After some months of absence, I returned to Saturday's peace picket line yesterday. Various ailments had kept me away from a simple matter of standing on a sidewalk for an hour. I remembered and greeted those from my earlier participation, several of whom responded to my brief descriptions (sometimes referred to as "the organ recital") with good-natured comments like, "Oh yeah, I've done that one." It was a camaraderie of the aging. The diminutive Frances Crowe, 90-plus-year-old organizer of the picket, greeted me and accepted my kiss on her cheek. How long has she been doing this? Forty or fifty years ... maybe longer.
But somehow the most consoling participant was a fellow who stood apart from the anti-war, pro-health-care pickets and their signs. I hadn't ever seen him. He stood quietly about 12 feet from the main gathering and had a couple of large, neatly printed placards that were opposed to the peace pickets, referring to them as "deluded" and employing the word "safe" to describe what the nation needed.
I can't remember the precise wording of his signs, but the bottom line was that we, the peace pickets, were full of shit.
He didn't interfere with or try to shout anyone down. He just stood there with his signs and I found I was somehow more grateful to him than I was to those I had joined. Somehow he brought dimension to the peace pickets, much as the peace pickets brought dimension to him. There was no arguing or debate or self-important shouting from either side. We were all in this together, expressing ourselves in the briskness of a Saturday morning as pedestrians and traffic passed us by.
I hope he's there next Saturday.