Well today was an interesting day for me.
First and foremost it was my Daniel and Summer’s (my brother and his wife) graduation day which was most certainly a good thing to see. Quite a bit of the family (for both of them) was there and we had a great time hanging out (particularly that night when we ate at El Vaquero mexican restaurant in Stillwater, which I think might well be the best Mexican place I’ve eaten at on this side of the Rio Grande).
Secondly, it was a hoot and hollar having President Bush here. The graduation was a two-part affair: the first part being university-wide at the Boone Pickens FB stadium (where Dubya spoke), the second part being split between the different colleges (thankfully Dubya free, this was where the graduates walked across the stage). Bush himself gave an amiable but mostly pedestrian speech. He did crack a few jokes but mostly mouthed quasi-inspirational platitudes.
Two parts of the speech were worth noting, first I did like what Bush said about technology. While I disagree with part of his still overly-optimistic view of technology, I did appreciate the fact that he encouraged the graduates to see technology as being potentially very dangerous and that it is essential to examine technology from a perspective of ethics and morality (I’m not sure if this was his exact words, but is my rough paraphrase).
The second exceptional part (as in the bad kind of exceptional) was when Bush started talking about the job prospects of the graduates and said that today “was the most hopeful time in human history.” — I’m not making this up. In fact when I heard it, I couldn’t help myself and said outloud, “Is he drunk?” — How in the world can he say this? The US is entangled in two unwinnable wars (in both Afghanistan and Iraq), we are locking up record numbers of our citizens for so-called drug “crimes”, the gap between the rich and poor is massive, the greenhouse effect is getting really bad, and New Orleans is still a mess! Honestly, I think he is downright delusional, if not insane.
As far as the protest response, the actions inside the stadium weren’t loud, but I personally thought were very significant. Two of the graduates walked out of the ceremony as Bush started talking (I’ll post pictures of this later), and several graduates had peace signs painted on the tops of the mortar boards. Outside the stadium, there was a huge crowd of protesters that I think was around 200 or so when I entered the stadium and was probably around 500 when I left. (I did join them for awhile both before and after the ceremony.) There were a few vocal counter-protesters who yelled things like “You’re all a bunch of homosexuals!” and “Go home hippies!”, but I thought those folks just embarassed themselves.
The anti-Bush protesters were a diverse crowd. Some were students (including one young woman who was wearing a graduation cap and holding a sign that said “Skipping the speaker for the environment”), others were local folks from Stillwater, and quite a few were the stalwarts of progressive activism work in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The message was pretty broad (and I think kinda muddled as a result), but I guess I can’t help but feel cheered by how many folks turned out to speak against the neo-fascist Bush regime.
Also one more thing I should say is that for the most part, I thought that OSU did a decent job of respecting citizen rights. I wore a sticker once I got into the stadium (one that said “Drive out the Bush regime”) and a Green Party t-shirt) and no one said anything to me (one of my brothers said I got some funny looks from the Secret Service guy behind me, but I think they were looking everybody over pretty good). I did hear of a couple of incidents of police hassleing protesters who stood outside the “free speech zone” but the folks weren’t arrested.
Anyway that’s my report for now. I’ll post a bunch of pictures in the next day or two when I have a chance to do so.