Politics and Culture in the Comic Zone

Daniel Rigney

Daniel Rigney
New Texas, USA
August 01
free-range writer
In this writing workshop and citizen's blog I'm exploring various short forms, often from a satiric angle. My interests include politics, culture and the human comedy; old and new media; social theory and urban life; the commercialization, corporatization and tabloidization of everything; sustainability; Unitarianism (UU); coffee; and writing (sorry, I mean providing content). Turtle stamp is from Tandy Leather. Interested in republishing a piece? Contact drigney3@gmail.com.


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OCTOBER 23, 2012 12:34PM

Democracy in Texas

Rate: 21 Flag

By Daniel Rigney

I see in the news that some lost soul in Lubbock, Texas recently shot more than twenty bullet holes into an Obama yard sign. Hundreds of other political signs in Lubbock, a stronghold of Texas conservatism, have been stolen or vandalized with racist messages during the current political season.

Today’s story called to mind a time four years ago when the Obama sign in our front yard was stolen in San Antonio. A few days later, according to a local news report, a slew of other Democratic signs were found dumped in a nearby park. Ours may have been among them.

I spoke afterward about the theft with an old right-wing crank (call him “Ichabod”) who lived nearby. He allowed as how “boys will be boys.” I suggested that these “boys” be advised to read the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. While the words “yard” and
“sign” are found nowhere in the amendment, it protects these nonetheless as a form of peaceable  expression, if I understand the founders’ intent correctly.


Now we live in Houston. Last week a local television reporter came by to investigate a rash of sign-pilferings in our neighborhood, including theft of one sign belonging to an Obama supporter whose home security camera had caught the scofflaw committing the act in broad moonlight.

A local reporter dubbed the rash of neighborhood thefts “Signgate.”

Fortunately, our own Obama sign remains mercifully unmolested at this writing. (Wait, let me check and make sure. Okay, I’m back. There’s proof, through the night, that our sign is still there.)

More disturbingly, though, we and other Obama supporters in the area have been receiving hate letters from some anonymous source. A letter we received reads, in part (in screaming italic caps):

MICHELLE:  PACK YOUR BAGS AND GO BACK TO THE CHICAGO MAFIA … Stupid is, as stupid does  These two morons are so clueless they can’t possibly be Americans’ ” [sic punctuation]

 The gist of the letter, colorfully illustrated, is that Mr. Obama is a wimp, in contrast to past Republican presidents (including George W. Bush, pictured virilely in the letter) who were manly men.


Meanwhile, I’ve received four hate e-mails, seemingly from a different source, and sent to me under the apparent misapprehension that I’m a black clergyman. [I had signed up and attended the NAACP national convention in Houston several weeks earlier and had blogged about it.] Someone identified only as “Moderator” has been writing to inform me (as a presumed black minister) that, among other factoids, Barack Obama is the illegitimate son of Malcolm X.  

As Johnny Carson might have said, “I did not know that.”  The more I listen to the right, the more I learn about our country.


But hey. What’s a little sign stealing and hate mail among American citizens? Patriots will be Patriots, and Texans will be Texans. These are signs of the times, and the times are mean and ornery.

My main concern, though, is that if political hostilities go much beyond this level of petty crime and posted malice (as has sometimes happened in other parts of the country this year), then what's left of our democratic republic will be lost.  

Pray for our civic soul.

 P.S.: We just voted.







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Since you didn't put "comedy" in your Tags this time...you're not taking this lightly. We can do without Signs on our lawns - if it comes to that. But just don't tell OS'ers WHO you voted for today...we're all varmints of the worst kind! R
Thanks as always, Marilyn. I just hope my sense of humor survives this political season. Laughter is among our most precious freedoms. When that goes, our country and the world become a much grimmer place.
Well at least Rick Perry won't be needing to get all those dead people in the Rio Grande Valley to get out of their graves to go vote... that was always messy when LBJ did that sort of thing... Just teasin' R&R ;-)
Texas has all the signs of being another Tennessee. As for this:

There’s proof, through the night, that our sign is still there

Clever, and thanks for the laugh. But in truth. there is nothing funny about the prevalence or malevolence of racial hatred in America.
Thanks, guys. Jmac, I'm watching Ohio with interest. It's about geting out the votes of the living. And Tom, I couldn't agree more about racial violence. Tennessee and Texas are probably not too far apart on that score. I'd never take that topic lightly, and sorry if I conveyed a different impression.
all you can do with someone whose political statement is theft is be glad you are on the other side. I plan on standing in the line that doesn't include Limbaugh, Beck, Aisles, Addelman, Trump, Murdoch come the Last Judgment. You'll find out who stole the sign there.
Sad to say that I'm not surprised - I keep pretty quiet about my political leanings, although I am lucky enough to live in one of the more liberal neighborhoods.
Well done. As a fellow Texan, I'm not at all surprised. It's becoming more and more embarassing to be from this state.
I love my state....I hate the politics here and that the most ignorant among us are getting so much play.....lost my Obama bumper sticker in the wilds of west Texas.....so now we are going to get a Cornyn and a crazy Cruz for Senators.....geez...
I'm amazed that my Obama/Biden sign is still intact after a week and a half. I live in an overwhelmingly Republican neighborhood, and I had been warned that my sign could be stolen. I have an extra one in the garage just in case. So far so good. About 10 houses down from mine, though, a renter planted a large homemade sign that says only "Fire Obama!" And he's had it posted for four months now. (Isn't that against election laws, BTW?) No one has bothered his sign, either.
I live in Massachusetts and I have friends with Romney/Ryan signs stolen and 3 have had their cars vandalized. I actually chose not to put a Brown Senate sticker on my car even though I have done some work for him. This nastiness goes both ways.
Sadly, you failed to mention the Texas Tea Party's "great idea": True the Vote. Privately and to friends, I call it "Screw the Vote", and I'm a little worried about it. True the Vote has decided to send "poll monitors" to basically challenge voter legitimacy, which actually translates as "voter intimidation". I'm honestly thinking of carrying a big stick or an umbrella because if anyone tries breathing down my neck as I'm carrying out my citizen duty, I'm not gonna be happy about it.

There is no "voter fraud". The fraud is the notion we need someone to "protect" it.

Yup. 2012: Most Orwellian political season in U. S. history.
Thanks to all for your civic and civil responses -- each thoughtful, each showing us a different facet or angle of vision on the problem. In the end, crude incivility is a problem for all of us together as a polis. Let's be a classy democracy by participating, each in his or her own way, toward its solution by being the change we want to see. Peace.
Oh good i'm not alone with the hate emails. My picture shows that
"LOOK I'M A WHITE GUY" You know you just can't cure stupied.
My questions has been for the last few months is that if President Obama is "THE WROST President we ever had" Why do we need to stop early voting, alone with all these NEW voting rules (by the way only in GOP ruled states) Great story thanks
Oh good i'm not alone with the hate emails. My picture shows that
"LOOK I'M A WHITE GUY" You know you just can't cure stupied.
My questions has been for the last few months is that if President Obama is "THE WROST President we ever had" Why do we need to stop early voting, alone with all these NEW voting rules (by the way only in GOP ruled states) Great story thanks
I haven't seen an overwhelming number of yard signs in my west Nashville neighborhood, but all the ones I have seen have been for Obama, Jim Cooper (D-U.S. House), or the Green Party. I have not seen one Romney sign (but maybe they've all been stolen, Jay!)I haven't put one out this election. A yard sign requires a certain amount of enthusiasm for one's chosen candidate, and I'm just not feeling it. I will do the bare minimum this time and cast my vote.
Well Daniel, you are actually on the battle field and have the wounds to prove it. I will literally pray for you. It's much easier to be a liberal in a blue state, in a town that is all Democratic. Our sign sits in our yard, warn from wear (It's the sign from 4 years ago), and no one probably even notices it. This also shows, what a professor on NPR was talking about today. Racism is alive and well in America, but because we have a black president, a lot of whites think we are post-racist, and Obama never addresses the issue, not that I blame him.
My Obama sign went missing after only two days. Living in a fairly liberal college town, I'm hoping it just changed residences and is now in a dorm window.
I love the inside feel of this post and the dialogue details - fascinating...

In Wisconsin, our signs are stolen every single time we forget to take them down at night. I've been known to hand make them fresh and have a stock pile for those occasions. One neighbor put an Obama sign on the end of a 10 foot pole, which has now been placed in the middle of his yard...I think stealing has had the opposite effect than the robbers intended :)
I just Voted.
Going in, it felt like an act of civil disobedience.
Leaving, it felt like This is the reason America exists.
And a reason not to give up on it.
I'm grateful once again for all your comments. Voting, or even registering to vote, is becoming an act of civic courage in some parts of the country. Forward to November!
Great post and string of comments. I would be afraid to put a sign out or a bumper sticker on my truck even here is California where it would seem safe.
I cannot blame them for committing such lame acts. It is about faith, and the right wing Evangelical pastors have decreed that Obama, a black Muslim, is an enemy of Christ.

Very clever and, yes, funny too. Excellent piece, Daniel. R
Daniel,what you have written here emphasizes your strong attitude.You better not have the print out on your lawn,or you will see guns pointed at you.
This is a very good contribution to the democratic party.
Good luck.
Is your sign still there?
Thanks for this fascinating window into Lone Star lore. We should also know that anyone who objects to stolen lawn signs and gunshots through glass is just a condescending liberal elitist snob who doesn't respect dissenting conservative points of view.
To vote now, here in Austin, I have to go to a grocery store and wait outside for a half hour, unless I am there at seven a.m., which I will be tomorrow. This is for early voting.

Second, did you hear that the Texas Attorney General said he would arrest any international election monitors? http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/24/texas-attorney-general-threatens-to-arrest-international-election-monitors/

It requires real patriotism and a belief in democracy to vote around here.

Glad you're doing it in Houston, Daniel.