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Class Project on Eve of Superpower Summit : Peace Rally Was Pretty Peaceful

December 08, 1987|LYNN SMITH | Times Staff Writer

With the miniskirts, rock band and long-hair confrontations with short hair, the '60s seemed to have come full circle Monday at Saddleback Community College's Day for Peace.

But this was a student peace rally of the '80s, an event in which student organizers earn class credit, invite the John Birch Society along with Amnesty International, have the administration's blessing, and wonder where everybody is.

Peace Day was organized on the eve of the historic President Reagan-Mikhail Gorbachev summit as a final project of the 28 students in History 11: "Peace Perspectives," a class created and taught by Mike Merrifield, 42, an anthropologist, and Pete Espinosa, 40, a counselor.

Class members had invited about a dozen groups, including Amnesty International, the Orange County Committee on Central America, the Farm Workers Union, Beyond War, Alliance for Survival and the John Birch Society.

"I believe we should get information from both sides," said Rick Travis, 26, a political science major from San Marcos, member of the peace class and president of the Beyond War club at Saddleback. The anti-war group has 11 members, he said.

"The class has brought awareness that we have to find alternatives to violence to resolve our conflicts--individual and global," he said.

"I hate worrying about that--whether there's going to be a war," said student organizer Leah Miller, 20, a general education and business major.

The peace event, Espinosa said, with its high-volume rock music and tables spread with literature, marked a first for the Mission Viejo campus, which "never went through the '60s."

But the turnout was sparse, and interest was mild.

"I'm not in a rallying mode at the moment," said Michael Evans, 23, a communications major in trendy sunglasses and Bermuda shorts, lounging on a lunch table near the speakers.

"Not a lot of people turn out for these things," said George Edmondson, 23, bass player for Divine Weeks, a popular Los Angeles rock band. "We're so numb, they've all made us believe we can't do anything about it."

Observers had little response to Jeanne Giordono, 70, of the Farm Workers Union, who asked them to boycott grapes as a protest to the use of pesticides, or to a member of the Birch Society who suggested that the goal of disarmament was to build a powerful United Nations force with nuclear weapons.

"I would never support this, never," said Lisa Wetmore, 23, an anthropology student waving a Birch Society handout that read: "We believe that the Communists seek to drive their slaves and themselves along exactly the opposite and downward direction, to the Satanic debasement of both man and his universe."

A young woman in long hair and jeans engaged in a friendly discussion with Bryan Ellison, 20, a UCI biology student who heads the five-member New Americans Club, the student affiliate of the Birch Society.

"I object to anti-Soviet propaganda," she said. "Their country should be run the way they want. They're not monsters."

But the only argument surfaced when a peace activist and Merrifield disagreed over whether the rally should have been held when it was: during the noon hour when classes are also being conducted.

"Aha! A conflict," college president Constance Carroll said. Wearing a Beyond War membership button, she lamented Monday's low turnout.

"It's like that all over the country," she said. "Most faculty members were active in the '60s. In the past 10 years, students are not as involved in world issues."

Instructor Merrifield said students are not apathetic. "It's faculty. Apathetic faculty make apathetic students.

"I practice what I teach."

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