I'm not going to expend too many pixels on the question of whether Joseph Stack was a terrorist or just a tax-hater for flying his airplane into a building containing IRS offices. He clearly had serial difficulty paying his taxes, based upon the diatribe attributed to him, and maybe that frustration was enough to drive him postal.
Reading between the lines, his troubles may have started when he fell in with a group of people who were convinced the income tax was unconstitutional and believed they had a legal basis for avoiding taxes. The anti-tax extreme has spawned other "martyrs" like Gordon Kahl and Robert Beale.
In the sense Stack bought into and acted on behalf of this movement, he might be considered a terrorist, but I think the truth might be simpler and more disturbing: That he is one of many damaged (financially and emotionally) Americans who attempt to elevate their unresolved personal pain into a grandiose purpose.
And fighting taxes right now is a popular purpose.
In this, he has something in common with the dispossessed young men Muslims who are recruited as suicide bombers. They are fed selective knowledge and myths about immortality and are given a chance at glorious resolution as they strike a blow at the enemy.
The enemy they hold responsible for their own failures.
In America, the cause becomes Liberty or Freedom. While these sad figures can arise from either end of the political spectrum, those on the right seem now ascendant. The ideas that sustain them are gaining something approaching mainstream credibility. "Taxes are theft!" "It's your money!" "Time to go rogue."Those media figures, as well as the Palins and Pawlentys who pander to the same audience, help connect personal psychosis to a Great Cause — which makes it more likely some will act out in public instead of in their own garage.
Whether he was connected to a movement or not, Stack may represent a dangerous trend in American political life. Because for all his financial troubles, he didn't have to hijack the airplane he flew into the IRS office.
He owned it.
And, to be clear, people on both sides are trying to make Stack out as a political figure. They just don't agree whether he was a populist, a communist or a teabagger. I think he was a Stackist, who absorbed anti-government and anti-establishment rhetoric from wherever he found it to shore up his own sense of persecution.
Let's just say Karl Marx isn't getting much play these days, except from the right wing.