that you can't stop it. You are about to become a spectator in your own demise, unless something miraculous happens. In my case, there were several buildings and a bit of distance between myself and the impact, and that's why I'm here to talk about it.
But it is exactly that fear that I think Mr. Stack was was trying to instill in those who would witness (or suffer the consequences of) his suicide. Fear is a weapon more powerful than any gun or any bomb. That was Joseph Stack's weapon of choice against those who were tormenting him. I say "those who were", even if that hasn't been definitively proven at this point, because of his other bizarre action; he burned his house down. That's the sign of a man who's going to make certain that if the IRS is out to get him, that he's going to make certain it doesn't get it's pound of flesh. If we are to believe that Mr. Stack had troubles with the taxman, then his actions begin to make sense -- they start to become almost-rational actions; he was going to deny the government the ability to collect by destroying his biggest assets -- his home and his plane, and take a few Reve-nooers with him.
That Mr. Stack chose to attack a building with the IRS in it is also telling. He had obviously come to the conclusion that the government doesn't do anything unless the government itself, rather than it's individual citizens, is under attack. His suicide screed is full of references to a dysfunctional government stuffed to the rafters with greedy, self-interested little tools who only seem to care about anything when it's their own rice bowl on the block.
Taken in this light, what Joseph Andrew Stack allegedly has done, makes perfect sense (although it can't be condoned). He has a beef with the government, he feels they don't care about his rights or his welfare, and so he attacks the source of his torment, and does it in a way that is designed to instill fear in Them (the government) while denying Them what "they" wants most: his money.
In time, we'll find out more about Mr. Stack and his ultimate motivations, but in the meantime, the aftermath is somewhat easier to predict.
You know what'll happen now, when questions begin to get answered, and new ones begin to get asked, don't you? There will be hundreds of hours of ridiculous Senate Hearings which are nothing but long-winded attempts by individuals inside competing and often-contradictory bureaucracies to point fingers at each other, and give Congresscritters an opportunity to get their ugly mugs on television, and more excuses to engage in graft when the 'overhauled' system they re-re-re-design has to be even more lavishly-funded -- to be even less effective than the one's currently in place. And the rights of we citizens get squeezed just a little bit more.
This is the government response to every problem, after all. The difference this time around is that the people are aware of how the game gets played. They'll actually watch the Senate Hearings, they'll actually read the whitewashed reports, they'll actually be asking Congressman So-and-so "What will yo DO about this sort of thing?" and finally put the asshole on the spot, revealing him to be an even bigger douchebag that he appeared to be at first blush.
Joseph Andrew Stack has become Osama bin Laden; using fear and aircraft in such a way as to cause the American people to question their government, and as a result, having the government expose it's silliness, ineffectiveness, sloth, and stupidity. Each call for government to "do something" will result in a further loss of liberty, higher taxes, and a general deterioration of the American quality of life.
And then there will be another Joseph Andrew Stack, only with a cement truck, a taxi cab, a city bus, a train, a bulldozer. A Domino Theory if ever there was one, and as each falls, more discontent with government makes itself known, and the more the government wraps itself up in red tape. Reaching a critical mass, perhaps there's even revolution.
Because each attack, whether it's a guy with explosive boxer shorts or a fed-up taxpayer with a Cessna, has the same effect; life in America becomes increasingly harder with every government response. I don't mean to imply that Mr. Stack is a revolutionary, on par with Thomas Paine or Nathan Hale, or that he might have even seen himself that way, only that there are some who could make that argument -- and make it convincingly. J.A. Stack would strike the first blow and others would follow until Leviathan was pinned to the ground, and it's carcase picked clean by the ants. Who knows?
Now, as to mental illness. Mr. Stack was obviously mentally ill. Sane people don't wake up one day and decide that setting out to commit mass-murder is a solution to their problems. He takes a whack at the insurance companies in his 'manifesto' that echo many of the same thoughts I've had myself. There's a hint in there that the man KNEW he was mentally ill, but he may have been treated shabbily by his insurance company. This is not unknown; I have been treated this way, as well. To an insurance company, a mental illness is not really an illness, not like breast cancer or heart disease. Mental illnesses are not handled in the same way as those are, typically because they believe that mental illnesses are not 'catastrophic' and can be expected to just "go away" with cheaper and less-effective "treatment".
I can tell you that it doesn't work that way. You get breast cancer, you can fix it with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. If you have diabetes, you can control it with medication, diet and exercise. Mental illnesses involve the most important organ, and the one that science knows the very least about; the human brain. Despite what "Mental Health Experts" say, they really know very little about how the human brain and mind work, and often the more traditional methods of dealing with mental patients --drugs and talk -- don't work. As far as most insurance companies go, those treatments are supposed to work, and according to a predictable timetable, as well. If your mental problems aren't solved within the timetable, then you're screwed, and then you find yourself buried even deeper in mental anguish -- only now you have deal with the other issues that no one talks about; being addicted to the drugs you were prescribed and the changes to your brain and physical chemistry they provoked.
Some people will disagree with me, especially the "mental health and insurance professionals", but I'm here to tell you that you're all full of shit. You regard the mentally ill in the same way you regard an enema; something slightly disgusting and best gotten rid of as soon as possible. Illegal Aliens and Crack Whores get more consideration and real help in this country than the Mentally Ill.
So, to speculate (because I have very little in the way of hard-and-fast facts on my side); you have a obviously mentally-ill man, perhaps one who has been driven there by the IRS and their often-overzealous and relentless methods. He might not be in treatment because his insurance company decided he didn't heal on a schedule devised by people with very little actual knowledge. Now devoid of psychiatric care, feeling as if his calls for help and understanding -- to be given a break because he needs one -- fall upon deaf ears, increasingly-frustrated, in agony, misunderstood, avoided by many, he does the unthinkable and attempts a murder-suicide by aircraft, hoping to draw attention to his plight.
Why else do you think people do this sort of thing? In his (assumed) state-of-mind, it's the only way he could get anyone to take him seriously. I know: I've been there and thought about doing something similar myself! The difference is that I know it will ultimately solve nothing, and besides, I've never owned anything bigger than a sub-compact. Mr. Stack might not have been able to come to the same conclusion.