Sunday, October 12, 2008

Friendly Neighbors? You Betcha!

My parents' yard sign was stolen, much like the 2000 election.

Please note: If the time line seems screwy, it's because this post was originally written on Saturday night.

Last night my dad did something he'd never done before in his life: He put up a political yard sign. He's approximately one trillion years old (or maybe he's closing in on 50 -- it's easy to lose track), so it's something he avoided for a long time. The whole time I was growing up, in fact, I remember him rejecting the very idea of yard signs.

He'd see them pop up around the neighborhood as elections approached and he'd get that 'blah, blah, blah, boring dad stuff' tone of voice that would make me close my eyes and think of things I liked, like Beach Boys songs or Edina drunkenly falling out of a car on Absolutely Fabulous. Faintly he'd drone on in the background, pointing out miserable truths like "a campaign only lasts a few months, but you'll be living next door to your neighbors for a long time after that." Best not to ruffle feathers, then, over something as deeply personal as politics.

What was different about this election that he felt compelled to stake a sign in his lawn? I think what finally did it for him, what made him feel he had to take a stand, was the wave of disgusting rallies John McCain and Sarah Palin held this week. The tenor of those meetings turned his stomach, and to step outside his own house each day and see McCain-Palin signs in his neighbors' yards only added to his outrage. My mom, who'd normally do anything to avoid attracting attention, agreed: they needed a sign of their own.

And so they got one. In my official capacity as the family's paranoid cynic, I predicted it would be stolen within 24 hours. "Attach a personal alarm to it, something the thief won't see, so it scares the hell out of him when he tries to steal it," I advised. They seemed to think I was overreacting. But I know what kind of people their neighbors are, and they're not as friendly as they try to appear. I know what kind of kids their neighbors raised. (Beasts, almost all of them. Racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic little brats who thought nothing of reheating whatever Rush Limbaugh rhetoric their parents regurgitated at dinner each night and making the rest of us inhale its putrid fumes on the school bus and in the cafeteria the next day. These were kids who'd earnestly declare between bites of Tater Tots that Jews are "God's chosen people," then solemnly inform me that I'd be damned to the fiery pits of hell if I didn't hop aboard the Jesus train.) There was no way that sign was lasting longer than 24 hours.

So ... 24 hours later, the sign is gone. Someone waited until it was dark outside, trespassed onto my parents' lawn and stole their $8 political statement, which had been the only Obama-Biden sign on their street. (It would've been stolen even sooner, I think, had it gone up before nightfall yesterday.)

There's a problem with this, beyond the obvious issues of laws being broken and rights being violated. Two problems, actually. The first is that my dad is stubborn. Really stubborn. Incredibly, impossibly stubborn. If you think that I'm a stubborn jerk -- and just about everyone who knows me will tell you I'm a big one -- multiply that by ten and you have the beginnings of a composite sketch of my father.

The second problem is a much bigger problem, at least for the area thief. You see, my dad owns a print shop. Not one of those rinky-dink operations college kids use to make copies of black and white flyers, but a serious, professional print shop. One that's filled with all kinds of high-end equipment he can use to print anything he wants, from books and business cards and brochures to posters and signs (including, yes, yard signs) and large outdoor banners. If he tires of paying for something that keeps getting stolen, he might be tempted to take matters into his own hands and turn his entire yard into an Obama sign of his own creation. Stealing someone's entire yard would be pretty hard, don't you think? You can't exactly swipe it when no one's looking and disappear into the night.

Not that I'd advocate doing anything that flamboyant. (Hell, I'd never get a yard sign of my own to start with. I don't want my neighbors to know anything about me. My desire for privacy is such that I regularly put on a Reagan mask or Groucho Marx glasses and nose just to get the mail.) My suggestion was to put up a new sign that says "Stealing My Sign Won't Change My Vote." Too confrontational for my parents, but it's also beside the point: They won't settle for anything less than "Obama-Biden '08" in their yard, and have already put up a second sign. How long until this one disappears?

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