My experience promoting peace to Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins fans heading to FirstEnergy Stadium for the Sunday, November 24th game was, as usual, a mixed blessing. While my peace message was mostly supported or at least tolerated, one Browns fan tagged me with a brand new moniker–and it wasn’t pretty. My gig lasted three hours before the 1 p.m. game, ranging roughly from 10:15 to 1:15, with yours truly cheerily greeting folks with a smiling “Good morning!” and once past noon, saying “Hi!” while standing about 100 yards from the southwest gate of the stadium. A few remembered me from earlier games, but a couple of fans noticed I had not been there for the previous game–a Thursday night battle against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which will be remembered eternally for the fight between the Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Ellie, an old fan of me and the Browns, said I had been AWOL before that game. I told her that since the Browns-Steelers contest was a night game, my peace message would not be as visible. Another reason was that I play volleyball Thursday evenings. Many people shook my hand, thanking me for my service. Others gave me a thumbs up. One woman surprised me by running over and giving me a big hug. I kissed her on the right cheek and told her she “made my day”. Two girls who appeared to be in their late teens shook my hand and thanked me for my service. I said, “We should have peace on earth year-round…not just at Christmastime.” Both said, “I agree.” One young man, likely an army veteran since he was familiar with my rank illustrated by the inverted gold v on the sleeves of my 53-year-old field jacket, shouted “PFC”, which stands for Private First Class. Then, quite unexpectedly, he shouted at me “FUCKING TURD!” I immediately fired back sarcastically, “THANK YOU. YOU’RE VERY KIND.” Such stuff comes with the territory. I have offered similar rejoinders to people visiting the West Side Market during a Saturday morning peace vigil who have said I am a “disgrace.” But I’m betting my image and message of a Vietnam veteran carrying a peace flag will not be forgotten soon by aggrieved parties. While walking back to Tower City to catch a Blue Line RTA train home, I encountered a black homeless panhandler who I had given a few dollars to on an earlier occasion. He remembered me. A nearby white man was being rude and insulting to the gentleman and I said to the cracker, “And you call yourself a Christian?” He said, “I’m not a Christian.” I said, “Maybe you should act like one.” He turned and walked away as I gave my homeless friend–perhaps a fellow Vietnam veteran–a couple of dollars. I sometimes say to myself in the wake of meeting Vietnam vets who have fallen on hard times: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”