Citizen Berquist: The Man with the Van

Who's counting?

In the past two weeks, with the president's approval rating and support for the war at all-time lows, and the sudden and decided dip in ratings for conservative talk radio shows, Berquist has noticed the same signposts on a street level: The reaction to his van-o-gram has been slightly more positive, even though there are those who still want to kill the messenger.

"I've had a few encounters at gas stations with younger males that want to pick a fight with me about the fact that they have one of their relatives in Iraq right now, and I have no right to put anything on there that could be deemed as being anti-patriotic," he says. "And I basically say, 'Hey, this is public knowledge. That number is out there. We all need to know this, so we can make decisions.'

"That usually doesn't get anywhere. They're usually shouting right away that I'm a traitor or I'm an idiot and all that other stuff. So it really doesn't matter what I say, because they've already made their mind up."

Berquist believes the war will go on for five or six more years. He's concerned about the vets who are returning home with missing limbs and shattered psyches, and the impact that will have on society. Until they're all home, though, he vows to support the troops by putting up big numbers, scraping them off, and putting bigger ones up again. Not to mention handing out spare grease pencils to anyone who might want to start a mobile riot of their own.

"I'm encouraging everyone to do this," he says. "I do some community work in St. Paul, and other things, but it hasn't been enough. This has been out of frustration. I don't watch television; I don't own a television, haven't for 15 years. I kind of keep away from the newspapers. The companies that are funding the newspapers have a vested interest in making sure that everybody thinks everything is okay, and I just don't think that everything is okay."

Jim Walsh can be reached at jwalsh@citypages.com or 612.372.3775

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