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You Win Guys. The War Is Over.
by Solomon Philbrick
Thursday afternoon the tranquility of my stucco tower was interrupted by a war protest. Apparently, from what I have gathered, somewhere between seven hundred and one thousand people held a protest at the university along with a general strike. I only witnessed the very end of the thing, arriving on campus to attend a lecture on an eight hundred year old manuscript (yep, my life is that interesting,) so all I saw was a bunch of people wandering across the quad, some holding signs. I found out soon after that the protesters had blocked off part of the highway leading to the school, where CHP and local police in riot gear greeted them. Two people were arrested for crossing police lines; a former student and a professor of Women’s Studies (make of that what you will.)
Thankfully, neither the protestors nor the cops wanted a reenactment of Kent State, so the protesters wandered back to the administrative building and made a bunch of noise until one of the chancellors came out and promised to help get the two arrestees out of jail. The bloated and putrid irony of appealing to the very authority they had just tried to subvert once some of them were held accountable for their actions was lost on this group of malcontents, but the two were later released without charge. I guess that means that they succeeded in doing something, even if it was totally unnecessary. All in all, it was a peaceful demonstration. I noticed that at the very university where they burned down the Bank of America in 1970, students were lined up at the B of A ATM to get cash, most likely for pizza and beer. Everyone left feeling good about themselves, and that’s what’s really important, right?
Anyway, I originally had two other titles for this piece: “No Thanks Guys, I Already Have a Girlfriend” and “Anatomy of a Protest.” The first alternate title will become clear once I explain the second. As I sat and ate an early dinner I watched the group mill about and created within my fevered imagination a portrait of exactly who these protesters were. The following is totally unscientific, uses no statistics, detailed observations, interviews, or media reports. It’s just a guess, really, and perhaps not even a very educated one, but that’s why I write on the internet. So, without further ado, here is my anatomy of a protest.
Activists and Organizers. If I am very liberal with the reported turnout and allow that one thousand people showed up, I would guess that this group made up between seventy-five and one hundred of the people in attendance. About half probably have some affiliation with the university, while the rest come from the surrounding community or one of the other two colleges in the area. These are members of your local Stop All War and End All Poverty and Destroy Capitalism and Give Me Free Coffee collective. They’re energetic and good at putting up flyers all over the place as well as maintaining websites. They also have expendable cash that’s not going toward beer or pizza, though it’s still coming from Mom and Dad for the most part. These are the true optimists of the gang, and I’ll give them some credit for actually caring about what they’re doing. The two mistakes this group usually make are overestimating the numbers of those in attendance and actually thinking that the others in attendance care as much as they do.
Old Hippies. “Man, this is nothing like the sixties, man…” Probably between fifty and seventy-five in attendance would be my estimate. There are two kinds of people in this world who love college so much that they never leave. The first kind become professors and the second are the hippies who live on some convoluted form of disability and stay in the college town for the rest of their lives, hanging around and looking stupid. These are the failed Ginsbergs and Abbie Hoffmans of the world who are so fried on drugs that they continue to bask in the false sense of their own relevance. I’m not too familiar with the East Coast, but in California the perfect places to see this specimen of humanity are Venice Beach and Berkeley. A few live in my town as well.
Single Men. They’re horny as hell and they’re not gonna take it any more. Sure, they’re also against war and injustice and all that, but first things first. The single guy goes to these things to meet single girls for free. He has had no luck in the bar scene, club scene or beach scene (due to the heartbreak of psoriasis,) so this is his one chance to show that he’s into really important things by dressing up in protest gear and trying to make more noise than all of those other single guys. I’d place the number of guys doing the protest mating dance at around two hundred to two-fifty.
Protest Couples. Biff: “Hey, this thing is free and we get to skip class. I could show off my passion for social causes and totally get laid tonight for nothing, and I’ll bet Tiffany wouldn’t bug me about playing GTA for the rest of the week.” Tiffany: “Wow, Biff is so passionate about social causes. What a turn on!” Biff and Tiffany go to the protest and later have wild monkey sex. Since this is the final group I’ll let them take up the slack on my math. I can’t come up with any other mean-spirited stereotypes and frankly I’m tired of thinking about it.