Tecla Karpen's compliment

Harry Welty

Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe

May 10 would bring a more sober protest march that would begin on the upper campus of Mankato State College.

The Baby Boom children needed educating. I recall reading somewhere that at our entry into the Second World War following the Depression and the New Deal, only one in ten Americans had graduated from high school.

When their fathers returned from war sober, American leaders decided the GIs deserved a fitting reward while helping America step up its game as the new undisputed leader of the world. The men who had stormed the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima were offered the GI Bill. Rumpled but reliable GI's like cartoonist Bill Maudlin’s Willie and Joe would be rewarded by the nation in a most surprising way. The Nation would pay for the unimaginable - their college educations. Of course their children would follow them and do so impressively, especially as the draft kicked in while a less black and white war beckoned high school grads to the steamy, booby-trap filled rice paddies of Vietnam.

Young men could postpone bullets for four years in college. The 2-S deferment that waited for me from eighth grade through my college graduation - nine endless years - was probably on my Dad’s mind every time he cussed out LBJ’s troop deployments.

MSC’s Upper Campus had just broken ground when we moved to Mankato in 1963. Two titanic ten-story dormitories stood there surrounded by corn fields. When I got to the campus in 1969 a dozen buildings could hold Mankato State’s 15,000 students. The enrollment was double the size of North Mankato on the other side of the Minnesota River.

On this day 2000 of the GI's children were taking a break from fueling further economic growth. They had gathered to march for peace protesting the secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia. This was a far cry from the lone draft card burner I watched on my first week of class a few years earlier. I'd met the fellow during corn pack and saw him damn near start a race riot in the Byrd’s Eye plant. I was not impressed.

MSC students weren’t particularly militant. A few students had traveled to Washington DC to march past Richard Nixon's White House and the Pentagon. They carried no Jan. 6 guns and made no Jan 6 attempt to force their way into the corridors of power. One of them was the Student Senate President Larry Spencer, who recalled my Father's ominous words about Kent State where young National Guardsman shot young protesters, killing four. Unlike the previous day’s bridge takeover, this day's march would do the peace movement proud.

A temporary platform had been erected next to the Student Union with a half dozen folding chairs, a microphone and seated dignitaries appointed by God knows who. News cameras were at the ready to report on the day. They had also been on Highway 169 the previous day recording clouds of tear gas and broken beer bottles.

As we waited I kept my eye on a small collection of peace hoodlums sitting directly in front of the podium. I'd had words with one of them a few days before. Someone began speechifying at the mike and the audience listened to words of terrible gravity. When the small collection had heard enough they stood suddenly and screamed for a reporter to explain why he had made them look bad by filming beer cans and debris on the previous day. One reporter got up hesitantly to explain himself to 2,000 people. But at his first syllable the peacenicks screamed insults and drowned him out.

As I stood listening at the back of the audience, rage welled up inside of me and I shouted at the top of my lungs, "SHUT UP YOU SONS A BITCHES AND LET THE MAN SPEAK!" Startled, they shut up. Given this reprieve, the harried Reporter said simply, "I just reported what I saw." Now the crowd could march.

It was one of the most satisfying moments of my life. It was made all the 
sweeter when my college speech teacher Tecla Karpen walked over to me in awe and told me, “I wish I’d been the one to say that.” I've always considered that the finest compliment I've ever received.

The march through town was uneventful and probably got less coverage than the previous days shenanigans. I wouldn't go on a march again for another 45 years. Then in September of 2017, a year after Donald Trump assumed the Presidency and made it clear he had no use for science, women or civil rights I marched in three Duluth marches, one for each of these causes, as did many other Americans throughout the nation.

There were no broken windows, beaten policeman or violence. No one hid their guns from metal detectors as they did on Jan. 6 when Trump’s orders not to set up metal detectors were ignored before he sent his supporters to the Nation's Capitol to beat the hell out of our Capitol Police.

For six months before the 2020 election with election polls predicting he was about to lose, Trump began planning to declare a stolen election and to refuse to leave the White House. This is just what the Washington Post reported on June 22, 2020, long before the November election. I posted their story on my blog and asked, "When Trump denies losing, can we trust Pete Stauber to defend our democracy?" (Feel free to Google it.)

The answer to my question was an emphatic and sycophantic “NO.” Congressman Stauber has grown too comfortable with the lint in Donald Trump’s pocket. He played dead.

And because I've been stewing about it for three years, let me add that my former colleague on the School Board, Art Johnston, aided and abetted Trump's fraud when he too claimed that his election for the legislature that year was stolen.

Welty marches for good causes at lincolndemocrat.com.