If this cartoon seems complicated, that’s because it is. With nearly all attention focused on the latest headline-grabbing statement by Donald Trump or a suction-cupped Trump Tower climber (fun stuff, I admit), it’s important to remember that there are real issues, real suffering and extreme complexity in the world. A simplistic, seat-of-the-pants style will not translate well to foreign policy, particularly when it comes to Syria.

While we’ve been live-streaming the tower climber and his suction cups, millions of people in Syria are facing war, death and siege conditions. What is being called the “most crucial battle” of Syria’s civil war has been going almost unnoticed here in the United States. Besides that, the convoluted alliances and ever-changing battle lines are mind boggling.  

Small militant groups that have received TOW antitank missiles from the United States have taken part in a unified rebel victory (for now) that successfully broke through Syrian government lines around Aleppo. But it’s much, much messier and more complex than that. The opposition militants are fighting together, which means that groups vetted and supplied by the US are working with extremist militants who are on the terrorist hit list— so the main force that is helping break the brutal Assad siege of Aleppo, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Al Qaeda-aligned Al-Nusra Front), may be targeted by US warplanes. (It’s like a proxy war against Russia where we occasionally work together, depending on the mood.) At any rate, dig deeper into the news stories behind the cartoon and be sure to visit my Patreon page!

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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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