It’s still a mystery how Santa Claus got it down the chimney, but Bastrop got a Christmas present boys can only dream about: a big honking, steel-clad, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) truck.

But Bastrop isn’t a 6-year-old boy, and this truck is no toy.

Bastrop is a Texas county of some 75,000 people, and its new MRAP is the real deal. The heavily armored military vehicle is just one of several versions of war tanks that have become the hot, must-have playthings of police departments all across the country.

Wait, are the good people of Bastrop facing some imminent terrorist threat that warrants military equipment?

hightower-mrap-The National Guard

The National Guard/Flickr

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. “It’s here if we need it” in the future, Lt. Joey Dzienowki explains.

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, do you?

The Pentagon, which gave this 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.

“I hope we never once actually have to use the thing,” Dzienowki told the Austin-American Stateman. “But with today’s society, and the things that are happening, there’s no way the thing won’t be used.”

How comforting is that?

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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