Political theater par excellence


A day full of protests produces a fair share of ingenuity, creativity, and wit, and I will be posting scenes from the biggest protest of the day – the “RISE Against Bush/SHINE For A Peaceful Tomorrow” anti-war rally and march – soon enough. So stayed tuned. Of the tens of thousands of people who came to voice dissent on this inauguration day, this merry band of pranksters got the gold star.

They were just six people – five wearing sweatshirts announcing “Abu Ghraib Fraternity” and oversized cut-out masks of Bush, his war-happy cabinet members, and his favorite media cheerleader, Rush Limbaugh. The sixth person was dressed up in the familiar black hood and cloak of the Iraqi prisoner whose haunting photograph has come to define the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. They all shook their butts to the raucous soundtrack of Animal House (You know you make me want to shout! Lift my hands up and shout! Throw my hands up and shout!)

Everywhere they went, the troupe made people laugh – including some good-natured GOPers. Here, they set up shop right outside Malcolm X Park, where the permitted anti-war march had kicked off. But I saw them repeatedly downtown, all around the parade route – at MacPherson Square Park, at the public checkpoint on 14 Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and so on.

As I was shooting this photo, Jeff Grubler, a stand-up comic from San Francisco, introduced himself as the founder of the political-theater group, The Ronald Reagan Home for the Criminally Insane. The six Bushie impersonators had trekked down to D.C. all the way from Toledo, Ohio, (they were members of the Toledo League of Pissed Off Voters) just to put on the show. They said nothing for hours, just rocked their booties to the same Animal House tunes.

Limbaugh inspired the skit, according to Grubler, because the right-wing broadcaster was the first to compare what U.S. soldiers did at Abu Ghraib to a “fraternity prank.” Of course, as Grubler said, Rush “might have been on drugs at the time.” But given how the Bush administration has responded to the abuses – as if they’re no big deal – Grubler added, “maybe Rush wasn’t so far off the mark after all.”