Yard Sign Vandalism

A few days ago the Washington Post carried an interesting confession by a suburban Mom in Maine.  She admitted and she and two of her friends became so enraged by the presence of a bunch of Donald Trump signs on their street that they went out one night and tore them down.  Unfortunately for them, their act of vandalism was seen by the police, and the next day she received a summons to appear in court, because the owner of the property that displayed the yard signs — who just happened to be the chairman of a Maine PAC supporting Trump — was pressing charges.

trump_yard_signsWhy did the woman suddenly engage in an act of vandalism?  Because she hates Trump, and is angry about his crass comments about women, which remind her of her own experience with a crude boss who propositioned her for sex, and she thought that the number of yard signs supporting Trump were destroying the “equilibrium” of her neighborhood.  She writes that she and her friends “felt assaulted by the number of signs. The idea of “cleansing” our streets seemed like the fastest way to restore balance and alleviate our election stress.”  Now she regrets her conduct and recognizes that she momentarily snapped — and will have to face her day in court.

As the Post article notes, this election is raising temperatures nationwide, and the hard feelings are being acted out through Facebook rants, yard sign thefts, acts of vandalism — all the way up to tossing a bomb into a Trump campaign headquarters.  It’s sad to think that this wretched campaign might bust up friendships or family relationships, and it’s even sadder when suburban Moms decide — even if only momentarily — that they have the right to trample on a neighbor’s exercise of their rights to free speech.  Whatever you might think of Trump, you have to at least acknowledge that his supporters have the right to at least express their opinions, just as you have the right to vehemently disagree with those opinions — and if you don’t acknowledge that reality, then we’re really in the process of losing something fundamental and immensely valuable about America.

But here’s the saddest thing:  the Maine Mom hasn’t even met the man whose yard signs she stole.  She didn’t try to talk to him to tell him how she and her friends felt, and he didn’t try to talk to her before deciding to press charges.  You’d like to think that neighbors could at least talk to each other and try to bridge the gap, before resorting to stealing yard signs on one side and going to court on the other.  Maybe if they’d sat down face to face they might have realized that they were dealing with a human being, acquired an understanding of how the other person felt, and perhaps changed their mind on how to proceed.

But these days, it seems, no one talks anymore, and the first response is to escalate — which is how the courts in Maine are going to be hearing a case involving a suburban Mom who stupidly stole some yard signs because she thinks Donald Trump is a jerk.

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Our Lone Political Sign

IMG_3490I don’t think we’ve ever — ever — put a political sign in our yard.  Usually, Kish and I agree to disagree about individual candidates in significant races, so we don’t have a strong consensus view that would support a bold move like a yard sign.  (Of course, the fact that we live on a cul-de-sac that doesn’t get through traffic probably means that omission hasn’t made a significant difference in the results of any major political races.)

But when the people supporting the fire department and EMS issue asked if we would put a sign out in support of those essential municipal services, it was a no-brainer.  Kish and I might disagree on some things, but supporting the Fire Department and emergency medical services aren’t on that list.

The Local Politics Information Gap

Today was Election Day in Ohio.  In New Albany, we had a very thin ballot:  no state or county issues, a few judicial contests — and races for local offices.

IMG_5340They say all politics is local, and there’s some truth to that.  Decisions made by small-town councils, by school boards, and by other local government instrumentalities can have a profound and immediate impact on you and your neighbors.  Why is it so difficult, then, to get meaningful information about local government races?

For national and statewide races, we’re bombarded with information.  Commercials flood the airwaves.  Fliers are sent in the mail and left under the front doormat.  Reporters and bloggers cover the candidates’ every word for months.  By the time the big day rolls around, voters have experienced total information overload.

For local races, however, the opposite is true.  There are no commercials or door-to-door missives.  There might be a story or two in the local weekly newspaper, and perhaps a candidates’ forum — but who has time to attend one of those?  So you pay particular attention to the views of your neighbors, even to the point of trying to remember which signs are displayed in the yards of neighbors who seem like intelligent, thoughtful people whose judgment you can trust.

I always vote, and today was no exception — but I always feel that my vote on local races is much less informed than my vote on more prominent races, and that bothers me.  I wonder whether this information gap is why so few people vote in “off-year” elections where only local offices are on the ballot.