Austin, Texas -- Waving a french flag hasn't been a revolutionary act in over 200 years, but today on the steps of what was once George W's capitol, the tricolour is a peace flag deep in the land of war. I'm on the same front steps of the enormous Texas capitol -- bigger than Washington's -- that sat empty on TV screens for days in 2000 when Bush's hometown inauguration party was delayed due to Floridagate. But this Saturday I'm in the middle of 10,000 people, all marching for peace.
I've been coming to Austin long enough not to be surprised by this oasis of liberalism in the Lethal Injection State. When I hopped a cab yesterday on the way to the South By Southwest Music Festival, the driver, a 60-something good ol' boy, declared in his friendly drawl, "Who ever woulda thought Baby Bush could be stupid enough to lose a PR war to Saddam Hussein?"
Based on the TV here, the war has already started. While most Canadians can pick up CNN, its ultra-right-wing rival, Fox News, and its imitators make Ted Turner's invention look like PBS. Americans are offered hundreds of commentators all day long, but only one viewpoint.
The war drums beat loudly on TV, but as we head down Congress Street the only drums are pounded by neo-hippies as most cars honk their support. "Demand french fries" declares one sign, while in other parts of Texas fast food taters are being renamed freedom fries and French-owned homes have been vandalized.
As the march rolls past Hooters, décolletage-loving diners shift uneasily on the terrace and refuse to return flashed peace signs. Unblinking kids stare back at us above a sign that announces, "Kids eat free at Hooters on Saturday." A 12-year-old looking eerily like Elizabeth Smart -- the only other news story in America -- wears a pro-Jesus message on the front of her T-shirt. On the back, her top bizarrely asks, "Is he in you?"
There aren't a lot of SXSW conference badges in the demo crowd -- too much barbecue, free beer and bands. This morning during the festival, lug-eared lothario Lyle Lovett told a keynote conference panel tales of dinner with his buddies the Bushes and announced that the president is making the right choice, to a small smattering of applause.
As SXSW winds down that night, Quebecois lead singer Tim Fletcher of Montreal buzz band the Stills slyly tells the the Texas crowd that he's a Freedom-Canadian.