Most people of a certain age are familiar with the old saying that goes something like this: “You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.” That philosophy informs my approach in promoting peace while wearing my 51-year-old U.S. Army dress uniform and carrying a peace flag. I am unfailingly friendly, courteous and cheery when greeting people at various venues, most recently over the weekend when the Minnesota Twins were in town for a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians.
Yesterday (Sunday, July 14th) I often said “Good morning” to people heading to Progressive Field for the game and after noon, simply said “Hi” or “It’s a beautiful day.” Many people ignored me, although more women than men responded in kind. (It must be the uniform. In fact, one woman yesterday complimented me on my appearance. I said, “Well, I’m sucking in my gut as we speak. Don’t tell anyone but I really don’t need a belt to hold my pants up.”) One smiling man said, “What’s with the flag?” I said loud enough for others to hear, “I love peace. War? Not so much.” He smiled and a woman a couple of steps behind him loudly said, “I agree!!”
One man approached me and in a rather testy tone of voice said, “Where are the stars?” referring to the navy blue field on the flag adorned with a peace symbol rather than 50 white stars. Looking the gentleman squarely in the eye, I firmly said, “The stars are in hiding. They are ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted with all the death, destruction, instability and chaos we have caused in the Middle East.”
The man seemed a bit stunned by my comment, offering no response. His tone mellowed considerably for the rest of our brief conversation, which essentially focused on how veterans are treated shabbily. One couple who stopped asked about the peace symbol and I explained its origin, that if you superimpose the semaphore letters N and D, you get the peace symbol and that N and D stands for nuclear disarmament, a movement that began in England in the 1950s. semaphore alphabet
I told the couple some folks think my flag “disrespects” or “desecrates” the American flag and I said, as I’ve said before, “I was in Vietnam for a year and from my perspective, it doesn’t disrespect the American flag. It respects peace. People who have not been in a war will never ever, NEVER EVER respect peace to the same degree I do.” The man thanked me for what I was doing.
A couple of days earlier, on Friday, July 12th, as I headed for my ride home on the blue line rapid transit after leaving my post near Progressive Field, I greeted three young women walking toward me and they responded in kind. As they passed by me, one of the women said, “A peace flag!! Can I have my picture taken with you?!” (You know the answer to that question.) One of her friends took the photo, but the third woman stood several feet away, apparently less-than-thrilled with my presence. I gave the two friendly women my Funny Times business card indicating my whimsical job title. (I operate the company’s Gift Shop, so my business card says I am the company’s Chief Shoperating Officer.) I encouraged the women to google what I had written on the back of the card: Pumphrey RNC, to see several photos and some interviews related to the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland in July, 2016.