Passing on the torch from the geriatric generation


In one week in early January 2012, the Twin Cities peace community lost Dr. Gene Ott, age 82, and Marv Davidov, age 80 after months and years of failing health. This same week saw two of the famed four McDonald sisters, Kate and Rita, along with their fellow faithful protesting compatriot, Marguerite Corcoran move into a senior retirement center just a week after their most recent court appearance for yet another act of civil disobedience. That court appearance at the Fourth District Courtroom at Ridgedale stemmed from the final action of a 16-year campaign directed at war profiteer Alliant Techsystems before it moved its corporate headquarters to a spot less than 5 miles from the Pentagon.

One of the defendants in that case entered the courtroom using a walker; two of the defendants have Parkinsons. Another defendant was unable to appear because of a follow-up medical treatment for his cancer. This scribe, at age 61, was the youngest of the 12 defendants and the only one not presently covered by Medicare and Social Security. Just two days after that court appearance another defendant fell down a flight of stairs in her own home and while badly bruised, fortunately didn’t break any bones before being driven away by the EMTs.

At the weekly Lake Street Bridge vigil, 98 year-old Elmer faithfully holds up his “Bring the Troops Home Now” sign each week, no matter what the weather, after visiting his wife in a local nursing home. Several other Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet haven’t been able to join us for the past couple of years due to health issues brought on by aging and one of the main organizers of local vigils has suffered a stroke and has now been diagnosed with cancer at age 83.

Even the annual Veterans For Peace-sponsored bus journey to Ft. Benning, GA to the “Close the School of the Americas” rally and vigil is getting to be too strenuous a journey for many of the local peacemakers. At least when we arrive 24-hours later at the gates of this huge military training base, the SOA Watch organizers now have chairs set up near the stage so some of us can rest our weary bones.

When the EMTs were summoned to the Alliant Action vigil this past August after one of us collapsed, we should have seen the handwriting on the wall: we are no longer “spring chickens” and will need replacements soon. Before we walked up the driveway to sit in front of the main entry doors at Alliant Techsystems, one of the 86 year-old nuns told me, “This might be the last chance I might have to get arrested with you.”

How wonderful to see a new generation step forward calling themselves “the Occupy! movement”. Other young people are part of the Anti-War Committee and some students have banded together under the banner of Students for a Democratic Society, reviving the SDS movement from its Vietnam-era origins. As we mourn the losses within our stalwart community, we are eager to help mentor and accompany the next generation of activists seeking nonviolent solutions to the challenges ahead of us. Who will take Marv’s place in telling stories from the peace movement to the Active Nonviolence class in the Justice and Peace Studies program at the University of St. Thomas? Who will fill the enormous shoes of Dr. Ott in making the links between healthcare justice and peacemaking? One doesn’t need a long resume to join us; we’ll help you fill in the details as you stand beside us on the street corners and in the courtrooms and we’ll stand beside you at the People’s Plaza, the FBI headquarters, and homes facing foreclosure. Together, let’s continue to be the change we hope to see in this world.