February 5th, 2017
Just over 20 years ago, I arrived in Berkeley California for college. 1996 was an election year, though not remotely as contentious at the presidential level as the most recent one. At the time, talk of red state/blue state would have brought to mind
Sandra Boynton not Clinton Dole. However at the state level, proposition 209 (repealing affirmative action) sparked a bitter fight and it’s passage (55% – 45%) spawned mass demonstrations at and around UC Berkeley.
All the recent chatter about the 1960s Berkeley Free Speech Movement living on or dying last week during the MILO riots reminded me that while not an overtly political person, I attended a rally denouncing prop 209 mainly out of curiosity…perhaps a rite of passage as a new Bezerklean. IIRC at the time I believed in the importance of diversity (and still do) but not strongly enough to make a sign or paint my face. Here are a few photos:
Circumstances dictated the laughable quality of the images (maybe someday I’ll look for the prints and re-scan):
- The camera used was a cheap Vivitar point-and-shoot.
- There were only a couple of flat bed scanners on campus available to the general student population and they required signing up in advance for 1 of only a few 15 minute time-slots per week.
- I did not get into on-campus housing i.e. no ethernet, and the images were originally served over the web from my personal computer via a 14.4kbps dial-up connection.
It’s not quite, “back in my day I used punch cards” but the university provided two forms of internet connectivity to off-campus students; the Warhol pool of 32 19.2kbps lines that automatically disconnected you after 15 minutes, and the main home Internet Protocol (HIP) pool of 256 14.4kbps lines that would allow one to stay connected indefinitely as long as it though you were “active” (setting the Eudora e-mail program to check for new mail every 15 minutes seemed to do the trick). They even had a convenient subdomain registration so anytime my web server was running it could be accessed at http://figment.hip.berkeley.edu (someday I’ll mirror the full contents on madpickles.org).
Unlike the potential repeal of the America Cares Act i.e. Obamacare, I don’t remember discussions regarding any replacement for affirmative action. After its passage the makeup of the student body predictably, drastically changed. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back at a geographic map of yes/no votes, counties the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles voted no and all others voted yes. Carter and Mondale (Democrats) also both carried San Francisco and Alameda counties in the 1980 and 1984 elections against former governor Reagan (Republican). Perhaps more than just the 3rd wave of punk rock drew me to Berkeley, I suppose most of my beliefs at that time (and still now) lean towards what would be deemed modern US liberalism with touches of libertarianism thrown in.
I don’t remember my level of agitation after the the 2000 election; if I had to guess it would have been mild considering I was a new grad at a dot-com company in the midst of the bubble bursting and didn’t have much of a clue (nor a care) as to how bad the new administration might be. A few years later in 2003 I went out to document a protest (war in Iraq), this time making a short video with some tongue in cheek accompaniment. Again, this happened mainly out of curiosity as while certainly not pro-war I don’t remember being furious about the war. In 2008 I remember attending a meetup of people looking to help with the Obama campaign, but the focus seemed to be on affecting Nevada which was more effort than I was willing to put in. The last political related thing I remember doing was writing an analysis of prop 8 data (legalize gay marriage) after the 2008 election.
After much agonizing about how big of a disaster it might be to try and take our toddler to the Women’s March Oakland on January 21st 2017, my wife and I got on our bikes with our daughter and headed to the North Berkeley BART station around 9:30a, figuring we’d be more likely get on a train at a stop further from Oakland. As we got closer, people walked past us heading away from the station. Once the station came into view we saw a line of people around the block waiting to get in. Time being of the essence, I didn’t even stop to take a photo, just turned around and headed back home as we knew there was an AC Transit 88 bus scheduled to arrive by our house soon that would get us within half a mile of the march’s meeting point. We got on a bus around 10:10a and it slowly filled up:
We made it to the mass of people, stood around with them for a while and ran into a couple of people we knew.
After about 30 minutes our daughter couldn’t take the situation anymore, there was no marching, and one of her ears was hurting (not from noise, but from an oncoming illness). So shortly after 11:30a we made our way out of the crowd and headed towards the 12th st Oakland BART station. We stopped at a Walgreens to get some children’s Tylenol and then to a Burger King as the idea of a hamburger appealed to her (and I had brought coupons, of course). There were a few people in front of us and as we got closer to ordering one of the workers announced they were out of burgers, but still had fish and chicken. Burger King…out of…burgers. Welcome to the new administration.