It’s the Sunday afternoon “Support Our Troops” demonstration on the corner, near the Warner shopping park in Canoga Park, Californ-I-A. As usual I have my camera and I am hoping for some pics of the demonstrators.
On the opposite side of the junction (five lanes away, of course) there are two anti-war protestors, a man and a woman. From this distance, the man could be one or more of a range of ethnic types common locally (Spanish is the first language of the neighbourhood where I am staying) and is wearing a bright red beret, cocked at smart angle. The vast majority of the “pro-war” types are white, but of mixed age and sex.
The organiser is a woman. She is in young middle-age, good-looking and slim, and her hair is neither blonde nor big. The various male participants defer to her when I ask permission to take photos and are happy to talk to me after I explain that I am not a journalist. They would probably have been happy to talk to me even if I was.
“You’re from Britain? There’s a country I’d die for.”
“Or Israel, I’d die for Israel.”
“Britain, Australia, Israel: we’ve always been together.”
“Do the British people support the war?”
“They certainly didn’t to start off with. I suppose they’re more in favour of it than they were before it happened.”
“Mass graves and everything?”
“I think that sort of thing has changed people’s opinions.”
The drivers passing by are honking their horns and waving support.
“You seem to have plenty of friends.”
“We don’t get as many people down here as we used to.”
I ask them to pose and take a few snaps; I grab a few extras more discreetly.
I want to cross the road and photograph the anti-war couple(?), but I’ve run out of film in the roll and need to buy some more of the same speed, so I wish them luck and walk on towards the shops.
Some good-natured abuse goes back and forth across the road.
“You say we’re fascists [a word on Red Beret’s banner], but try and do what you’re doing in I-raq!”
“Yeah! We don’t live in a police state!”
They certainly don’t, I think, but you try walking anywhere in this sprawling, car-crazy megalopolis and you’ll understand that freedom comes with a (small, but annoying) price.