Yard sign bullies

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Presidential election season seems to bring out intense feelings even in the most placid neighborhoods. Here is one Atlantan’s story. Commenting is open below. Please keep the discourse civil. Thank you.

By Cynthia Gentry

Decades ago as a young student at Atlanta’s Morris Brandon Elementary School it was easy to come up with an answer for the teacher asking, “What is great about the United States of America?” I would wave my hand and respond, “Freedom of speech!” That was easy back then. But the years have shown me that our First Amendment is neither easy nor simple.

On a recent Sunday evening, my husband, two dear friends, and I sat unwinding in the beauty of the front yard of our Chastain Park home. Hours before, we had returned from a hellish week during which my beautiful and wickedly funny 16-year-old stepdaughter underwent her second brain surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Just the day before my husband had been rushed to the hospital next door to MDA with an irregular heartbeat. And I, home in Atlanta less than one day, dashed back to Houston to be by his side. Fortunately, he recovered quickly and we were able to come home.

This is all to say that we desperately needed the peace and quiet found relaxing in nature on a cool Atlanta evening – our city at its finest.

Suddenly, our peace was destroyed when an enormous black car approached our home with horns blaring. The driver slowed at the political sign in our yard, screamed an expletive at us and sped away.

Not only was our gentle recovery shattered, but also we found ourselves afraid — angry and afraid. This was not the first incident regarding that small political sign. During the two previous weekends someone had thrown bags of dog “poop” at the sign. Were we under attack? Would these attacks escalate? When I first wrote about the dog incidents on our neighborhood online bulletin board I refused to identify which candidate’s sign was the target. It didn’t seem to matter as far as I was concerned. It was the behavior that bothered me. That kind of behavior from either side was inexcusable.

After this last incident, things were different. Many well-meaning neighbors have told us to take down the sign for our own good. It’s not worth it, they say. It is way too dangerous. But what is far more dangerous is giving up the right I so proudly learned about as a child. Someone told me the throwers of excrement and expletives were exercising their own freedom of speech. But surely there is a difference between endorsing a political candidate on your own property with a small sign and threatening those whose sign doesn’t match your own.

As a child I didn’t understand what was at stake. Now I do. My husband and I have decided to pay the price for showing support of our chosen candidate. We will not let the voices of oppression and hatred frighten us into giving up the rights our forefathers gave their lives for. We fear for our children’s and grandchildren’s safety in our own yard, but we have greater fear of them living in a country where you can’t speak your truth.

So, to that wretched, cowardly bully I say, I am voting the way I want to vote and the sign stays. Your obscene attempts to take away the freedom on which our country was founded sicken me. They anger me. And those feelings are a lot more powerful than fear. So you lose, pal. You lose.

Cynthia Gentry grew up in Buckhead and is a children’s rights and play advocate.

26 comments Add your comment

Cindy

October 6th, 2012
11:15 pm

I am so sorry that you have been having such a difficult time. My prayers to your family! It is a tough political time when people are so polarized and ANGRY. I hope that whoever wins the presidency can unite the country. It has always been my belief that our differences and everyone’s input should make us stronger and not more polarized. Please hang tough. I do not know the political party of this bully, but in case it was a Republican like me, I too, apologize on their behalf.

Carol

October 6th, 2012
10:22 pm

I have not submitted this comment before so please stop blocking. I would like to know which party trashed your sign but in case it was a Republican I ask your forgiveness. There is such a thing as group guilt and if this appalling behavior was committed by a member of my party I am ashamed. Carol

Carol

October 6th, 2012
10:21 pm

I would like to know which party trashed your sign but in case it was a Republican I ask your forgiveness. There is such a thing as group guilt and if this appalling behavior was committed by a member of my party I am ashamed. Carol

greg camp

October 6th, 2012
9:09 pm

Actions like these are the same as utilized in 1933 in Germany, during the rise of the Third Reich. Defiling of property and thuggish behavior. Freedom of speech comes with rights and responsibilities. Your rights end when they infringe upon the rights of others. Our National political discourse is the reason for our current situation. The Republican party is now held hostage by Grover Norquist and the Tea Party. The Swastika will be unfurled at any time now..

Progress

October 6th, 2012
6:39 pm

No need for us to put signs out this year. We live on a cul-de-sac in a really conservative area. We’re not going to change anyone’s opinion. Romney will win Georgia and Obama will win the electoral college and another four years. No sign in the yard will change either of those outcomes.

Wilbur

October 6th, 2012
12:26 pm

Attacking and threatening you for a yard sign of whatever political persuasion is un-American. I mean that in the sense that such behavior is inconsistent with our shared values and principles, not that such things have never happened. Please don’t let the thugs keep you from expressing your opinions. As for the rest of us, we must not condone or approve such actions or counsel anyone to “go along to get along”. There are elements of our society that should be simply expelled.