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Driving around town has been a little dispiriting lately. The reason sounds a little silly: it’s those signs. You know, the red yard signs that proclaim TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY IN NOVEMBER.

These signs are clearly linked to Republicans—they’re invariably planted next to signs for Romney/Ryan, Justin Amash, and other conservative candidates—although I’m not sure if they’re part of any specific candidate’s campaign. But I do know that they seem to be everywhere. I pass several of them every day in the last half-mile of my drive home from work, and every day it makes me feel just a little bit tired and sad.

I find the message behind these signs depressing. “Take back our country”? Do the people who plant these signs really think they’re living in a country occupied by some enemy force? Apparently, the president wasn’t elected by fellow Americans in the usual democratic process; he (and those who voted for him) “took over.” Obama and his supporters aren’t human beings to argue with or campaign against; they’re enemies to be purged.

Who is this sign even talking to? Certainly not to Obama voters—they aren’t to be reasoned with; they’re to be overthrown by the “real” Americans.

And then there’s the obvious, uncomfortable racist undercurrent of this message, especially when it’s planted proudly on lawns in a predominately white city.

It makes me depressed just driving by these things.

Every election cycle, Americans seem to agree on at least one thing: politics is too nasty, too divisive, too graceless, too mean-spirited. Well, here’s one very simple, concrete way you can tone down the vitriol of this election cycle: step outside. Walk out to your yard. It’s fine to leave that Romney/Ryan sign up, or the Justin Amash one, or the Pete Hoekstra one.

But take down the one that says I HATE YOU.

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4 Comments

  1. Ed Heil says:

    Great post, Andy.

  2. bcp says:

    Andy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It was an eye-opening post, and has been a good conversation topic for us.

    I haven’t seen that particular sign around here, and it’s not a slogan I would choose. But my first impressions of the slogan are vastly different from the sentiments you portray of those who have the signs. Obviously, everyone brings their own set of experiences, values, and circumstances to bear when making a judgement about something such as a political sign.

    Can I offer a slightly different perspective on what those home owners might possibly have in mind? Perhaps they simply mean they feel their elected officials are not representing their views, and they want like-minded people to vote for people who do. Nothing more.

    Could that be expressed in a more positive tone? Absolutely. As could President Obama’s ad that ends with, “Mitt Romney. He’s Not One of Us.” (Who is that ad addressed to? Who is the “us?” Is Romney not a real American?) But I honestly don’t believe the sign owners think our country has been occupied by an enemy force, or that President Obama wasn’t elected in the usual democratic process.

    I am a bit baffled as to how the signs can be seen as anything resembling racism. Perhaps I’m naive about methods for expressing racism. Was it racist when the same slogan was used against President Bush, or by many other campaigns in the past? This slogan has been used by the out-of-power party for many, many elections. It’s not new this year. Even the “99%” used it in Occupy Wall Street as a rally cry to oust both Republicans and Democrats. 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing, Andy. This was a great reminder for me about the dangers of rhetoric and the need for civility. While we may be voting for different people on Tuesday, you can rest assured I don’t hate you. I’m sure you’re relieved.

  3. Andy says:

    Hey BCP!

    Thanks for your gracious comment. I’ve been thinking through a reply, but I hope you will forgive me if I cop out and defer this conversation to a time we can chat in person. My brain is about to explode with election-related excitement/stress and I don’t think I will make it through a proper response.

    I appreciate your thoughts though. Although it’s a little alarming to hear that my little rant triggered actual thoughtful discussion 🙂

  4. bcp says:

    Andy, that’s perfectly reasonable and wise. I look forward to continuing the discussion in person someday soon! Until then, keep the thoughtful rants coming. 🙂

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