Peace “smacked a double” over the weekend, with “first base” being the Parade the Circle event behind The Cleveland Museum of Art yesterday and “second base” being the afternoon game today between the Cleveland Guardians and reigning World Series champion Houston Astros. (The Guardians won 5-0.) It was the first time Parade the Circle was held since 2020. I was admittedly a little nervous before heading out onto Wade Oval in uniform and carrying my peace flag– perhaps because It had been a few years since my last appearance. I never know if some malcontent upset with my message is going to throw insults or perhaps even a fist at me.
My trepidation quickly evaporated shortly after I began my walk, however, when a smiling gentleman said he saw me at the Blossom Festival Parade in Chagrin Falls the day before Memorial Day a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned to him that a parade official tried to kick me out of the event because I was not on the roster of parade participants but when I told the official to summon a policeman so we could discuss my First Amendment right of freedom of speech, he quickly disappeared. The gentleman smiled at my reminiscence about the confrontation. A few other people mentioned seeing me in Chagrin Falls and one woman said she sees me “everywhere. I go to all of the parades.” When I said I was in the Shaker Heights Memorial Day Parade, she said she had attended the parade in neighboring University Heights instead.
It was a nice surprise to see old friend Angelo, who I normally see behind the West Side Market selling copies of the “Street Chronicle,” formerly known as the “Homeless Grapevine”. When I saw him I said, “Angelo!! Glad to see you’re still above the grass.” (Whenever I saw Angelo behind the WSM and asked how he was doing, he would always say “Any day above the grass is a good day.”) After our chat yesterday, I patted him on his left shoulder as I started to walk away and said, “Keep staying above the grass!”
Another pleasant surprise was to see and talk a few minutes with fellow volleyballer Mark Bellini, who used to play in games with me in South Euclid. Along the route, several people took my photo, some wanting to be in a photo taken by a friend or family member. Such was the case when a young Vietnamese woman–perhaps just a teenager–took my photo with her Vietnamese friend or maybe an older sister. One woman asked if I was going to be in the parade and I said I was not and that I didn’t want to as my peace message would be overshadowed by the colorful, creative, extravagant costumes in the parade. I said, “I’m just a one-man parade.” (I had started my walk about an hour before the launch of Parade the Circle, which began shortly after noon.)
Toward the end of my walk I stopped to chat for a few minutes with two women flanking a man wearing a black tee shirt with white lettering that read “Free Palestine ”. They were sitting in the shade of a tree. I talked a bit about my experience during the Vietnam War and transition into the peace movement. I compared Palestine and Israel as the reverse of the biblical tale of David and Goliath, with David as Palestine and Israel being Goliath, with the behemoth abusing its power to the lethal detriment of so many Palestinians. One of the women appreciating my comparison told me, “We’re Jewish.” I said, “Anyone with critical thinking skills has to come down on the side of Palestine.” One woman who remembered my appearance in previous Parade the Circle events over the years appreciated my presence yesterday. I said to her, “We need much more peace, civility, tolerance, mutual respect and compassion in our society. Those qualities have eroded in recent years.” She added “kindness” to my list of societal needs.
Peace reached “second base” today greeting folks heading to the Guardians-Astros game. A few people liked my flag and I said, “I wish everyone did.” Many people ignored my cheery greeting, which was not unusual. One middle-aged man, however, was hugely appreciative of my presence and agreed wholeheartedly with my observation, said many times before, to wit: “When people thank me for serving my country, I say ‘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 ravaged and savaged by war.”