KRIEGER: PO­LIT­I­CAL DI­VIDES FROM SLO’S PAST COME TO MIND AS WE AP­PROACH ELEC­TION DAY

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Local - BY DAN AND LIZ KRIEGER This col­umn is by Liz and Dan Krieger. Liz is a re­tired chil­dren’s li­brar­ian, and Dan is pro­fes­sor of his­tory, emer­i­tus, at Cal Poly State Uni­ver­sity, San Luis Obispo. He is past pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Mis­sion Stud­ies As­so­ciat

I saw the “Kill Bill Roal­man” sign on a re­stored World War II DUKW, com­monly called a “Duck,” an ar­mored am­phibi­ous ve­hi­cle with a pre­sum­ably de­ac­ti­vated .50-cal­iber ma­chine gun mounted on it in front of San Luis Obispo City Hall.

In 1991, Op­er­a­tion Des- ert Shield had just ended in the Per­sian Gulf. Wedge pol­i­tics had di­vided SLO more than any is­sue since the Viet­nam War. Nev­er­the­less, I never imag­ined that I’d ever see what I did here.

Part of what star­tled me about the DUKW’s pres­ence in front of our City Hall was what I knew about city coun­cil­man Bill Roal­man and his beloved wife, Amena Atta, a refugee from Afghanistan. I had worked with Roal­man at the Land Con­ser­vancy and on city com­mis­sions.

He’d done pro­grams with his gui­tar for every good cause that built com- mu­nity, like fundrais­ers for the Prado Road shel­ter. Late at night, he’d join the po­lice on their pa­trols so he could more fully un­der­stand is­sues con­fronting our com­mu­nity. Roal­man was one of the gen­tlest souls I’ve en­coun­tered.

What had he done de­serv­ing such treat­ment? He had dared to sug­gest that those who op­posed Op­er­a­tion Desert Shield be able to march along with sup­port­ers of the war in the an­nual Fourth of July pa­rade.

There was to be a con­fronta­tional hear­ing urg­ing a cen­sure or pos­si­ble re­moval of Roal­man from the City Coun­cil the next week. Al­ready, small Amer­i­can flags were be­ing dis­trib­uted to those who wanted him si­lenced. We didn’t en­tirely agree with those who op­posed the 1990-91 war.

We saw the com­plex­ity of Kuwait, which had once been ar­ti­fi­cially sep­a­rated from Iraq by the Bri­tish and French. The at­tack on Roal­man came to a cli­max for me when I led a tour of two bus­loads filled with mil­i­tary at­tachés from em­bassies in Wash­ing­ton who were guests of the Cal­i­for­nia Na­tional Guard.

Upon see­ing the sign on the ar­mored ve­hi­cle, a Chi­nese gen­eral who had been at the mas­sacre at Tianan­men Square in 1989 chided me, “Is this how you han­dle dis­si­dents in Amer­ica?”

I spoke to the owner of the DUKW. I had al­ways known him to be a de­cent per­son. He seemed to treat the mat­ter as some­thing of a joke. Iron­i­cally, he was ac­ci­den­tally killed by a self-in­flicted dis­charge from his new Glock pis­tol a short time later. When the over­flow­ing coun­cil meet­ing opened, cit­i­zens spoke pas­sion­ately on be­half of em­brac­ing di­ver­sity of opin­ion.

On July 4th, lusty cheers went up as the pa­rade passed the Chorro en­trance to Mis­sion Plaza. There was Bill Roal­man, arm and arm with the other mem­bers of the City Coun­cil, stand­ing atop an an­tique firetruck.

Tak­ing up the rear were a few peace floats. San Luis Obispo had mirac­u­lously healed it­self. Is that sort of mir­a­cle pos­si­ble to­day on the lo­cal, state and na­tional level? Abra­ham Lincoln said in 1862, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” Please vote for those who would heal our di­vided na­tion.

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