I was there outside Progressive Field in my vintage U.S. Army duds and a peace flag for a historic first. The Guardians’ played their first home game, minus the annual protests against a team playing under racist stereotypes. A great day for Cleveland indeed!
A young man, miffed about my appearance and noting his grandfather, a Korean War veteran, recently died, said, “Do you love our country?” I said, “Of course. You need to make a distinction between our country and our government. I love my country but I’m not too crazy about some of the things our government has done.” He said nothing, but I know I gave him something to think about. The young man’s father said nothing. I noted that George Washington, in his Farewell Address, cautioned our fledgling republic about getting involved in “foreign entanglements”. The young man’s mom said, “We have to defend ourselves.” The family wanted to progress into Progressive Field, so I didn’t have time to point out that neither Afghanistan or Iraq posed any threat to our safety, security or freedoms. (And I might add, neither did the Viet Cong nor the North Vietnamese Army.)
At the other end of the war-and-peace continuum, I did have a pleasant chat with gentlemen identifying themselves as John and Joe. John was curious about the six medals pinned over the left breast pocket of my U.S. Army field jacket issued to me at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in the fall of 1966. I said, “See this crimson-and-white-striped ribbon? It’s called a Good Conduct Medal. Only the army would give me a medal for behaving myself.” Joe noted “globalists” and “elitists” are calling the shots when it comes to war, leaving us ordinary folks in the dust. I said, “When people thank me for serving our country, I say, ‘I appreciate the thought, but I didn’t serve my country. I served deceitful, lying, fear-mongering, war-mongering politicians and their war-profiteering bed partners. Those truly serving our country are 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.” (I was reminded of President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the growing influence of the “military-industrial complex”, made during his January, 1961 Farewell Address.)
I was pleasantly surprised when a woman approached me, introduced herself as Susan, and said, “I know you from St. Augustine.” I said, “The St. Augustine Hunger Center?” She said, “Yes. We volunteered on Easter.” Susan did look familiar, but it was a few years ago that we were Easter volunteers, before the pandemic. I told her I used to volunteer at the hunger center for several years on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter but now that I’m retired, I volunteer three days a week. She said, “Good for you,” then asked her husband to take our picture.
About two hours later, just before the Guardians-Giants game began, a woman in the stadium sang the Star Spangled Banner and a formation of military jets flew over the sold-out crowd. As the jets roared off into the distance, I said to myself, “Spare me the bullshit.”