I made a quick trip back to Orangeburg, S.C. this weekend to see my mother, whom I’ve dubbed "the Bionic Woman" because she is recuperating from her second hip replacement surgery. My father handed me the local newspaper this morning and said "the man who was killed by the plane that crashed into the IRS building in Texas was from Orangeburg."
The article about Vernon Hunter took up the right half of the front page of the Sunday edition of the Times & Democrat, the newspaper I grew up reading. A story I had only been half paying attention to suddenly became real as I looked at the picture of a hale, hearty man in his late sixties, a man who looked like the fathers of my childhood friends -- a man whose life began in the very same small town mine did.
Between traveling, working, and trying to keep up with all the different interests I am juggling right now, I really haven’t had time to watch much TV lately. So the only thing I really noticed about Joseph Stack, the man who flew his plane into the IRS building and killed Vernon Hunter, was the lack of rancor against him or his action by the media. The people in the media who would normally be all over the political potential of a story like this seem strangely silent. His children seem to be hot property on the interview circuit.
And practically nobody is talking about Vernon Hunter, the actual victim in this case, or his family.
"My dad, in that building, he didn't write the tax laws," Ken Hunter said. "If [Stack] would have talked to my dad, my dad would have helped him."
In a statement, Hunter's relatives said their thoughts also are with Stack's family.
"We are not angry at them because they did not do this," the statement said. "We forgive Joe for his actions, which took Vern's 'pound of flesh' with him."
I imagine Eugene Robinson, who is also from my hometown, will probably write about Mr. Hunter in his next column at the Washington Post. I imagine Mr. Robinson, who has been at this a lot longer than I have, will do a better job than I can of explaining why Andrew Joseph Stack III is as much of a domestic terrorist as Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.
I would imagine Mr. Robinson will be a lot more eloquent than I when he describes why Joseph Stack has more in common with Osama Bin Laden than he ever had with a real patriot like Vernon Hunter, who served his country and survived Vietnam only to die by the hand of one of his own countrymen.
But this is the kind of spectacle you get when the media has no sense of proportion, no sense of responsibility to those who do right over those who do wrong, and no interest in doing enough homework to make Vernon Hunter’s life as compelling a story as the current media narrative which has the terrorist Joseph Stack’s life and the lives of his children occupying center stage.
I mean, if you could only choose one of these two men, which one would you call a patriot?