By Matthew Rothschild on September 09, 2013

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke out forcefully against a U.S. war on Syria over the weekend. Speaking at a fundraiser in Madison, Wisconsin, Friday night, Sanders said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was “a butcher of the worst kind.” But Sanders added: “To get involved in a bloody and complicated war in Syria makes no sense at all. We would reap consequences we can’t imagine.” He also stressed that U.S. involvement in another war would be a huge distraction from the serious economic problems that plague most Americans.

“At a time when the middle class is literally disappearing,” he said, “when 46 million people are living in poverty and real unemployment is close to 14 percent, and a generation of kids are graduating from high school and college and can’t find any work, and when we have the most unequal distribution of income since the Great Depression, what do you think is going to happen if we go to war with Syria?” His answer: These issues won’t get addressed at all. They “keep getting pushed aside because of war and war and war and war,” he said. He added: “I don’t want our country to become the Sparta of the twenty-first century.” He said the American people are opposed to this war. “95 percent of the calls and e-mails to my office are against us going to war in Syria,” he said, and other elected officials are getting similar feedback from their constituents. “Washington—Congress and the President—are way, way, way out of touch with the American people,” he said. Later Friday night, Sanders spoke at the Barrymore Theatre at the kick-off event of Fighting Bob Fest, one of the biggest annual gatherings of progressives in the country. He envisioned not a war against Syria but a war to make America a more just society. “How about going to war against unemployment?” he asked. “How about going to war against our dysfunctional health care system?” “How about a war against Wall Street?” “How about a war against the high cost of higher education?” “How about addressing the major planetary crisis, which is global warming?” “How about a war against the attacks on our privacy rights?” He also cautioned that “if we get into a war about regime change in Syria, who do you think is going to pay for it? The top 1 percent? No. Children in Head Start, families on food stamps, seniors on Medicare—that’s who will be paying for it.” In conclusion, he said, “Let’s give peace a chance.” Sanders made similar remarks on Saturday from the podium of Fighting Bob Fest, where he warned about America becoming an oligarchy.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story Obama Proceeds on Lawless Course to Syria.

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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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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