Lou stuns a peace sympathizer with his rationale as to why a peace symbol is on his red-and-white-striped American peace flag, rather than stars, and a few days later tells some Boston Red Sox fans why his flag does not disrespect nor desecrate the American flag.
On Wednesday, August 7th, members of the Cleveland Orchestra performed near Mall B in downtown Cleveland, its 30th annual Spar-Spangled Spectacular. The event, normally on or near Independence Day, was delayed a month due to various activities preceding Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game held at Progressive Field on July 9th.As I did last year, I arrived at the grassy slope populated by concert goers about two hours before the 9 p.m. concert, to promote peace.
A smiling Sheriff’s deputy walked up and shook my hand and I said, “Nice evening,” as the weather was perfect after rain earlier in the day. Security was obvious at the venue, as the concert was held a few days after shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio killed more than 30 people.
During my conversation with one woman sympathetic with my message, I told her of an earlier conversation before an Indians game with a man who questioned me as to why stars are not on the flag. I said to the woman, “The stars are in hiding. They are ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted with all the death, destruction and instability we have caused in the Middle East.” The woman was stunned, but smiled in appreciation of my explanation.
As I walked near a group of about four people of a certain age, one woman said she had a brother who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War on the since-decommissioned USS Enterprise, the nation’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship was stationed off the coast of South Vietnam. She had another brother who was a Marine serving in country. He was severely wounded, losing an eye and one of his lungs. She said he also had been exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange, dying a few years ago from a massive heart attack. She wholeheartedly agreed with my observation that “We were sent to Vietnam to kill communists and now Vietnam, a communist country, is our ally against China. All those lives wasted. Well, there is lots of money in war.”
A man and his wife from Toronto asked to take my photo. He is originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia. In our conversation I noted that when my wife was alive our family vacationed in the Muskoka Lakes region of Ontario, staying at Windermere House on Lake Rosseau. Turns out the couple had also vacationed at the resort. (In he ’70s and ’80s my family stayed in the original Windermere House, built in the 1880s, but it burned to the ground several years ago. A new Windermere House was built, replicating the original architecture.)
Another man–Mike–a history teacher, took my photo with his young son, Grant, standing next to me. Gus Chan, a photographer for cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer also took my photo and it appeared on the front page of the newspaper the next day. Another photographer, who worked for the Cleveland Orchestra, also took my photo but I mentioned it might wind up “on the cutting room floor.” He echoed my guess and sure enough, the photo was not posted on the orchestra’s website. No surprise there, as some of the orchestra’s deep-pocketed corporate and individual supporters would no doubt be offended by my political statement.
On Tuesday I stood near the East Ninth Street-Carnegie Avenue intersection, greeting people going to the Indians-Red Sox game. I always say something non-political in greeting folks, letting my flag and uniform make a political statement. I had something in common to talk about with Red Sox fans as my daughter DeeDee (Dorothy, named after my paternal grandmother) lives in East Boston but works in Boston’s oldest neighborhood, Charlestown, where she manages the Whole Foods Market store.)
I told the group I was “promoting peace. We need much more peace, civility, tolerance, mutual respect and compassion in our society.” One of the women nodded in agreement, but the two gentlemen were silent and I could tell from their body language and stern facial expressions they were not happy with my presence, so I provided my defense of the peace flag, saying, “Some people think my flag disrespects or desecrates the American flag but I say to them, ‘Well, I have a different perspective. I was in Vietnam for a year and from my perspective, the flag does not disrespect the American flag. It respects peace. People who have not been in a war can never, NEVER EVER, respect peace to the same degree I do. It just can’t happen. Not come even close.” The gentlemen apparently were impressed with my explanation, both reaching out to shake my hand.