Thursday, October 30, 2008

Small-town Sign-swiping in a Swing State

The topic of conversation during my travels through the Pennsylvania heartland the past couple of days has been the battle of the election lawn signs. This is nothing new. Just my first hand account from the front-lines.

Last night I stayed in the old stone home of a distinguished academia couple situated predominately on the corner of an intersection in the eastern part of Berks County, where only hours earlier some wild maverick had stolen a large Obama-Biden sign. This ad was worth about $60 in plexiglass and was wired and secured near the front door on a tall pole that requires a ladder. The pole was all that was left from a sign that once belonged to one of the state's oldest pubs dating back about two centuries. Sam upped the ante after a couple of smaller lawn signs had disappeared. That night we kept going over it while Sam contemplated whether or not to contact the police. "When I called four years ago, the police just wanted to know why I was voting for Kerry. What's the point." Someone argued because if it's a brick through the window next time there's a record of cause and motive on record. Someone else reasoned that the action could just motivate revenge. By the second Scotch, Sam and I were re-enforcing stereotypes and blaming NASCAR somehow (I was thinking; "while we're in a war over oil, shouldn't NASCAR drivers be carpooling on the racetrack?"). I thought I solved the whole mess the following morning when I spotted a white and blue sign laying on the ground in the distance. But the sign only said "Christmas Trees Sale."

A couple of hours east, a friend drove me through Fort Washington, Pennsylvania siting which lawns had McCain or Obama signs that had recently mysteriously vanished. Some homes quickly replaced them. We passed a mansion with a billboard size lawn sign for McCain. In the car we all shared stories, quoting racial remarks overheard at auto shops and in supermarkets. I had only one incidence. A guy, my age, asked me who I was voting and countered, "Well, you want the White House filled with jiggies? You're gonna wound up with a congress of blacks."

Before I made this trip, my friend from New York City, we'll call him Joe the Dreamer, stayed with me a couple of days to canvas my Pennsylvanian neighborhood back in the east side of the state. I warned him that my next-door hunters would not welcome him and his Vegan ways. To his credit he went door-to-very-far-apart-door using his VW hippie mobile dressed for his last Burning Man trip, walking past many a McCain sign to chat up the locals. He told me he considered it a real success—I'm not sure if this is because I know he had a cold and he told me he shook alot of hands but I considered it a great success that he returned for dinner alive. Or maybe I'm not giving my neighbors or him enough credit.

My friends from Berks County have decided not to contact the police after-all but their mood improved when I said I would write a little something about their theft. For them this is not all about changing anyone's mind but exercising their freedom of speech and continuing to get the word out that this is going on. I'm not convinced. I think deep down people think they can change people. But nobody is "undecided." This election was determined a long time ago, we just haven't counted up the votes. Stating who we are on our lawns just creates a wedge. Am I a horrible person for thinking our society is not mature enough for all of this? The signs don't work. They just make us worse.

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