18 February 2010
Suicide Terrorism in America
Call it what it is: a man determined to die, who left a suicide manifesto on his website in which he wrote that "violence is the only solution," flies an airplane into an office building housing employees of the Internal Revenue Service. The only question is whether the pilot represented anyone but himself. We know that he had a grudge against the IRS, but on the evidence of his manifesto, he was no simple anti-tax right winger. He reads more like a kind of populist, a person who felt screwed by the system, resentful of others (particularly bailed out banks) getting breaks that he never got. There might be people like him at Tea Parties, but that would only show that a Tea Partier's ideology might not be as predictable as some would think. If his anger at the IRS represented hostility to government, he seemed no less hostile to capitalism, which he defined, in contrast to the classic definition of communism, as "from each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed." By American Bipolarchy standards, that left him nowhere to turn, and he must have felt the same way, since he saw nothing left to do but die in some way that might make a point. Sometimes when you're self-consciously one of the "little guys," you can't help resenting anything big, whether business or government, and you may tend to assume that anything big is oppressive and corrupt. That's a mentality as irrational as today's awful act, and I can't help wondering whether we'll see more along these lines so long as Americans feel themselves incapable of mastering the big institutions that seem to dominate their lives. Mastering them may require individuals to make themselves part of something just as big, and too many people fear losing their individuality in such a mass. Watch the news today and consider the alternative: a futile tantrum of more obvious significance to the dying man than to a public who will mostly misinterpret his motives. You may worry about losing yourself, but this alternative is literally wasting yourself -- and hurting innocent people in the bargain. People who don't believe in revolution choose terrorism.