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

MrLiberty

October 5th, 2012
2:59 pm

We now believe that it is ok for government to steal in order to buy the votes of others (military contractors and government employees alike). So long as we condone this behavior, we must expect that those who are being stolen from will be angered by those who support this kind of government behavior. Why an Obama sign would be attacked over a Romney sign is a mystery, as both endorse government theft to fund their particular version of welfare (or warfare). Unless you are supporting freedom, liberty, massively limited government, an end to the theft of income, a restoration of the constitution and the bill of rights, and the free market, then you are equally complicit in the government crimes that are being committed against all americans and you should feel a strong sense of shame for supporting either of the two major party candidates.

Mike

October 5th, 2012
2:57 pm

Put a hidden camera on the sign. Even better, use two (to account for bad lighting, depending on the angle of the sun). Then you’ll be able to identify whoever approaches your sign or throws something from the road.

Call the police, turn them in, and go to the hearing with a big smile.

My father-in-law had a sign in 2000 for the Bush/Gore election. Someone took it, threw it away, and replaced it with a sign that said “A vote for (insert candidate) is a vote for freedom.”

Bobby D

October 5th, 2012
2:50 pm

I’m not knocking freedom of speech but doesn’t this make you miss the days when people kept their politics to themselves?

Guido Torpedo

October 5th, 2012
2:31 pm

@ Thou Shalt Not Steal: lack of class is not exclusive to one “core constituency” or another. I had two Obama stickers defaced on my car prior to the election. Fortunately, I walked up on the perpetrators of the second one in the movie theater parking lot and asked them why they were doing it. When one of them got mouthy and stepped toward me, he got dropped with a straight right. His two friends became very apologetic right about then. It’s amuses me how the right has convinced themselves that everyone on the left is some sort of weak, unarmed, peace-loving hippy.

MANGLER

October 5th, 2012
2:10 pm

Rig an empty baby stroller near the street/driveway and should that or another vehicle do this, let it roll out into the street. Not breaking any laws and would be quite entertaining.

nelson

October 5th, 2012
2:07 pm

I think that was an admirable decision.Little progress can be made towards freedom of speech without protecting the elementary right to have a political sign in the front yard. Taking the sign down inivites more people to resort to intimidation to silence the citizens from doing what is their constitutional right to do. Already, we have seen what happens when a movie[13 minutes],protected by freedom of speech incites riots and acts as a catalyst for war. We have to start someplace defending our freedoms.

Thou Shalt Not Steal.

October 5th, 2012
2:05 pm

Everybody remember all the reports in the Altanta area from 2008 of all the classless 0bamaSupporters in this town who caught or visually seen ripping the “McCain-Palin” bumper stickers off of people’s cars?

THAT is the “core constituency” of the current administration.

Eddiev

October 5th, 2012
1:18 pm

Enter your comments here

Eddiev

October 5th, 2012
1:18 pm

Well said. Stand strong.

J Wil

October 5th, 2012
1:08 pm

The incident does not suprise me, there will always be louts whom believe intimidation is the way to get results. I had great pride in my support of a friend for a local partisian office and placed a small campaign sign in my yard in Virginia. Every moring all of his signs were gome and another canidates sign was placed in its place, I removed the other sign placed in my yard and got another sign and replced the original. The next evening the doorbell rang and a rock with a note was left, you are too stupid for your own good, do not put your sign back up. The local sheriff took a complaint and said it happened all too often, people get drunk on the excitement of support in a political battle and do not understand where free speech ends and threats and intimidation begin.

By the way they found the perpertrator of the stolen signs and the note, he served 45 days in the county work farm and his candidate lost!