During a recent city council meeting, the mayor of Keene, New Hampshire leaned over to a council member and whispered excitedly: “We’re going to have our own tank.”
Yes, the tank (or, more specifically, the “armored personnel vehicle”) is the latest must-have toy for mayors and police departments. Even in this picture-perfect and tranquil New England town of about 23,000 residents, officials hurl common sense to the wind at the very thought of having such a cool ride parked in front of town hall. Maybe they’ll even get to drive it in the next 4th of July parade! Never mind that Keene has no crime that would warrant rolling out a tank.
Nonetheless, thanks to such richly funded boondoggles as the “war on drugs” and the “war on terrorism,” the federal government is throwing money at cities and states to militarize their various police forces. Thus, Keene was granted $285,000 by the Department of Homeland Security to buy its very own “Bearcat,” an eight-ton combat vehicle.
Of course, corporations that peddle such pricey hardware testily insist that Keene needs a tank. A sales executive for Lenco Industries, which makes the Bearcat, snapped to an inquiring reporter: “I don’t think there’s any place in the country where you can say, ‘That isn’t a likely terrorist target.’ Wouldn’t you rather be prepared?”
The sensible people of Keene, however, aren’t swallowing the fearmonger pill, and they’ve forced the town council to reconsider. Local businesswomen Dorrie O’Meara says she hasn’t met a single person who’s in favor of having “this militaristic thing in Keene.” She calls the tank “completely unnecessary. But it’s more than that,” she adds. “It’s just not who we are. It’s about what kind of town we want to be.”
Wherever you live, take heart in the Keene example. Reject the corporate nonsense and insist on being the town you want to be.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.