Where Have All the Blowhards Gone?

An Iraq invasion retrospective!




Protesting the war has become a little more festive at the weekly Friday-night vigil at Bristol and Anton in Costa Mesa. Credit the gaily-lit topiary reindeer that now stand in frozen frolic on the grass behind the protesters.

It also doesn't hurt that very few of the motorists passing by these days bother to hurl invectives or threats at the protesters. During the "active" phases of the Afghan and Iraq wars, it wasn't pretty.

"When we first came out here and protested the Afghanistan war, boy, were we in trouble. Flags were on every other car; people were flipping us off, cursing us and yelling at us to go back to Russia," said Mike Mang at last week's vigil. He's one of the organizers and has been there every Friday for more than two years. "It's totally reversed now. We're getting all kinds of friendly honks, thumbs-up and peace signs. Even the flip-off guys don't flip us off so much anymore. They just give us a thumbs-down, which is a little more civil."

They have to savor such small victories, since all those honks and peace signs have yet to alter the conduct of the war one whit.

Still, many who show up at the vigils think the tide of public sentiment is slowly turning. Bill Mattson of Newport Beach said, "I try to keep a tally on the reactions going by. Initially, maybe one in 10 cars was supportive. Once troops were on the ground, support for us dropped off, and there were counterprotesters across the street. Now, I think people are realizing they've been lied to and are showing a lot more support."

The counterprotesters are long gone, as are the unit of cops that once eyed the vigil warily from across the street. But this may also be due to the drop in the ranks of the protesters.

"We had between 400 and 500 people out here when we were invading Iraq," Mattson said, "and now it's down to a hardcore of about 30 who show up, but sometimes its 50 or more if something Bush says disturbs people."

One longtime attendee, Melissa Armstrong of Costa Mesa, wonders if their signs are even registering with the passersby. "I think people refuse to admit there's a war going on," she says. "The war is over as far as they're concerned, and they may see us as just a bunch of yahoos on the corner with no reason to be here.

"So many people ask me, 'Why are you still going? The war is over—what are you protesting?' I come because I think it's so important to get this message out. For all of the people who are sitting in their cars trying to forget there's a war going on, we're at least a little reminder."

Another regular, Tom Lash, doesn't necessarily see the drop in angry responses as a sign of victory. "They're a very vocal minority who only raise their voices when it looks like we're a threat to them. They got their war, so we're no threat to them now." Not a cheerful assessment, but that hasn't stopped Lash from attending. One quixotic cause is rarely enough, and he also is filing to run against Dana Rohrabacher as a Green in the 46th District.

—Jim Washburn
Sheldon: Queer eye for the God guy.
Photo by Keith May




Given its well-earned reputation as being somewhere to the right of the Bog People, you might expect the website of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC)—headed by local boy/crazy the Reverend Lou Sheldon—to be a hotbed of pro-American, pro-war, kill-'em-then-convert-mongering. And indeed, in the days when the war in Iraq was top-of-the-fold news—you remember March and April—the TVC website did have stories headlined "President Rallies Troops in Florida" and "Dixie Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost." But these days, war fervor is nowhere to be seen on the site, having been completely displaced by the TVC's traditional bread and butter: homosexuals and the limp-wristed Democrats who fund their gay proms. Among the "Top 10 Reports" on the TVC website Nov. 3—the day after 15 American soldiers died when their helicopter was shot down in Fallujah—were "Homosexuals Recruit Public School Children," "Homosexual Propoganda Campaign Based on Hitler's 'Big Lie' Technique" and "Federal AIDS Dollars Fund Homosexual Proms and Fisting Seminars." To be fair, these were also all part of the "Top 10" even when the war was in full swing because, when you come down to it, the TVC and its fans are way into homosexuality. Witness that on the same day the TVC touted the president rallying troops—April 24—there was also a story about "CA Homosexuals Want Phallic Memorial; Others Plan 'Wet 'n' Wild' Sex Orgy." And that, kids, is how the war was won.

—Steve Lowery
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