Is a familiar salute giving us new directions?
My behavior was more of an instinctive response than a conscious and deliberate act. The guy in the SUV with Texas tags offered me the universally recognized hand gesture and I responded in kind. It was only after my response that his passenger, a young boy, issued an identical hand sign in my direction.The Lone Star State driver’s behavior was a response to my style of driving. I wasn’t intimidated by his SUV large enough to grow crops in. It is simply my practice and nature to be a nonaggressive vehicle operator. Certainly if size matters, he had me outgunned. I was driving my buddy’s vintage VW bug, and he was piloting the only passenger car that is large enough to be seen from outer space.We approached the intersection at roughly the same time. I might have arrived there slightly ahead of him. Technically, I had the right of way, but I was in no hurry.
I motioned him through for two reasons. The first reason being that in many Texas counties, the right of way is established by who is wearing the largest belt buckle. The second was I was still trying to figure out the clutch peculiarities of my pal’s ancient bug.As he maneuvered his lumbering behemoth complete with roof racks, welded grill guards, a “support our troops” ribbon and two America flag window decals, his open window passed within 5 feet of mine. He looked down at me, we made eye contact, he gestured, I responded and we drove in opposite directions. I looked in the mirror and saw his young passenger’s arm extended and making a gesture identical to the driver; before I knew what was happening I returned the compliment.As I drove away, it dawned on me. Those were the first two peace signs I had given in 30 years.Even in the ’60s and ’70s, I never was a peace-sign type of guy. I favored the raised fist “power to the people” gesture. Though I’ve always had respect for the hippie philosophy (especially the free love part), I never considered myself one.
Also, I was of the mind that the notion of peace is too important and profound to be represented by waving two fingers in the air or to be trivialized by popular culture. Of late, I’ve been seeing more peace salutations as closings in letters and in simple greetings, in the place of “take it easy,” “take care,” “cheers,” “don’t let your meat loaf.”Up to the point of my encounter with the Texan, I’d refrained from following suit. Since then, it seems so natural and needed. Perhaps it is due to beetle-sitting my buddy’s 1974 bug (he left it in my care for nine months) but it seems everywhere I go, people are flashing me the peace sign. I guess in these troubling times, peace is back in style.I think it is safe to say everyone wants peace, even those who are trying to kill each other. I also think it is safe to say that the people who are trying to kill each other want peace more than the people who are sending them out to try to kill each other. My mother, when arguing for the logic of electing more female politicians, would say women are less likely to send troops to war because on some level they would consider every boy their son. (I never had the heart to bring up the names Golda Meir, Queen Victoria or Margaret Thatcher.)
Those tough gals aside, I think most would agree that women tend to be less war-like than men, politicians more hawkish than generals and soldiers are the most peace loving of all. I guess the closer proximity you get to battle, the more clearly you realize that truly, war is hell.I don’t think for a minute that the conservatives have the market cornered on patriotism or that we liberals are the only ones who desire peace. In truth, both sides feel much the same way about those two concepts, but with different opinions on how to achieve them. It is a shame that the American flag and the peace sign are perceived to be on opposite sides of a political fence. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. If you don’t believe me, borrow a 1974 VW Bug …Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA radio and read in several mountain publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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