Today is the day. It's all come together. In only 3 weeks, a grass roots effort by Brigham Young University students to organize their own "alternative commencement" has seen more miracles to give even the worst pessimist hope. But the question still lingers... will the people come?
Dick Cheney will be flying into Utah in a matter of hours to speak at the "official" BYU commencement. They're closing down the interstate. Graduating students will endure 2-3 hours of security checks and long lines. There will be 4 protests occurring throughout the day. He will not be greeted as a liberator.
BYU, however, has decided that Dick Cheney has served humanity so greatly, that they are giving him an honorary doctorate degree for social service. How cute.
Who are the main protesters against this preposterous and mind-boggling act of bat-shittery? Well, BYU has be in serious spin mode trying to go out of their way to advertise the fact that the BYU Democrats are staging a polite and peaceful protest on the outskirts of campus. BYU has rolled them out for all the press to see. CBS Evening News with Katie Couric was there yesterday for a nice photo op as the students made their protest signs. The only rules? No Anti-Cheney signs. No Anti-Bush signs. No Anti-BYU signs. In fact, no political signs at all are allowed. So what do the signs say? Most of them have "PEACE" written on them with spray painted doves. Some of the signs even say things like "Defend Women, Stop Pornography". I'm being serious. This is not a joke. From 12pm-2pm these BYU Democrats will stand on a street corner and hold their non-confrontational signs and refrain from saying confrontational things. And all the news cameras will be there and BYU will pat them on the head and say, "See these protesting students? We're allowing them to protest. Isn't that cool?"
The head of the BYU Democrats, Diane Bailey, recently turned down a request to go on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart because she felt Stewart might make fun of BYU or the Mormon church. She then admits that she's "really conservative" and that if she wasn't in Utah, she'd "be a Republican".
One BYU administrator says, "I'm proud of Diane," said Vern Heperi, the dean of students who approved the club's protests. "She has done superbly well. The student activity was managed within all the university guidelines. She's been respectful. She's been open to communication and coordination and, I think this is important, she's been good to her word."
Isn't all this like going up to the W.T.O. and saying "Hey, we'd really like to protest your meetings in Seattle. Do you have any specific guidelines for us? We'll totally obey all your rules."
But, the main event today has been pretty much passed over by so much of the local and national press. In fact, Channel 2's news report just came out. Notice it doesn't say anything about the alternative commencement. I mean, my God. RALPH NADER is coming to speak, man. That's not necessarily small potatoes.
The BYU students who raised over $20,000, thanks to Daily Kos, in just 10 days to hold their own free alternative commencement with Ralph Nader speaking. There has been blood, sweat, and many tears shed. The students have been blacklisted in the city of Provo. Their names have been put on a "do not hire" list. They have been called heretics in the hallways of their school. And they've been ignored and scoffed at. When the two organizers asked Katie Couric's crew if they were going cover the alternative commencement, they said flat out "no." The BYU Democrats, they claimed, with their non-Anti-Cheney signs, was the main story.
So, here we are. About 8 hours until history is made or repeated.
Will people come to fill the McKay Events Center? It seats 8,000 people. If only 500 come, will BYU spin this story as a failure? Will the students, who have suffered so much, be ridiculed as godless, liberal extremists because they dared to differ?
Only time will tell. And time is running out.