Protest and Berkeley are two of those things that intrinsically go together, like peanut butter and jelly, or Ernest Hemingway and. Sentence fragments. Great gains have been won for the causes of social justice in the trenches of civil disobedience on Sproul Plaza. The fight for affirmative action, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the fight against apartheid in South Africa have all graced the hallowed ground between Sproul Hall, the center of bureaucracy on campus, and the GBC, that bounteous provider of tasty nuggets with golden fries. But the more demonstrations I see on campus, the more I tend to believe the accusations of our hippie elders who say that the spirit of the 60 ‘s died in the 60’s, leaving misguided youth to carry forth in protest of great wrongs.
For instance, those of you who were around last year may remember a quaint little protest where some unnamed group took it upon themselves to form a human barricade in front of Sather Gate, one of the campus’s main arteries of foot traffic. The leader of this rag-tag bunch of impish protesters yelled over and over at the top of her revolutionary little lungs, “This is an inconvenience, but Prop. 209 is a crisis!” Fuck inconvenience, the bastards were keeping me from my scrumptious nuggets and fries!
Furthermore, they were preventing students from rushing to Wheeler or Dwindle to be on time for their various pursuits of academic enlightenment. Now despite the irritation their little misbegotten plans caused me and my fellow students, I probably could have looked the other way if their protest had the slightest thing to do with Prop. 209.1 may not be a political scientist by training, but I sure as hell know that Prop. 209 isn’t keeping me from lunch. (Of course, I’m a White male.) Furthermore, I often find it hard to think critically about an issue if I’m being irritated. Like for some strange reason, it’s a little difficult to concentrate on my ethnic studies lecture if the asshole behind me feels the need to play the double-bass-heavy drum line from Metallica’s “One” on the back of my chair with his fetid, decrepit Birkenstocks. I would find this anonymous student’s opinion more easily understandable if he were to approach me quietly after class and tell me, “Y’know, ‘One’ fucking kicks ass. Especially the double-bass in the drum line! METALLICAAAAAAAAAA!”
This annoyance factor of protest is probably the largest problem facing the new wave of would-be social reformers. One example can be found in the campus’ reaction to everyone’s favorite nuclear engineering major cum target, David Cash. I was not particularly annoyed by the rally held on Sproul Plaza asking for his expulsion. What I was annoyed by was the guy who, upon hearing some rumor about where Mr. Cash lives, decided to go and try and yell at Cash from the street. This remarkable strategist’s form of protest had two major fallacies. First, Mr. Cash lives in the same building as some 250 other students, none of whom, at press time, were under suspicion of any sort of media-hyped immoral activities. However, these innocent students were distracted from their studying, relaxing, and various auto-erotic activities by the protestor’s gripping slogans such as, “We want you out, David Cash!”
The most unfortunate part of these protesting failures is that they aren’t limited to the Berkeley campus. One such failure is the Reverend Fred Phelps, who extols the admirable Christian values of love, brotherhood, and unity at his popular web site, www.godhatesfags.com. Rev. Phelps was most recently seen picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten into a coma and later died from the injuries he sustained. Apparently Phelps’s message in response to this crime of hate was something to the effect of, “If you’re gay, hicks will beat you up. So repent.”
No matter what your particular stance on the issue of homosexuality and the Bible, I think we can all agree that funerals rank very high among the worst places to stage protests. In fact, the only place I can think of that would be worse, other than on my way to lunch or outside my building when I’m trying to study would be the middle of my math final. Or maybe right before I come in my partner’s ass. Because frankly, I tend to be thinking about more important things at those times, like “Mmmm! Lunch!” or “Okay, time to find the eigenvectors of this matrix” or “Oh! Oh! Oh! Yessssss!” These thoughts pass through my head much more readily than, “Gee, am I gonna go to hell for eating these chicken nuggets while sodomizing my roommate’s best friend and reading Salman Rushdie?”
But then, maybe these are all valid protests and the spirit of the 60’s has just died in me. I’ll be the first to admit that I think bellbottoms and platform shoes are incredibly stupid. And it’s a good thing I’m explaining this now, because I want you all to understand when I block you from getting to class because the heels on your shoes exceed a predetermined height limit. Remember, this is an inconvenience, but the proliferation of long-dead fads is a crisis.