Who is Vernon Hunter? I wouldn’t have known the answer to that question if it weren’t for a few dedicated writers. They decided to spotlight the real hero of last week’s domestic terrorist attack against an Austin IRS building. Vernon Hunter was from Orangeburg, South Carolina. He was a husband to Valerie. He was a father to Donald, Ken, and Christine. He was a step-father to Justin, Crystin, and Tara Jackson. He was a Vietnam veteran, who was employed at the IRS building at the time of Joe Stack’s premeditated, cowardly attack. Ask yourself this question: Why would the media focus so intimately on Stack’s dementia and anarchist views, and not on the man who was killed as a result of them? Ken Hunter, Vernon’s son, wondered aloud to reporters last week that very same thing:
“There was just too much going on about what the guy did and what he believed in, and enough’s enough. They don’t need to talk about him. Talk about my dad. You know, some people are trying to make this guy out to be a hero, a patriot. My dad served two terms in Vietnam. This guy never served at all. My dad wasn’t responsible for his tax problems.”
Lost in the madness of the act itself– and the fascination with the culprit– is the real tragedy. The human tragedy that seems is being ignored. Amidst the Stack frenzy– the plaudits from fringe elements hailing him as a hero, and the profane chilling attempt at humor by Jed Babbin at the CPAC conference– why is no attention being paid to the man who was killed? Why is the focus not on a man who leaves behind a family who loved and honored him? Could it be because Mr. Hunter did not have blond hair and blue eyes, as writers have suggested here and here? That I doubt, but I only have questions to ask at this point.
I will do my part to remember Vernon Hunter, the man who perished in a senseless attack. The man who just went to work that day, engaging in the mundane routine so many of us take for granted. The man who ably, proudly served two tours of duty in a foreign land fighting an unwinnable war and survived unscathed– only to see his life snuffed out by exploding fuel and twisted steel in his own country. Vernon Hunter did not deserve to die this way any more than Joe Stack deserves his surreal turn in the spotlight. I am outraged. Outraged and embarrassed. Embarrassed because we don’t love heroes anymore. We love sideshows. We love television movies of the week– the more lurid and sick, the better.
I am sorry Mr. Hunter, that your country did not think more of you than this. At least in my eyes, your death is not an insignificant occurrance. Perhaps after this, it won’t be in the eyes of others as well.