The McGill Report


ROCHESTER, MN -- You didn't see much doubt expressed at the "Support Our Troops” rally held at the Soldiers Field War Memorial yesterday, but I don't know why -- there were lots of Vietnam veterans in the crowd.

Hundreds of people waved American flags and cars were parked a half-mile in every direction. "Liberate Iraq" was the favorite placard and card tables were stacked with inspirational articles, poems, and letters from the Internet. A biker club showed up – I counted 75 Harley Davidson’s parked – and there were plenty of leather chaps, vests, and biker boots in the crowd. Lots of folks sat in folding chairs on the grass and it felt a bit like a tailgate party. An Uncle Sam on stilts was walking around.

A country music song was playing on the PA system when I arrived:

Some people say we don’t need this war,
I say there are some things worth fighting for.

Some say this country is asking for a fight,
I say after 9/11, that’s right.

They say you shouldn’t worry about Bin Laden.
Have you forgotten?

The song recalled for me the high-minded rationales for the Vietnam War and how the patriotism in the early part of that war turned ultimately, for so many veterans, into bitterness and a sense of betrayal. Are we applying the right lessons from that experience to this war?

A Fox radio broadcaster was the event's emcee. A singer from Plainview, Donna Chapel, sang the national anthem, and then all the kids in the audience came to front to lead the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. A Mayo Clinic ambulance helicopter flew overhead, in lieu of an F-15. A woman from an eagle aviary in Wabasha, MN, on the Mississippi River, showed a beautiful eagle to the crowd, pumping her arm so the eagle spread its wings to an impressive four feet across or so.

A few anti-war protestors stood off to the side, maybe 20 of them, holding up signs denouncing all war and violence, and a half-dozen city police stood nervously between them and the pro-war crowd. U.S. Representative Gil Gutknecht told the cheering audience in his speech that “periodically the tree of liberty needs to be nourished with the blood of patriots.”

The best speech was by a local county sheriff, Terese Amazi. She said: “Many people ask me, ‘What can we do to make our neighborhoods safer?’ And my answer is, know your neighbors. Somewhere along the line we’ve gotten away from knowing our neighbors, and we’ve got to get back there.”

I wondered how far the idea of "neighbors" might expand. Could it reach all the way to Iraq? 

Copyright @ 2003 The McGill Report