About those yard signs

During my daily run through the rural community where I live, I’ve noticed a sudden influx of political yard signs, as well as flags bearing political campaign slogans, almost entirely of one political persuasion and in support of a single political candidate.

In any given election year I am a proponent of political action and involvement. I do not shy away from discussion of such matters, and I know political yard signs and campaign slogans come with the territory. In my own political activity, I have often been a proponent of making sure my candidates’ signs are plentiful and visible. I have erected signs in my own yard during the last few weeks preceding election day in November. I am wholly in support of the political process and political messaging. Voters are best able to make informed choices if they know the names of their candidates and the platforms on which those candidates will base their policies if elected.

This year I have a very different feeling about the yard signs and the flags with campaign slogans. This year they fill me with emotions. Sometimes they even threaten to ruin the meditative spirit of my morning run. I’d like to say I am not affected by them, but the truth is I am.

This morning I ran by a truck flying a large flag from its bed in support of that same political candidate with a campaign slogan that suggested the candidate will “make [people with political views like mine] cry again.” It was a hateful message.

On this same day, I followed a thread on social media between a friend and a friend of a friend, where the friend of a friend said, and I quote, “I love to irritate [people with political views like mine].” He was justifying why he had jumped into the political conversation. It was the same hateful message.

Yesterday another friend shared an email (accidentally sent to the friend) from the candidate’s campaign itself that bragged, “[People with political views like mine] hate what we’re doing!” Again, the same hateful message.

A couple weeks ago, I saw a video of a known supporter of this same candidate claim, in front of a crowd, that “the only good [person with political views like mine] is a dead [person with political views like mine.” Yet another blatant message of hate.

When I see political yard signs supporting that candidate, I see a clear symbol of hate. They are disturbing to the point of physical discomfort. I have never had this experience before, where a particular political yard sign evokes such an autonomic response. But in this time, during a deadly pandemic and after the tragic murder of George Floyd, when much of our nation is grieving, it bothers me profoundly that a major political candidate is campaigning on a clear message of hate, and that people on my running route are choosing this time to propagate that message of hate.

I don’t know if I want to put up a political sign in my yard this year. I think those signs of hate are enough. Every time I see one, I am that much more inspired to support the other candidate and encourage everyone I know to do so as well.

I hope those signs of hate serve to inspire people everywhere to vote hate away in November.

James Tatum Gale

About James Tatum Gale

I have been a teacher in Maine schools for twelve years, and a writer and musician since childhood. I acquired a Master's degree in Teaching from USM, and a Certificate in Math Leadership from UMF. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy with a concentration in Comparative Religion from the University of Maine (1994). I live with my wife, Erin, and my dog, Sally, in Bowdoinham.