It’s a Saturday afternoon, a clear, bright, beautiful day with a big blue sky. I was driving with my wife and daughter on a well-traveled roadway heading out to run some errands. We were passing a large vacant lot, the kind of lot that gets a good deal of attention during the elections. It was well populated with red, white and blue placards of every ilk.
Driving by I noticed a political farmer in the field, planting Abel Maldonado signs and reaping Lois Capps signs. I pulled over, got out of my car and asked the man what he was doing. He was silent and dropped the Capps sign before getting into his car saying, “You ain’t got nothin’ on me.”
I thought I did have something on him. I thought the quick pictures I snapped, one of him and one of his license plate, might get some attention — at least a scolding from local law enforcement or the office of elections. As it turns out, he was right.
I called the Sheriff’s Department, which suggested I call the County Elections Office, which told me to call the District Attorney’s Office, which told me to call the Sheriff’s Department. Into the whirlpool of bureaucratic agony I fell.
It is a very small thing, I know, hardly worth a phone call. In retrospect, it was definitely not worth a phone call. But driving around the area, there was a noticeable absence of Capps signs. Wherever Maldonado flourished, poor Capps had vanished or been relegated to resting flat on the ground.
This incident and my subsequent observations are indicative of the current political climate. It takes a special kind of ignorance to think about taking down the oppositions’ signs. It represents a special kind of malevolence to actually make a special trip to do it.
In many respects, this is what political positioning has come to — all or nothing, black or white, saved or damned. Intellect, reason, discourse have no place here. Corporate dollars own the medium and drive the message. Sound bites and slogans define the candidate, common sense be damned.
The relatively new element of fear has a fast hold on so many of the electorate, including, ironically, Mitt Romney’s 47 percent. I am astounded by the number of voters in that 47 percent who vote, again and again, against their own best interest. They do so because fear has been used so effectively.
I am reminded of the adage, “Fear makes the wolf look bigger.” In contemporary politics, fear makes the wolf period. It is the absurd suggestions and outrageous claims of fringe elements that have found a voice. There is no wolf, and in the absence of a wolf, we have turned on each other to create one.
Years from now, Americans will look back at this time with the same shame that accompanied the fall of slavery and the ultimate victory of the civil rights movement. The opposition used the same fear-filled tactics to oppose both of these clearly morally reprehensible positions. The language is the same today, only the nouns have changed.
The man taking down those signs is a perfect example of the mindset. So sure is he that he and his are right that no other voice should be considered. No other voice should be heard. He is, in his heart, afraid of a straw man carefully crafted and fueled by others with equally narrow mindsets and morally vacant souls.
I hope I live to see the other side of this absurdity. I want to know a world freed from our contemporary and imagined evils, where the right thing to do is understood and really matters. I want to stand “on the right side of history.”
In the meantime, I’ll put the fallen signs of Capps and Maldonado in their rightful place — upright and side by side.
Note: A worthwhile link, but you must listen to the very end: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u4Z3n2Fnyc.