A small piece of the Orange County peace movement at Palm and Glassell.
A small piece of the Orange County peace movement at Palm and Glassell.
Photo by Christopher Victorio

What the Hell Happened to the Anti-War Movement?

It was unusually warm around 11 a.m. today in Orange and the spectacle was unusually jarring at Palm and Glassell: a dozen or fewer anti-war protesters, ranging from college age to their grandparents, wearing orange "No torture" buttons and politely hoisting signs like the one that read, "Thank Yoo for Torture!"

That's jarring because of the body count: a dozen or fewer anti-war protesters. Keep in mind this was outside a college campus (Chapman University) teeming with media (yours truly et al.) to hear a controversial Bush administration adviser (John Yoo) whose 15 minutes of infamy have been extended indefinitely in recent days thanks to the timely/untimely (depending on your world view) release of memos he John Hancocked greenlighting torture (or advanced interrogation techniques if you don't buy that waterboarding, bodyslamming and confining constitute torture).

When a TV camera's red light went on, peaceniks positioned their faces in front of the lens and quietly chanted something like, "Obama says 'It's okay,' we say 'no way.'" It was so lazily rendered one did not feel compelled to waste the ink writing exactly what they sang in one's new notepad. But the reference was clearly to the president's chief of staff indicating over the weekend the administration would not seek prosecution of Yoo and other Bush lawyers--although the Chosen One seemingly reversed that stance today.

With the chant beginning to fade in the near distance, the sidewalk leading to Memorial Hall, where Yoo and three Chapman School of Law professors would be debating presidential power, was guarded by two sentrys in orange jumpsuits with black shrouds covering their entire heads. Seeming from a distance even more inappropriate than "colored" lawn jockeys, the faux detainees continued to confound when, walking past them, you heard the kind of inane small talk the fox and the hound guarding the henhouse engaged in right after punching their timecards in those old Looney Tunes cartoons.

Finally, before walking up the steps to enter the hall, a couple old enough to have been around when the Memorial was built beamed while posing for a snapshot, making sure to point their orange "No torture" buttons at their photographer friend.

What, pray heaven, happened to the anti-war movement?

This crew would easily be outnumbered, out-energized and out-anarchized by the typical Friday night peace demonstration opposite South Coast Plaza. Do the violent air punchers only come out when a Republican war president is in office? Are the torture/advanced interrogation techniques still left intact now okay because we trust Obama will know when to use them? Or does this goddamn economy have everyone working so hard that they cannot break away from the grind for a little mid-morning peacenikking?

There would be some slightly testy moments inside Memorial Hall (which will be detailed in a later post), but there was not nearly as much acrimony as one would expect. I mean, Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist practically needs a chair in one hand and whip in the other to back out of similar campus appearances. Yoo did not stick around long after his, but he likely made it to his car without the need of his escort.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just, heck, what, pray heaven, happened to the anti-war movement around here?


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