I have to admit, this pro-peace/anti-war enterprise I initiated some dozen years ago can get a little depressing and discouraging, especially in the wake of unpleasant experiences with people who do not like what they see. Friday and Saturday were troubling, making me question whether I should be doing this. Am I doing the right thing? Should I keep doing it or simply forget about it? But then I figured, if I stop doing what I do, I am simply placing myself in the company of millions of Americans who have no concern for the billions upon billions of dollars being squandered on unnecessary, un-winnable wars in the Middle East and feel absolutely no sadness nor remorse over what we have done to the hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern men, women and children blown to bloody bits and burned to death by OUR weapons of mass destruction. I do NOT want to be a member of that crowd, thank you very much, so I have to push on.
The old saying “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” came to mind today as I stood on a grassy median near the front of the staging area for Lakewood’s annual Fourth of July Parade on Lake Avenue.
Here’s my plan that went awry, but first a little history. Several years ago, while standing on the median with my furled peace flag, a Vietnam veteran invited me to be part of the color guard at the front of the parade. I politely declined, noting I was carrying a peace flag. He was not happy to hear that, saying, “If you’re in uniform, you shouldn’t be carrying a peace flag.” I said nothing, but he ended his comment on a friendly note, thanking me for my service.
Today the idea came to mind to stand near the color guard and see if anyone would invite me to take part. Although some of those who would be in the vanguard of the parade noticed me, no offer was forthcoming. A Lakewood policeman was talking with some of the color guard, who were wearing camouflage uniforms. The officer may have remembered me from previous years and told the gentlemen that I had a peace flag. Hence, no invitation.
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.”