VOICES: Walking guarden duty


A year ago this summer, I walked from Golden Valley to St. Paul three times to be ready for the 61 Mile Hike on my 61st birthday in August. This year I’m gearing up to walk Guard and Garden Duty around the perimeter of the Twin Cities during the Republican National Convention.

When I garden, I plant marigolds around the border because, beautiful as they are, their smell repels many pests that might harm my chosen plants. When I was drafted and trained to do guard duty, I was made to believe the importance of patrolling the perimeter, alert to warn of any danger nearby. I’m convinced it’s there today.

I grew up an Eisenhower Republican, and even after switching over years ago, was impressed and inspired by the famous general’s warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex. At the State Fair last year I picked up a “What I Believe as a Republican” brochure and thought, “If this were what’s happening, I could still be one”. I fear danger, and I actually fear the country is being run by Military-Industrial Accomplices only masquerading as Republicans.

The brochure said, “Government should live within its means,” and I see them borrowing unbelievable sums to stage and maintain a military invasion and occupation threatening to undermine the safe prosperity of my grandchildren’s future.

It says, “Free Enterprise is the best path to prosperity”, and I see ongoing no-bid contracts going to large, “friends of the administration”, corporations, free to occasionally do some good, but more often corruptly squander the taxpayer’s money with no consequence. That’s extreme welfare, not free enterprise. Mainly I see the bulk of entrepreneurial small business struggling to survive in a climate of out of control prices driven by escalating profits for oil-related corporations.


The third time I walked to St. Paul last summer, on July 4 for a Veterans’ Celebration at the Capitol, I crossed the bridge on 35W near Cedar-Riverside in Minneapolis. Growing by the side of the bridge was a patch of little white flowers, looking so much like poppies I had to go home that evening and resurrect my memory of the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields.” Written in 1915 by Army Surgeon Lt. Col. John McCrae, after a particularly bloody stretch of treating injured, the poem goes:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead, Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

Less than a month after that walk, the 35W bridge collapsed, and a year later we’re still arguing whether it just happened, or whether it could have been prevented by paying more attention to infrastructure here than by deliberately destroying it in Iraq and then helping certain corporations profit immensely by rebuilding, often in substandard fashion.

Given the number of high-ranking generals who opposed this effort from the start, together with the growing number of military personnel who oppose first hand what’s been going on, perhaps “our quarrel with the foe” is with those leaders pretending to be Republicans while bringing all of us down. This includes the many soldiers sworn to uphold the Constitution and the principles of the Geneva Convention which our current set of leaders have trashed and violated consistently from the start. In my opinion, there is extreme danger lurking nearby, and I’m committed to doing my part by walking guard duty around both cities while they try to persuade more good people to maintain what is not honorable, good, and true.

I’m walking and praying, in Lincoln’s words, not that God be on our side, but that we strive to make sure we’re on God’s side. Oh, and if you happen to see golden marigolds sprout up around the perimeter, know that they’re there to protect the Garden Our Country Can Be from the foes who would profit by turning it into an oil slick.