Failure of the Republic: Beyond the Roots of the Bridgeport Bomber

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I have no experience with being oppressed by the United States government; I’m a white, religious, liberal 16-year-old girl living in one of the most affluent towns in America in the 21st century. I have never had to present proof of my citizenship anywhere but in an airport and, as far as I know, I’m on no blacklist. But if your house goes into foreclosure because the federal government allowed you to get loans you could not afford, because you didn’t know any better because the public school system failed you, I would not blame you for lashing out in frustration.

Allow me to reintroduce Andrew Joseph Stack III, the man who flew a plane into an Austin, Texas, I.R.S. building in February 2010. While a select few find the Internal Revenue Service to be the arbiter of justice, Joe Stack had a special grudge against them. In the New York Times on Feb. 18, his father-in-law said that Stack flew his plane into the building “not to kill people, but just to damage the I.R.S.”

In a manifesto he left behind, railing on the I.R.S. for taxing away his retirement and forcing him to live on “peanut butter and bread for months at a time,” he outlined his reasons for his incredible frustration.

“I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand,” reads the 5-page document. “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 [sic] nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at ‘big brother’ while he strips my carcass… I have just had enough.”

His rant is the combined grievances of Americans everywhere whose government has failed them. The reality that democracy failed to do the best by the people is what forced Joe Stack to kill three people, including himself. And the most shocking part about Stack’s domestic terrorism was that it was greeted with sympathy and almost condoned by Republican representative Steve King, who said, “ It’s sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’s going to be a happy day for America.” The representative ignored questions about the legitimacy of Stack’s grievances.

When Faisal Shahzad attempted and failed to bomb Times Square on May 1, 2010, his ties to neither Pakistan nor Islam were his driving reason. Shahzad had spent more than a decade in America, was a naturalised citizen, married a woman from Colorado, and had received both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree. Ties to neither the Pakistani Taliban nor Al-Qaeda have been proven. The fact that he has been linked to radical Islam is due to his becoming “more reserved and more religious” as he faced financial troubles, including foreclosure on his Bridgeport, CT, home.

A communication time discussion in my geometry class attempted to place the blame on “what you’re influenced with [in the Middle East],” “mental problems,” and “not wanting to give up his identity,” but I believe the real reason Shahzad attempted to bomb Times Square was that “his American dream ran out.”

Religiosity comes in all shapes and sizes, but it is often, if not always, a solace for the intensely oppressed. The Israelites chose Judaism to lead them. The Russians had faith in Bolshevism. Joe Stack believed in Jeffersonian democracy, and Faisal Shahzad found solace in Islam.

It is not radical religiosity we citizens should worry about, but the products of a “democracy” that fail its people and drive them to fanaticism. Hatred of Islam will not save anyone from acts of violence, but a solution that brings us closer to harmony with our brothers and sisters in humanity will provide the first step.