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.