“OUR MINDS FEED YOUR STOMACHS”
Orange, CA – On an otherwise typical Friday afternoon in perfect southern California weather under non geo-engineered, cough, chem trails, skies (Woohoo!), a crew of about 20 volunteer activists marched around the circle park at the heart of downtown in the city of Orange, CA. The group, led by a tall, angular, silver-haired Pied Piper named John Diaz, was there to raise awareness for the YES On Prop 37 position, a stab at the status quo, in a food panel discussion being held at the prodigious Chapman University, a heavy hitter in the city of Orange. Before this 22-hour day was done, I would experience 3 LLWAP* moments. I would gleam the moment of truth on the matter, find my story titles, and have my own Big Bang Theory moment. It happened like this…
As stated before, Occupy LA took me out of my Temecula comfort zone and toughened me up as far as traveling outside the valley on public transportation. However this time I had a mandate of my own: to return to T-Town in time to judge at The Vault’s Battle of The Bands finale on Saturday. I could not meander in my usual ‘war correspondent’ fashion as this magical valley closes off outside public transportation at 8:36PM Friday night. But as I learned from OLA, it all shakes out when ‘the force’ is with you.
This story is complex, so to make it easier, I’ll go ‘the fly on the wall’ analysis.
The Media: Though the mainstream news was sent notice, I saw no Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, or 9. Very lamestream. Telemundo Univision was not on the list, sorry.
Chapman U. has a kind of West Coast Ivy League rep to it and the university’s independent news media outlets of video and print were enthusiastic and professional in their coverage of all the participants. Grade, A
The Man: Orange County has recently had its share of ‘police-community relations’ hiccups, i.e. the summer riot in Santa Ana, and you can’t be in Orange long before you see the police there run a tight ship. After arriving at the circular park with benches and pathways, we set out our signs and started hawking at the people in the passing traffic, receiving a number of honks/waves from those aware of the election initiative’s passage importance. Not long after our impromptu pep rally started, two ‘boys in blue’ circled the park on motorcycles, checked us out, parked their bikes at a corner and called it in.
They then walked over to talk to John who had been talking through a mega phone supplied by a volunteer. Connie, a local activist that I met on the Mother’s Market/GMO petition drive and most recently Tustin Tiller Days, expressed a concern at the two officer presence but I quoted to her from the Junior Woodchucks Guide on Revolutions, “Don’t panic till you see the whites of their eyes.”
When our numbers had almost grown to full strength two more police officers, this time on pedal bikes, joined the command post corner group. The black with silver lettered Chapman campus security car rolled past us several times but didn’t loop.
Leaving The Circle and taking our line of sign-carrying volunteers on the three block sidewalk route over to Beckman Hall, we again hawked cars/passengers with our slogans, and received a first class safety escort by the officers. John reported to me later that the police who talked to him were not hostile or antagonistic but expressed genuine interest in our Label GMO POV. This observation also drew positive comments from one of our number who had seen the storm trooper wall of tactical assault officers that ringed Occupy Wall Street. I shared my OLA memories/observations of LA’s finest with the young OWS alum. OPD from ‘gonzo’ POV, organized and courteous, grade, A.
The Mission: At the Circle, few were jerks; awareness was raised as many eyes darted to read the various signage we displayed. Verdict: successful
The food panel discussion: Room 404, was seated to capacity on a RSVP-first basis, as a number of interested people who hadn’t a reservation turned out for the Food Science event. The Food Science staff was organized and professional without being cold and uncompromising. The GMO panel discussion event, which has been occurring at various campuses, is held to present both points of view on the validity of Prop 37, the voters’ bill to label when GMOs are in California food.
It should be noted here that these halls of higher education, like Chapman, are the very bastions for the companies fighting passage of Prop 37. Folks, like JC & his boys, we’re not the home team because we are rattling the cage of the status quo. A tee shirt purchased at the event says it all and provided three-fourths of the story title. On the shirt’s back listed food stuffs like ‘potatoes’, ‘veggies’, and ‘spinach’ contrast to much larger font words like ‘corn’ [83% GMO], ‘high fructose corn syrup’ [100% GMO and suspected link to rising obesity], and BHT. Think of being in the house of Clark Griswold’s occupation, food science.
Judging by the sound of applause and non-applause, the people in favor of passage cheered when they heard a point rebutted successfully while the majority came to hear points on both sides explained or defended more fully. Verdict: successful.
The Opponents: The lawyer and the lobbyist. One balding and one breaded. At one of California’s most expensive universities, the lawyer was there to plead for the hardship labeling GMOs would place on the ‘poorest families’ food budget by all the ‘shakedown’ lawsuits a YES On 37 victory would bring. Additional tactics included an attack on the ‘trial lawyer’ the initiative proponents approached to draft the language by this panelist who was himself a trial lawyer. At first ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ approach seemed to mesmerize the curious. What can be said about the lobbyist is summed up by the movie, Thank You For Smoking.
The Yes Men: Besides telling you that John wore the same pair of cowboy boots he got married in seventeen years ago, in his own words, smiling, “Hey, I clean up pretty well, don’t I?” sums it up if you have been following John and my adventures from OLA where we met. John Diaz lives in Orange.
Dave ‘The Big Dude From Iowa’ Murphy is a board member of the Iowa Organic Association and the founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots movement of more than 300,000 American farmers and citizens dedicated to reforming policies relating to food, agriculture and the environment. In 2006, Murphy moved back to Iowa to help stop a factory farm from being built near his sister’s farm. After seeing the loss of basic democratic rights of rural Iowans, he decided to stay in Iowa to fight to regain those rights, expose the flaws of industrial agriculture and help create a more sustainable future for rural America.
In 2007, he organized the Food and Family Farm Presidential Summit to help save family farm agriculture. Previously, he has worked as an environmental and food policy lobbyist and political strategist. His writing has appeared in The Nation, The Hill, Huffington Post and the New York Times. Big Dave was in the house, and folks, he really is big. Iowa oak tree big.
The Grand Finale: With Dave arriving slightly late and no chance to collaborate with John who had his ‘wall up’, the ‘green team’ started off slow to a hostile/lukewarm audience. TV, radio, and internet ads by the opponents (No on 37) are as plentiful as $50,000,000 can make them. Slick and well written, the Bad Guys seek to sow the seeds of confusion among the 98% still caught in the grips of commercial mainstream propaganda that’s broadcast to them.
After the early rounds of the sides battling, the moderator who was a lot more Candy and a lot less Lehrer, asked questions written by the audience, and it was here that [IMHO] the green team scored points. Despite the attempt to keep any disparaging news from the debate, John brought out the fact that the Russians have just cancelled all grain imports from the United States beginning LAST MONTH. This international action came about from the released French two-year study of rats fed from birth to death a diet of only GMO corn, GMO corn rinsed with Roundup, and non-GMO feed with a Roundup water chaser. This also happened last month. Both reports are posted on the Calendar.
The ‘No’ side tried to counter both points but their arguments were weak. That’s when I sensed the audience that we were there to speak to, ‘blinked’. When Dave made the common sense point that over 50 countries around the world have labeled GMOs with no big whoops, the NO side said “California is no country!”
Well, Sports Fans, that’s when the bear shit in the buckwheat, as they say around Walcott or in the Quads.
Before John could finish the stats [California is the 8th largest World economy and 34th in ‘country’ size], the majority of the audience was cheering as Californians.
The Wrap-up: As stated above, for my vantage point the room swayed during the audience questionnaire portion and those who weren’t convinced to vote ‘yes’, I think, I feel, were intrigued enough to do their own research, which is a victory. “The truth is out there” is more than a TV series tagline. Google ‘Operation Paperclip’ or Monsanto.
The Moment of Truth: After the panel was over, the lawyer was asked privately, “If you had two identical foods, one organic and one GMO’d, both costing the same price, which one would you choose?”
The Big Bang Theory Moment: Because of this adventure, like Leonard Hofstadter I now have an Indian friend named Raj, hah!
At the end of the event gift bags were handed out that were supplied by Whole Foods.
Next in our GMO series – 'Meet the Bad Guys/When Your Friends Try To Kill You, Et Tu Whole Foods?' This is a developing story.
(* - Long time readers know what LLWAP means, new readers, 'stay tuned for the sequel, Rocky')