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« Sepia Tinted India | Main | The Miraclemongers of the Media (Sujatha) »

February 18, 2010

Comments

I agree with you, and at the same time I'm glad that they are trying to portray it as an individual criminal incident. The last thing we need is to have the political aspects highlighted, to give Tea Party types a martyr and example. The same principle should apply to those who commit acts purportedly in the name of Islam, as well; the fear-mongering about home-grown terrorism thrown around, particularly by the xenophobic right, after incidents like that at Fort Hood, is counter-productive, to say the least. Part of the problem is the co-option of the term, "terrorist," and its ambiguity as to the line between personally and politically motivated violence (let alone the older chestnut: its ambiguity as to legitimate and illegitimate political violence). Better to emphasize that people can express whatever political sympathies they'd like, but vigilante violence against others is never more than sordid and criminal.

Exactly. Yet the Obama Justice Department was taken to the woodshed by the demagogues on the right for treating the Christmas Day bomber as a mere "criminal" who was read his Miranda Rights.

Posts at Daily Kos and TPM mention that Stack was "embittered at capitalism," yet I also read (somewhere) that he started technology companies in California during the tech bubble of the '90s. His companies failed. So he's not embittered at capitalism. He was a willing and hopeful participant in it. He's embittered at hypocrisy, and fairly so. In that same story (somewhere) there is an account of the arrival at his home in flames of, presumably, members of his household, his family, stunned at the sight. I'm sad for them, for having lost so much in a sudden explosion of devious rage.

Why, I wonder, aren't there more expatriates? Or news stories about them? I'd be surprised to see a story about a family--say, Stack's--that just packed up and left out of disappointment and disgust. No violence, no loony manifestos. Just a healthy, "We've had it. There's a promise of a better life elsewhere. Hasta la vista." Instead, we depict America as a country one must either adore or detest, and we're only interested in the latter when violence ensues.

Stack likely didn't consider the irony of what he no doubt perceives as self-elected martyrdom, the terrorism versus crime distinction you mention, Ruchira. That his deed is cautiously being treated as purely (yuk yuk) criminal is just another hypocritical response of the sort that pestered him in the first place.

Dean: Thanks for your thought about expatriates. The notion has been tumbling about in my head that the immigration problem is not about who comes in, but who doesn't go out. America suffers from being the terminus for migrants; nobody born here leaves. I bet you that in a hundred years they'll find an America gene, or a tea-chromosome, acquired by parthenogenesis. Exporting good people would considerably improve America's image in the world but would be a brain drain. Exporting bad folks would be great if not for the consequent PR fallout (remember Fidel's dump). Drain or dump, what's a po country to do?
Anna: Re personal vs political, the thing that stayed with me from Malamud's Fixer is ... same difference. I had a contrary thought about the tea baggers - this incident will discredit them, sic the FBI, give them pause, thin their ranks. The militias have been subdued since Oklahoma, one way or another.

Narayan: I've only ever read Malamud's short stories, not the Fixer, (
though I ought to, because I really enjoyed the short stories), but I meant something similar. In the same way one person’s terrorist is another's freedom fighter (the legitimacy question), one person’s terrorist/freedom fighter is another's rebellious son/disgruntled ex-boyfriend/belligerent neighbor.

I can think of a handful of emigrations of sizeable groups of native born Americans, historically, all of them more or less for political reasons: African-Americans to Liberia, former Confederates to Latin America (particularly Brazil), draft resisters to Canada during the Vietnam War, American born Jews to Israel. And of course there have always been some number of affluent American ex-pats who make a life elsewhere for personal reasons (e.g. my sister-in-law, who married a Brit and lives in Germany, where her husband is employed), or to get more for their money when they retire, in places like San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Costa Rica. There have also always been a significant number of immigrants to America who never intend to stay emigrate back to their home country after they've made some money (about a quarter of Italian immigrants in the early 20th century; some number of Chinese, both early 20th century and now; Latin American laborers, particularly from Mexico and particularly when the border was more fluid), as well immigrants who return to their home countries after political turmoil dies down or their political party comes back into power...though these latter groups don't meet the "born here" part of your idea.

I think the main reason so many of us born here don't leave is that the reason our families immigrated in the first place is that life was quite terrible for "people like us" where we were coming from-- we're not going back there-- and the situation for us here would have to be pretty bad for us to want to live somewhere where we will always be a foreigner accepted (or not) into a place that feels strongly that it has its own culture, which we are "diluting". I have lived and worked for brief periods in both France and Italy, and often had that reflection when there: not only would I always be, from a French or Italian perspective, at best a good imitator of a "real" French/Italian, but so would my children and children's children. Any contribution by us, resulting in a hybrid new culture, be unwelcome. And most of those of us who are second or third generation or more are ethnic mutts, making our reception in many countries even more complicated. For better or worse, and for all the xenophobia commingled with racism that exists here, there's no other place that is primarily an immigrant culture. If I were drafted into a war I could not support, or had been enslaved/subject to horrible mistreatment, I could see how exile might be a relief that it would overcome these considerations. I could also see how a person of homogenous ethnicity whose country of origin was not such a bad place to be might become interested in returning there. Most folks born here don't fall into either category.

Anyway, notwithstanding the bad PR, I certainly wouldn't regret a mass exodus of tea partiers leaving to found a settlement in Brazil, like the former Confederates (sorry, Brazil). And there's always the hope of secession, which seems to be a strong strain in the movement. Just let them go, this time, with a please don't slam the door on the way out.

From what I have learnt since yesterday, it seems that Josesph Stack may not have been the typical Tea Party right winger. More like a techie whose American Dream did not quite pan out and he blamed the government, especially the IRS for it. However, the frustrations that Stack expressed, echoes the right wing's bellyaching rhetoric. Incitement to fan the fires of paranoia can come from any source even if one is not a card carrying member of a particular ideological camp. Many Muslim "terrorists" too became murderous missionaries after being told repeatedly by organized fanatics that they are being screwed over by the west.

Anyway, Glenn Greenwald in Salon has the same opinion on this matter.

I am hoping that disillusionment and infighting will put a brake on the zeal of some Tea Partiers.

More hairsplitting to protect miscreants on the domestic front.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/02/19/us/AP-US-Interrogation-Memos.html?_r=1&hp

More than a Tim_McVeigh style terrorist, I think Joe Stack's act bears more similarities to Amy Bishop's cold-blooded execution of her colleagues, from the standpoint of mental issues and anger driving the final act. It's true that Stack directed his anger at the IRS, the big amorphous arm of the Federal government, but his attempt to translate that into action seems more criminal than terroristic to me.

If we allow that one distinguishing feature of terrorism is the desire to cause, well, terror in the broader public, then I think the abortion doctor murderer last year and those two snipers in DC were clearer examples of domestic terrorists than this guy. Of course there is also the political dimension of the act - it would be pretty bizarre on the whole to consider the DC snipers (or some other generic serial killer) terrorists but not this plane dude, or the Unabomber or the abortion doctor fellow...

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