Everything until the early evening is a blur to me. I biked Katie home and she showed me her house. She pays way too much rent and her housemate is screwing her over by paying only $25 more for a way better room. She doesn't see it that way, but then, I'm sensitive because I've experienced the problems that ensue when rent constantly has to be reconfigured because sometimes it's one couple and two single people, sometimes it's two couples and one single person, sometimes it's three couples, and sometimes it's two couples, two single people and a brother on the couch.

It's the first time I've given Katie a chance; I'd always thought of her as being dull and insecure, but she's really quite nice. Of course, I'm lonely, so that's coloring everything.

On my way home after that, I drove past my car and saw, to my surprise, that an American flag had been painted on it. The hood has seven red stripes and six white ones and the roof is now a blue field with 38 stars. I figured out the order the states entered the Union so that I can tell people, "yeah, starting with the Dakotas, all the rest of them are fake states. Hawaii? Ha!"

I called my friends Tag and Julie, and sure enough, they were the ones who gave my car its patriotic decoration. They were afraid I'd be mad for two reasons:

  1. I claim to dislike this country, its current and past governments, and the symbols that represent it.
  2. It's permanent paint that probably significantly lowers the value of the car.

But I don't care. I love it. I hope it gets me lots of attention.

Next, checking my email, I found that The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley's campus newspaper, had printed an editorial cartoon that depicted two stereotyped Arab Muslim figures in Hell. One was saying "We made it to Paradise. Now we will meet Allah, and be fed grapes, and be serviced by 70 virgin women, and..." He was oblivious to the fire surrounding them and the enormous clawed hand that they were standing on. A small and inobtrusive booklet that had been dropped by the other was labeled "Flight Manual" and indicated that they were supposed to be terrorists.

The local Arab and Muslim communities are already in a hard place right now. They are being threatened and harassed, and many are afraid to walk alone past sundown. I can't imagine how much worse it is in less liberal locales than Berkeley.

Because of the current political climate, a group thought that the cartoon was inflammatory and started a sit-in at the Daily Cal, demanding an apology and the dismissal of the artist involved. I was on a mailing list that was notified about this, and so I called Tag (who works at the paper) and asked him how many people were there. He said there were a bunch. I had nothing to do, so I decided to go to see what it was like.

I went next door and got Jen and Ethan, who are a little more activist, to come with me. They were not thrilled by my newly patriotic car. When we got there, the place was seriously packed (a later head count put us at 102). Protestors crowded in the lobby; the newspaper staff continued to conduct their business while the senior editorial board discussed (behind closed doors) how to deal with the protest.

Because I know Tag (and used to work there - I wrote the crosswords), I was able to move back and forth between the two groups, giving me a unique perspective. I must admit, the protest made me feel a little uncomfortable and I preferred to stay on the wrong side of the lines.

Some history: last semester, David Horowitz printed a full-page ad in the paper entitled 10 Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea - and Racist Too. This was unintentional; there was no policy for deciding which controversial advertisements would be killed by the editors and which were allowed to run, and the editors whose responsibility this was had not even looked at this particular advertisement. The African-American community was furious and stormed the offices of the paper in a very similar way. Two days later, the Daily Cal printed a front page apology, and were blasted by national media on all sides as being spineless and giving up their freedom of expression.

The similarities to the more recent incident are obvious. The editor in charge hadn't bothered to look at it, there was no policy, a group had stormed the offices demanding an apology. But having the lessons of hindsight made the editors think twice about giving in.

The protestors chanted, Tag did layout, the four cops who were there to protect the staff paced and looked wary. I looked at the clock. It was midnight.

To be continued...