Years ago, my wife and I watched the documentary Food Inc. In many ways it changed our lives. I was fortunate enough to be raised with fresh vegetables from a garden in the backyard and produce and fruit bought from roadside farmer’s stands. When I was very little, my family would occasionally frequent North Market in downtown Columbus and I can remember seeing the farmers unloading their goods out of pick-up trucks and meat shops inside. At some point in time after high school, my parents starting buying beef from a local farmer. All that to say, I was already sympathetic to the natural, or organic, or local and sustainable (whatever you want to call it) food movement without realizing that such a movement existed.
But Food Inc. impacted us because in the documentary we saw the other side of industrial food system, namely the feed lots, chlorinated food, chicken houses, etc. As a result we realized that not only should we do what we can to support local farms, sustainable farming practices and but we felt that as Christians we had an obligation to be caretakers of creation and good stewards of what God has given to us. That is why, even if I were not gluten free, I would probably be much more prone to make and prepare food the way I do now.
Since then, I (and occasionally Mrs. Wine has joined me) have watched many more documentaries on our food system. Most notably, King Corn (which does a good job of explaining how we got to our industrial-agricultural system). This past week I watched two documentaries that depressed me and remarkably, for someone who has almost no confidence in our government, has me revisiting a desire I once held to join the Free State Project and get the heck out of dodge.
The first was Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger. This documentary that had nothing to do with food but rather the mafia. Namely, one mobster by the name of James “Whitey” Bulger. Whitey Bulger was an infamous Irish mobster in Boston in the 1970s and 1980s who was responsible for numerous crimes including murder of at least 11 people. What made Whitey so famous, is not his crimes, but that he supposedly was an FBI informant during the time he committed the crimes. The story goes that the FBI used Bulger to take down the Italian mob. Bulger helped them and meanwhile expanded his empire into all of the areas that the Italian mob was losing ground. So the mob was working for the FBI to take down another mob family. Bulger still denies this story line, claiming that he was never an informant but that rather, the FBI was on his payroll and worked for him.
Bulger’s claim seems to be more convincing. The families of victims he has killed believe him and the documentary presents a pretty convincing image that what Bulger says happened is what happened. To some extent his story is correct, as the FBI agent who worked with him is in prison. But his supervisor, who everyone agrees (as does the supervisor on the witness stand) that he as on the mob payroll, is still a free and uncharged man.
What’s depressing is not that agents in the FBI or Department of Justice could get bought off by the mafia, but that for years multiple people in multiple departments could know what was happening and not do a thing and then when finally they have to act, put all the blame on one person. It certainly makes you lose faith in those who are called to serve and protect you when you see how may of them are protecting mobsters who are killing people and trafficking in drugs and weapons.
The second documentary did have to do with food. It is Farmageddon. This documentary is actually probably the most depressing thing I have seen in quite some time. It is about the USDA and FDA’s war on small family farms. It is amazing how many family farms have had the government try to shut them down. It is frightening how many family farms and small co-ops have had armed police, even swat teams, raid their compounds, hold children at gun point, and seize…their milk. This isn’t the stuff of sensational news–in fact, you don’t see it on the news. But it is real. It happened a few years back where I currently live in Pennsylvania. A small family owned and run dairy was shut down for about a year by the government. They claimed their milk had made some people sick. Finally, after a lot of legal fighting by the family, they were allowed to re-open. The craziest part is the government can’t explain why it was shut down. There was never any contaminated samples taken and now there seems to be no one who ever existed who was actually sick from their product. The theory is that their milk products had started to be sold in large grocery store chains in Allegheny county and the big ag companies wanted them shut down. But it is a theory with no proof. At least it is an explanation though, since the government can’t seem to explain why they shut them down for so long.
Welcome to America–land of the free.