Denver Direct: Locked Gardens

Monday, April 26, 2010

Locked Gardens

by Denver historian Phil Goodstein

Jim Fowler was a Denver-born communist. In the 1930s, he fought for the Spanish Republicans in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. Back in Colorado, he was convinced that corporate agriculture was poisoning the food supply. The solution, he argued, was for locals, especially city dwellers, to dig up abandoned lots and transform them into community gardens.

By the 1970s, the program initiated by Fowler was so popular that the city took control of it. Eventually, it emerged as a self righteous yuppie effort, Denver Urban Gardens (DUG). During the past decades, gardeners participating in it have increasingly locked off their gardens.

This is to be expected since the gardeners are dangerous. suspicious characters. At least Denver Public Schools (DPS) argues as much. It recently ruled that those participating in DUG plots on school grounds must get police background checks.

Apparently, the spirit of Jim Fowler is still alive in the community gardening effort where his Bolshevism might infect schoolchildren. Those unable to believe the latter claim realize that DPS’s order is primarily the latest measure of an atmosphere of fear and hysteria carefully nurtured by the George W. Bush-Barack Obama administration.

The federal government has seen a boom in the security field. Guards , meanwhile, often find themselves quite bored. To compensate for this, they use their badges and authority to bully others.

Even more, the locked-off gardens and the security clearances reflect what happens to well-meaning reforms and reformers when they become part and parcel of the state. Instead of being programs offering alternatives to the status quo, they are part and parcel of the establishment. The locked gardens, in part, are necessary precisely because the sponsors and participants of the program have no direct
connection with the everyday people living by the gardens. The result, complete with the police background check, assures a bitter harvest of a once well-meaning idea. It makes DUG the Naysayer of the Month.

Reprinted with permission from the Naysayer