By Anonymous (not verified) on January 06, 2014

What a Christmas little Bastrop had!

It's still a mystery how Santa Clause got it down the chimney, but Bastrop got a present boys dream about: A big honkin', steel-clad, war toy called MRAP.

But Bastrop is not a 6-year-old boy, and an MRAP is not a toy. Bastrop is a Texas county of some 75,000 people, and MRAP stands for "Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected." It's a heavily-armored military vehicle – one of several versions of war tanks that have become the hot, must-have playthings of police departments all across the country.

Are the good people of Bastrop facing some imminent terrorist threat that warrants military equipment? No, it’s a very pleasant, laid-back place. And while the county is named for a 19th century land developer from the Netherlands who was wanted for embezzlement in his home country, the relatively few crimes in Bastrop today don't rise above the level of routine police work.

Even the Sheriff's department, which is the proud owner of the MRAP, says it doesn't have a particular use for the war machine, but "It's here if we need it." Well, yeah… but that same feeble rational would apply if the county decided to get an atom bomb – you just never know when a big mushroom cloud might come in handy! The Pentagon, which gave the MRAP to Bastrop, and our sprawling Department of Homeland Security, are haphazardly spreading war equipment, war techniques, and a war mentality to what are supposed to be our communities' peacekeepers and crime solvers.

Having the technology and mind-set for military actions, local authorities will find excuses to substitute them for honest police work, turning common citizens into suspects and enemies. As a spokesman for the Bastrop sheriff's department said of the MRAP, "With today's society… there's no way the thing won't be used." How comforting is that?

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Photo: Flickr user Hellraiser Media, creative commons licensed.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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