By Brad Friedman on 5/31/2004, 5:24pm PT  

As we sit outside on Memorial Day, enjoying coffee and wireless net access at a friendly Coffee House (Thanks-a-Latte!) outside of Solvang, California where we've taken a few days respite from the L.A. grind...I've been pondering the interesting ironies of a free choral concert by the Capella of Santa Barbara that we caught last night at the historic Mission Santa In�s nearby.

The mission is celebrating it's 200 year presence here amongst the clear blue skies and rolling tawny vistas of the Santa Ynez mountain valley.

Within 3 minutes drive, one passes from the windmills of the Dutch founded tourist mecca of Solvang, through the Spanish Mission and onto the Chumash Indian reservation (featuring a beautiful sprawling new casino by the way - even if it doesn't feature my favorite game, Pai Gow Poker).

Just a few miles in the other direction towards the sea and through the rolling hills dotted with vineyards in bloom and horse and cattle and ostrich farms is the Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Centuries of American multi-culturalism blended seamlessly into the melting pot that America is supposed to be...all along one 10-mile or so stretch of peaceful central California Gold Country.

The Faux Conservatives in this country love to refer to this state as the Land of Fruits and Nuts. Either because it is, or because California's gone Democrat in Presidential elections ever since the Reagan glory days have faded. Or perhaps because we generally stand as a bellweather state in the forefront of Progressive Governmental Policy in America.

Those same Wingnuts, like the despicable Michael "Hope you get AIDS and die" Savage, love to decry the continuing march towards "Multiculturalism" in this country as somehow anti-American or pro-Terrorist or whatever absurdity du jour they like to use to ridicule the varied people of this country who are simply trying to get along with each other in increasingly crowded quarters.

While enjoying the splendid acoustics and moving performance of near-to-authentic-as-possible religious (and a few traditionally secular) hymns and songs that have found their place here for hundreds of years --- all brought to the area via Mexico and Spain and Russia and by the original native Chumash inhabitants --- one can't help but marvel at the many colors and flavors that have come together to embody the America that most of us live in today.

The Choir's director, apparently a scholar in local culture and religious lore, told the story of how he was recently reading through some of the archives at the Santa Barbara Mission from the early to mid 1800's. He came across a petition presented to the first Public School in Santa Barbara, signed by the parents of the attending children, protesting the newly emerging movement towards Bilingual Education at their school.

In short, they were against it. They didn't want any of their children to be taught classes in English!

A bit of irony there, not lost a bit on the Californicators of all ethnicities in attendance last night. But also one that gave me both hope and pause that this growing movement of hostility towards this newest tinting of the American color as we muddle into the main of the 21st Century, may just be the normal passsing knee-jerks of those reactionaries who have conveniently either forgotten their own past, or who simply wish to horde all the spoils for themselves.

It seems there's little new in the world as far as the intolerance and selfishness of some of those already established in this great country towards the newer or less fortunate arrivals.

But if this small, quiet, peaceful and welcoming stretch of Central California, with several centuries of history to learn from, is any indication then perhaps we indeed shall overcome someday.

Here's hoping your Memorial Day was as peaceful and splendid as ours.