This is a morality tale, of sorts.

San Luis Obispo is a town of about 44,000 tucked away at the foot of the Santa Lucia Range. It has one of the finer universities in

the California State Univrsity system and no "big box stores." Its downtown is still viable and safe to walk at night. The crime level is low and the weather clement year-round. If it has a flaw, it's a shortage of affordable housing. Because of the student population

and retirees wanting to live there, the average house goes for over $350,000.

About a month ago, the City Council of this idyllic town voted for a resolution against the U.S. starting a "pre-emptive, unilateral" war against Iraq.

This is the kind of resolution which would not cause a ripple in Berkeley, but it raised a hornet's nest in SLO.

The town is pretty much middle-of-the-road, with a registration which slightly favors the Democrats. But it's also the home of many retired military men. The camp for the California National Guard used to be right

outside town and is now about an hour's drive north up U.S. 101 at Camp Roberts. Fort

Hunter Liggett Military Reservation is just a little farther. A lot of military men have passed through SLO during America's wars, and many returned with their families to retire here.

The Council resolution was like waving a red flag in front of a bull to them as well as to those who believe "my country right or wrong" or think city councils should stick to fixing potholes, not get into international politics.

The local daily newspaper filled with letters against the resolution, then letters in support. In the process, what the resolution really said sort of got lost. It was not anti-war or anti- military, its author tried to explain in one of the letters, but against striking first (pre-emptive) and without U.N. support (unilateral). But his explanation was like whistling into a Force 10 gale. He was called unpatriotic, a pinko (where have we heard that word before?), anti-military and unAmerican.

A petition was circulated to have the

resolution overturned. Pressure was applied to the four Council persons who voted for the resolution. The quartet were also deemed anti-military, pinko, etc. etc. Thus far, the Council has not reconsidered the resolution and there's talk of recalls.

One thing is apparent.

Even after Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. there are people across the U.S. who are unconvinced that Saddam Hussein

represents a threat to our country. They suspect Bush II is trying to finish what Bush I started or maybe distract the country from the economy. They want a smoking gun. And if Hussein supports Al-Queda, what about the Saudis--who are supposed to be our allies, after all? (The 9/11 bombers were Saudi

nationals supported by Saudi money.)

The anti-resolution folks claim they're

convinced Hussein has "weapons of mass

destruction" and that he must be taken down-- with or without the help of France and Germany.

So the arguments and letters continue. San Luis Obispo and its surrounding communities remain divided. And the little piece of California which we call Paradise has a serpent in it.