Joe Stacks: A Modern Day John Brown?


The press is calling Joe Stacks, the man who flew his airplane into an IRS building last week, “deranged.”

Maybe he was. But that’s not what disturbs me. What bothers me is the media does not call our political leaders “deranged” considering they are responsible for considerably more violence and for nefarious reasons. Why are we patriotic for men who order other men to drop bombs tens of thousands of miles away for reasons of power and privilege but are more than critical of a man who gets fed up with being exploited and fights back? Why the outrage at Stacks’ daughter for saying "yes" her father was a "hero" but the open embrace of Dallas residents when George W Bush moves in?
 
Stacks left a letter for the world to read and he was clear on how he saw the world:
 
I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution. [sic]
 
Liberals have been eager to brandish the man a “tea bagger.” The more they can ideologically seperate themselves from him the more comfortable they feel. Ironically, he has more in common with one of their favorite historical figures, John Brown. Brown fervently loathed slavery but was just as in tune with the social ills that propelled Stacks to his death:
 
Had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so called great, or in the behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right. Every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.
 
Back to Joseph Stacks’ letter:
 
In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws. I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough. I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.  [emphasis added]
 
Back to John Brown:
 
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood…
 
These two men have more in common than many might think. While I am not a pacifist I do happen to think the use of violence has a very high threshold of legitimacy to meet before being justified. I don’t think Stacks met the requirment (same goes for Brown). I do hope that out of the ashes of Stacks’ violent act something meaningful can be found. I also hope it draws some attention to what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government."
 
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.
 
I disagree with Stacks that violence "is the only answer." Maybe that’s because I haven’t been driven to the same sense of desperation as Stacks and Brown were. I hope that isn’t the case. If we want to prove them wrong, and we should, then we better increase our efforts of non-violent revolutionary struggles. Years ago Gene Sharp published a book called The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Vol. 2: The Methods of Nonviolent Action. He listed 198 methods. These should be incorporated into our daily lives. There is also Revolutionary Nonviolence, essays by Dave Dellinger.

PS: This essay, On Resistance, by Noam Chomsky is a relevant read…

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