Michael Totten

Yard Signs and Vandalism

My wife asked if it would be okay with me if she put up a John Kerry For President sign in front of our house. Of course, I said. Why should I have a problem with that? She lives here and she’s voting for Kerry.
I told her we ought to put up two yard signs, one for Bush and one for Kerry. It would have been the only way to reflect my position on the presidential race, let alone hers. (This was when I was still undecided.) It’s still kinda sorta true even now that I’ve settled on Bush. I plan to vote a split ticket this year. The Republicans get my White House vote and the Democrats get the rest.
Then she said something that didn’t surprise me one bit: “Whatever we do, we should not put a Bush/Cheney sign out there by itself.”
I didn’t have to ask her why she thought that. We both live in the same neighborhood and we both have eyes. There are no Bush/Cheney signs on anyone’s lawn. Every single last sign is for Kerry. And there is plenty of vandalism and graffitti around. Our corner grocery store had an American flag spray-painted on it. The 50 stars were replaced with a Nazi swastika. The New York Times newspaper box on the corner has “Lies” spray-painted across the front of it. Handbills from the neo-Stalinist International ANSWER have been stapled to telephone polls for years. I saw a poster a few hours ago accusing the United States of genocide. Someone set up an “Impeach Bush” headquarters just down the street. They hung a poster in the window that declares the president is a terrorist. Someone threw a molotov cocktail at a Starbucks.
Don’t get the wrong idea. There is only one neighborhood in the entire city where I would rather live. (That would be NW 23rd, for those of you who know Portland.) My own neighborhood is great. It has everything I want: new and used bookstores, coffeehouses, nice restaurants, microbrew pubs, movie theaters, corner groceries, the whole urban works. Our neighbors are friendly decent people. The staff at the local hangouts know my name and what my “usual” is. But there are just enough jerks around (anarchists, mostly) who think this is Berkeley.
We made the right call when we decided putting a Bush/Cheney sign in the yard would only be asking for trouble. Just now I turned on the local news and saw that the more-conservative neighborhood next to mine (we’re talking a distance of six blocks away) was vandalized last night. Those who put a Bush/Cheney sign in their yard woke up and saw “Fuck Bush” spray-painted in huge white letters on the sides of their cars.
Portland isn’t the only place where this sort of thing is happening. Someone in Madison, Wisconsin had an 8-foot by 8-foot swastika burned into his lawn next to his Bush/Cheney sign. Someone fired shots at a Bush campaign office in Tennessee.
Roger L. Simon has been writing recently about “secret” Bush supporters. Moxie wrote about her experience coming out of the conservative “closet” in Los Angeles.
What a contemptible election season this is. People who live in a democracy aren’t supposed to be afraid of announcing who they will vote for. Radical leftists aren’t the only jerks in the country. Maybe the same sort of thing happens to liberals in conservative cities like Dallas. I don’t know. If so, I haven’t heard about it.
UPDATE: I figured this was going on somewhere. A Democratic Party office in Louisiana was vandalized and torched – twice. Also, an anti-Bush protestor was kicked by a delegate at the Republican National Convention. Nice election we got here.