By Jim Hightower on December 25, 2013

This special day got me to thinking about America's spirit of giving, and I don't mean this overdone business of Christmas gifts. I mean our true spirit of giving -- giving of ourselves.

Yes, we are a country of rugged individualists, yet there's also a deep, community-minded streak in each of us. We're a people who believe in the notion that we're all in this together, that we can make our individual lives better by contributing to the common good.

The establishment media pays little attention to grassroots generosity, focusing instead on the occasional showy donation by what it calls "philanthropists" -- big tycoons who give a little piece of their billions to some university or museum in exchange for getting a building named after them. But in my mind, the real philanthropists are the millions of you ordinary folks who have precious little money to give, but consistently give of themselves, and do it without demanding that their name be engraved on a granite wall.

My own Daddy, rest his soul, was a fine example of this. With half a dozen other guys in Denison, Texas, he started the Little League baseball program volunteering to build the park, sponsor and coach the teams, run the squawking P.A. system, etc. etc. Even after I graduated from Little League, Daddy stayed working at it, because his involvement was not merely for his kids ... but for all. He felt the same way about being taxed to build a public library in town. I don't recall him ever going in that building, much less checking-out a book, but he wanted it to be there for the community and he was happy to pay his part. Not that he was a do-good liberal, for God's sake -- indeed, he called himself a conservative.

My Daddy didn't even know he had a political philosophy, but he did, and it's the best I've ever heard. He would often say to me, "Everybody does better when everybody does better." If only our leaders in Washington and on Wall Street would begin practicing this true American Philosophy.

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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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