Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Missoula's "Peace" Sign

There was a Letter to the Editor in yesterday's Missoulian written by Tim Marinan that stirred some long forgotten and perhaps repressed childhood memories in me. I had to call my dad last night to confirm these memories but, like most veterans who served Viet Nam, he didn't want to talk about it or how he was treated when he returned. My mom, on the other hand, had to confirm my memories of how my dad was treated when he returned.

I have always been somewhat uncomfortable and conflicted with the "peace" symbol and felt guilty about my feelings. It was a peace symbol for goodness sake. Why did I have negative feelings about this symbol of peace? Was I against peace? Was I a war monger?

Last night, when I read this letter and talked to my parents, it all came back to me and made perfect sense. My five year old eyes saw this symbol of peace spit, mock, insult and swear at my father who was proudly serving his country in defense against the spread of communism. I saw but did not understand at the time the hurt, confusion, and anger in my dad's face.

As I grew older in the early 70's I saw more of this treatment of our returning servicemen in the news. Today, those same people who did this to my dad, Mr. Marinan and others are now claiming to support our troops, but not the war. To me, they are phony and disingenuous.

Mr. Marinan's letter helped me understand my personal feelings toward this symbol. I thank him with all sincerity for writing this letter and, most importantly, for proudly serving his country during the Viet Nam war.

Symbol creates controversy, not unity

I do not understand why the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center wishes to re-establish Missoula's equivalent of the Rebel Flag, the peace sign.

Never has there been one symbol that has divided this community so dramatically. Groups have formed openly and covertly to put it up and take it down. People love it, hate it or just don't understand it.

Its promoters trespassed and defaced private property to create it and maintain it, although not once was anyone proud enough to take credit.

More than likely, it was created out of boredom, a prank, not conviction. Had Grizzly or NASCAR fans been more progressive in the '70s I'm sure a paw or a two-digit number would have made it on the panel first.

In 1973, a group full of hate wearing peace symbols spat and cursed at me. I was in uniform, a two-year drafty on my way home. Imagine how I felt the day that symbol appeared on the hillside.

Some see the peace sign as the icon of an anti-establishment, counter-culture, more interested in personal freedoms than peace - the flag of the young and enlightened of the '60s and '70s, perhaps.

As long as you are preaching to the choir, the support you feel will be overwhelming. What this symbol means to those in your group is not representative enough to become a bold symbol of our community.

Remember the sign, archive it, create a plaque to it, but don't put it back on the hill. Your money and time would be better spent on a more appropriate project, one that promotes peace, not controversy.

Tim Marinan, Missoula


  1. It is an interesting dichotomy. I have the same uncomfortable feelings about the symbol as you appear to. That those who use it don't see the angst it causes reveals much about their claims of tolerance. I'm generally not afflicted with that character trait, if I am offended by something I generally ascribe it to thin skin, or an unnatural concern for the actions of others. Still, whether it be the Rebel Flag or the peace sign, these images do have unintended consequences for those who display them, but that is a price we pay for living in a free society.

  2. Good post by the way. This is why I have really grown to enjoy the Montana Blogoshere. Had you not written about it I would have been completely unaware of the situation, even though I live a mere 3 hours from Missoula.

  3. Steve Saroff3/02/2007 11:20 AM

    The Peace Sign photo at the top of the page is © 2001 from my site. It is ok to have posted here, but people might like to see more of photos of the peace sign too, at

  4. My name is Tim Marinan, the author of the letter you refer to. How you assumed I was in support of the troops and not the war baffles me. I made no such mention in the letter. Read the letter, it speaks for it's self. To refer to me as disingenuous and a phony is an insult. I also wish to clearify that I served in the Viet Nam erea, not in Viet Nam.

  5. so you say at the end of your letter: money would be better spent on projects that promote peace, not controversy. basicly you just said that you like peace but not the sign????? wtf? why do you assume that peace=antiwar? the peace sign represents a worldwide expression of love and repsent and harmaony for everyone, and is a symbol that missoulians apreciate and that brings us together.i dont understand why you base your opinion on only a few people who were once rude to u or your father! talk about stereotype!!!! why not bring back the peace sign? people read to much into its simple meaning, peace. not antiwar, antisoldier, not antiANYTHING! just peace. :)

  6. Apparently not all Missoulians feel the peace sign "is a symbol that missoulians apreciate and that brings us together." Perhaps you could show your "expression of love and repsent and harmaony for everyone" by being tolerant of an differing view held by a fellow Missoulian. Just a thought. I for one am happy to see both sides of the story. Thanks