Despite a forecast for rain and a mostly-cloudy sky, I decided to head downtown via the Blue Line rapid transit in my 53-year-old ultra-tight U.S. Army dress uniform Friday evening (July 2nd) complemented by my furled peace flag, with only the red-and-white stripes showing. The Houston Astros were in town to play the Indians. There was a smattering of rain on the way downtown and at my traditional post at the northwest corner of the Carnegie Avenue and East Ninth Street intersection. I put up with a much heavier rain a little over two years ago during the yearly Blossom Festival Parade in Chagrin Falls on Memorial Day weekend. Fortunately, the polyester-wool blend material used to make the uniform does not shrink. If it was made of cotton fabric, that would be a problem. In short order, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. I had unfurled my peace flag about a half-hour earlier shortly after stepping outside the old Higbee Department Store building.
A few couples stopped to ask what I was up to and I gave them my common response: “I’m here to promote peace. We need much more peace, civility, tolerance, mutual respect and compassion in our society–and in the world. I’m trying to get across the idea that some war veterans are pro-peace.” After saying that to the second couple, I volunteered a few other thoughts from conversations in earlier years with people having a different point of view. To one couple I said, “Some people have said to me, ‘Where are the stars? There are supposed to be stars on that flag.” And I said to the couple, “My response was to say ‘The stars are in hiding. They are ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted with all the death, destruction and instability and chaos we have caused in the Middle East.'” I added, “Some people have said, ‘We have to have war before we have peace’ and my reply was, ‘If we never had war, wouldn’t we always have peace?'” The couple laughed heartily at that riposte.
When a third couple stopped by to chat, I added after repeating my mantra, “When people say to me ‘Thank you for serving our country’ I think to myself, ‘I didn’t serve my country. I served deceitful, lying, fear-montering, war-mongering politicians and their war-profiteering bed partners. Those truly serving our country are the medics, nurses, doctors and mental-health professionals who work very, very hard to mend as best they can the psyches and bodies of those savaged and ravaged by war.'”
Over the years a couple of people have said my flag disrespects and desecrates the American flag. I told one couple my response to those claims is, “Well, I have a different perspective . 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–never experienced the bitter taste of war–can never respect peace to the same degree I do. It just can’t happen. Impossible.”
One man walking toward me with his fist raised to give me a fist bump said, “I’m a jarhead,” meaning he’s a Marine. As he walked away, I shouted “Semper Fi!! Hoorah!! (I have encountered a few rather-annoyed Marines in previous years who would LOVE to give me a fist bump to my chin. Well, actually something much stronger than a “bump.”)
One gentleman mentioned Veterans for Peace, of which I am a member, and said, “No one should be president unless he has served.” (I’m not sure what effect being a veteran would have on decisions regarding war and peace. After all, President Lyndon B. Johnson, who escalated the war in Vietnam, and President Richard M. Nixon, who continued the war, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. President Harry S. Truman was a U.S. Army artillery captain in World War I, yet he authorized the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed an estimated combined total of 214,000 Japanese civilians.)
At any rate, after the gentleman mentioned Veterans for Peace, I said, “I’d like to see a Veteran for Peace as president.” Yeah, like that’s going to happen.