Sunday, March 18, 2007

A post-peace march encounter with the past

So Portland’s Peace march was bigger than Seattle’s. Who knows, it may have topped San Francisco’s.

Well, never mind. This is not some March Madness peace play-off between cities.

Besides, the evening news tonight is spending more time on a handful of anarchists jousting with police in front of the Justice Center than it is on shots of the winding, quirky, sardonic, bitter march for peace.

And then there was my ride back from the march on the trolley….

An in-your-face guy in his fifties seated across the aisle spots my “Wage Peace” sign and says, “So you’d rather fight them here than over there?”

I’m never good with impromptu retorts, which is probably just as well, but this guy won’t let my silence stand.

“So you’d rather fight them here than over there—and, believe me, we WILL be fighting them here.”


“Serve in ‘Nam?” he asks.


“Did you serve in Vietnam?”

“No,” I say.

“Did you ever serve anywhere?”

“I was in the Peace Corps in Africa for three years helping people,” I offered.

“Some people don’t want help.”

“Well the people I helped sure did.”

“Some people don’t want help,” he repeated.

“The people I helped CERTAINLY did.”

It was his turn for silence.

Two more trolley stops and he got off in stony silence.

They call Portland “weird,” but they don’t know the half of it.

When my antagonist watches the news tonight, will he remember the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer he encountered on the bus, or will he be focused on the hand-cuffed anarchists being carted off by the police?

Or will we be one in the same?

As for me, I wonder what this Vietnam vet went through 40 years ago that delivered him into the hands of George W. Bush, who never served anywhere for this country.

And still doesn’t.

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