“May you live in interesting times” is an age-old expression erroneously claimed to be a Chinese “curse”. It is said with the intent of wishing misfortune on someone. I felt like the target of the “curse” today, before the beginning of the 76th annual One World Day parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive near University Circle. The motto for the event is “Peace Through Mutual Understanding.”
As usual, I took part in the highlight of the day, a parade populated by people representing a wide array of nationalities and dressed in colorful native finery with one person carrying a green and white sign indicating the country they were representing. And as usual, this Vietnam War veteran walked behind the Vietnamese contingent in my 54-year-old U.S. Army Class A dress uniform complemented by my peace flag.
While standing in the shade before the parade started, a man walked up to me and in a rather indignant tone of voice took issue with me carrying a peace flag. I said, “Why? I’m promoting peace. I like peace more than war.” He felt I was insulting those who “served our country.” I said, “When people tell me ‘Thank you for serving our country’ I say, ‘I didn’t serve my country. I served deceitful, lying, fear-mongering, war-mongering politicians and their war-profiteering bed partners. “What did the war in Vietnam accomplish? Lots of death and destruction.”
The man, who said he served in Iraq, soon had his fill and walked away in disgust. I shouted, “I’m a Christian first and an American second—a follower of the Prince of Peace.” He retorted, “I’m an American.” After I noted that I had been drafted into the army he proudly said, “I enlisted!” I thought to myself, “Why?”
His lady friend stayed to talk a few more minutes, also not too happy with my presence. When I told her I’m promoting peace she disagreed, saying “You’re promoting hippies.” That surprised me, and I told her hippies were for peace. She then said “Hippies don’t believe in God” and I said “Many atheists are pro-peace.” The woman is a native of the former Yugoslavia and as we talked, her comments became more congenial. She noted the divisiveness in our country and said, “People should come together to find common ground.” I agreed, of course. As she started to walk away, the woman said, “It was nice chatting with you. God bless you.” I said, “You, too.”
“Peace through mutual understanding.”