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.