I live in America, but I also live in a neighborhood. The streets and homes are familiar and comfortable. I could follow the route to my job, the grocery store, my kids’ school half asleep. I bike, I run, I walk my dog past single-family homes, McMansion developments, condominium complexes, and trailer parks.
I see the people who live in these houses at the gym and the park. We wait in line together for our coffee and cross paths at the dentist and doctor’s office. We don't know each others’ names, but there is something familiar about how we’re always dressed like we might get recruited for a spontaneous camping trip.
For years, I’ve seen political signs pop up in people’s yards, like a strange agricultural crop that has a bumper year from time to time. They are mostly blue and red, with the occasional yellow, green, or purple thrown in for good measure. In the good times, these signs feel like a celebration of peoples’ ability and willingness to disagree but live in shared communities, where we pick up trash, keep our yards tidy and look out for each others’ kids.
Most of the time, the signs ebb in an election year and then disappear overnight once the votes are cast. A few might linger, but by Christmas, all you see are blow-up Santa Clauses and snowbanks. That didn’t happen this year, so even today — in January — after a violent insurrection left four people dead, plenty of Trump 2020 signs are still proudly posted, which makes me feel confused and hurt.
Over the last year, there have been so many times when I thought things couldn’t get worse. Today I feel the same way, but after having always underestimated Trump’s ability to bring out the worst in our country, I’m not sure. Maybe we’re still at the very beginning of a very bad time. Last night on CNN, Van Jones asked the following about the events in Washington:
“Is this the death throes of something ugly in our country, desperate, about to go away and then the vision that Biden talked about is going to rise up or is this the birth pains of a worse disorder? That’s where we are right now tonight. And I think the country has got to make a decision.”
This morning when I drove my son to daycare, I kept thinking of this question. I drove past house after house, still sporting the blue and red Trump 2020 signs, and wondered what the people inside were thinking. Of course, I saw plenty of the small modest signs, tucked in next to the rhododendron bushes like a lapel pin, quietly but definitely making a statement. And then there are flags, banners, and the homemade signs painted on plywood, declaring everlasting loyalty to a man that I hate. At one house, there’s even a cardboard cutout of Trump, positioned creepily in the front door, like a school kid waiting for the morning bus.
For months, I’ve overlooked and forgiven these signs. Even though I don’t know the names of the people who purchased, posted and so far have not removed them, we all live here together. We pull our broccoli from the same shelves at the grocery store and our kids are on the same remote-school Zoom calls every day. We all cast our votes in the same 200 year old town hall, and I’m sure Steve, our mailman, gave all of us the same Christmas card this year.
But after yesterday, I’m done forgiving and excusing. I can no longer ignore these subtle but loud proclamations that violence, misogyny, racism, and lying, are acceptable American values.
So here’s my message to anyone out there who hasn’t taken down your Trump signs yet:
Unless you support the violence and terror at the Capitol yesterday, you need to remove Trump’s name from your yard and our community.
Unless you wish you were there yesterday, battering the windows of democracy for the world to see, you need to take down your signs.
Unless you feel happy that the actions of the man whose name you’ve plastered on your property has left millions of school children scared that America is no longer a safe place to live, your yard signs need to go.
If you keep your Trump signs up, you should know that I — and many other people, since our state’s electoral college votes were for Biden — no longer view you as a patriotic American. Every day that your signs stand, you are showing support for domestic terrorism and ideals that I can no longer pretend are OK. Agree to disagree is over — you are wrong and I have enough faith and trust in our country to believe that history will bear this out.
Today, I’m working from home thanks to a pandemic that has been made worse at every turn by President Trump. And from where I sit, I can see that today is a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day. It’s a great day to head out and take down those signs and rejoin the rest of us who are ready to move forward and leave the ugliness of yesterday behind.