Kicked in the Balkans

Photo by Jeanne RiceThe first clue that the Kosovo conflict isn't your father's European war came on May 12, when 15 folks from Irvine, Tustin, Fullerton, La Habra and Newport Beach gathered for a “yogic flying” demonstration at the Orange County Transcendental Meditation (TM) Program in Tustin. Even before two guys meditated in the lotus position while hopping across padded mats, attendees heard an audio tape made especially for them by Mike Tompkins, the Natural Law Party's declared U.S. vice presidential candidate for 2000. Echoing statements by TM leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Tompkins called on President Bill Clinton to send immediately 7,000 of these yogic fliers to Kosovo to meditate for peace and end the war in 48 hours.

That evening, balance flew the coop at “Kosovo: A Forum” (not to be confused with “Kosovo: The Musical”) at UC Irvine. The “expert” panel produced the silence of hegemony. Occidental College history professor Marla Stone and UCI political-science professor Patrick Morgan staked out the pro-baby-killing position, arguing that what this war really needs are good old American ground troops—although the panelists doubted this country has the stomach for it and seemed positively sick that a negotiated end would preclude further bloodshed. Speaking on the other side—well, actually not the other other side, but rather some kind of side—were Paula Garb, associate director of UCI's global peace and conflict studies department, and Bojan Petrovic, a political-science doctoral candidate at the U.

In a nutshell: Stone says we should bomb Serbs because we have a “moral obligation” to do so, Morgan says we should bomb 'em because they're not abiding by NATO law (which apparently supersedes UN law, or we'd be bombing ourselves); Garb says we must do something for the people “caught inside” (we are: we're killing them), and Petrovic is still fumbling for his notes.

The absence of dissent on the panel was balanced by many of the 160 people in attendance. One of the funniest moments came near evening's end, when Stone—after dozens had attacked her hawkish sentiments—noted, “I get a sense from the questions and responses . . . that there's opposition to the NATO operation.” That was met with a roar of laughter and some guy yelling, “What tipped you off?”

“Kosovo: The Forum” (not to be confused with “Kosovo: The War,” which is brought to you by was part two in a series; part one of “Kosovo: The Forum” (not to be confused with “Kosovo: The Breakfast Cereal,” now with more fruity Albanians in every bite) came four weeks ago.

“The two forums that have been provided were so obviously conceived to more or less project the mainstream-media perspective,” said Jim Fujii, a UCI professor of modern Japanese literature. “That has really been disappointing.”

Fujii is a member of the newly formed Orange County Coalition for Peace, an ideologically broad-spectrum alliance of OC's Catholic Worker, Unitarian Society, Veterans for Peace, Green and Libertarian parties, and others. The coalition and UCI's School of Humanities and Women's Studies Program hope to counter the previous political-science programs by presenting an “Alternative Forum on Kosovo: Challenging U.S./NATO Intervention” on Monday (see Politics listings in Calendar for more details).

On May 17, the coalition got about 100 people to get off their butts and pick up hand-painted signs proclaiming “NATO out of Kosovo,” “Bombing is the tool of terrorists, not Democracies” and “Give Peace a Chance!” as they lined both sides of Bristol Street near South Coast Plaza. They plan to be out there every Saturday indefinitely, Fujii said.

Toss in some yogic fliers and those warmongering academics don't stand a chance.

Mike Toledano contributed to this report.

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