After work Friday, I put on my ultra-tight 50-year-old army dress uniform, grabbed my furled peace flag and headed for the Blue Line Rapid about 100 yards from my house.
As usual, I stationed myself at the intersection of East Ninth Street and Carnegie Avenue for a little over two hours to greet pedestrians and drivers with my message. Most people ignored me, but at least there were no insults. I offered friendly greetings, saying “Hi!” or “It’s a nice day!” Most everyone agreed, even those who did not like my peace message. Several thanked me for my service.
One man asked me about the peace flag and I explained that when you take the two semaphore symbols for the letters N and D and superimpose them, you get the peace symbol. (N and D stands for nuclear disarmament but the symbol’s use has been broadened over the years since the 1950s to embrace an anti-war sentiment.)
I was able to squeeze in an additional opportunity to promote peace this weekend, thanks to the World Champion Houston Astros being in town to play the Indians in a three-game series that began Friday evening. My venue was the intersection of East Ninth Street and Carnegie Avenue, by Progressive Field, my typical hangout when greeting baseball fans “from both sides of the aisle.” The location is perfect for conveying the peace message to considerable vehicle traffic as well as pedestrian traffic. It was an especially-busy high-traffic evening because the Celtics were in town to play the Cavaliers in their sixth game of the Eastern Conference Finals at the neighboring Quicken Loans Arena.
Today I decided to promote peace in my 50-year-old U.S. Army dress uniform complemented by my peace flag to people going to the annual VegFest presented by the Cleveland Vegan Society and held at the Huntington Convention Center on Lakeside Avenue in downtown Cleveland. I wanted to reach a new audience rather than stand behind the West Side Market, my usual venue for promoting peace on Saturday mornings.
I found out the day before the VegFest that President Donald Trump would be at the neighboring Cleveland Public Auditorium (aka Public Hall) so I planned to eventually make an appearance outside the hall. After standing in front of the convention center for about 10 minutes, a woman walked toward me holding a white cane with its tip scraping the sidewalk. The vision-impaired woman, Sue, walked up to my flag but couldn’t make out the design, although she could discern it was sans stars. She asked about it and I said it was a peace flag. She was happy to hear that and she could see I was in a military uniform.
Sue encouraged me to abandon the convention center, saying I would be “preaching to the choir,” surmising vegans are strongly pro-peace already.
“I know where the Trump supporters are,” she said, referring to people waiting to get into Public Hall to see the president. “Let’s go find them.”
Today marks the the 50th anniversary of the four-hour massacre at My Lai in Quang Ngai Province South Vietnam in which about 115 U.S. Army soldiers in the Americal Division killed 173 children, 56 of them being infants, 182 women, with 17 of them being pregnant. Also slain were 60 older gentlemen.
In last spring’s edition of The Veteran, a publication produced by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Mike Hastie, who was an army medic in Vietnam’s Central Highlands (1970-71) and the son of a career army officer and World War II combat veteran in North Africa, wrote, “our taxes paid for the massacre and our ignorance about the war wrote the check.” (Hastie is a member of Chapter 72 of Veterans for Peace, based at a Portland, Oregon church.)
On Sunday, September 10th, I stood outside FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns, to greet Steelers and Browns fans eager to attend the first game of the regular season. I was impressed with so many people reaching to shake my hand and thank me for my service, as I wore my vintage army dress uniform and held a peace flag. I said to one man, “You would think I was running for office” and he said, “Maybe you should.”