By Sarah Whalen
Last month, I selected a candidate for the U.S. Congress I liked and wanted to vote for. And I wanted to tell everyone who passed by my house that this was the person I’d chosen, and I wanted to encourage them to follow my lead if they were undecided.
My candidate is a Democrat. I’ve not always voted that way in the past, but I am voting that way now.
I am not wealthy. I am not a corporation. I am not a millionaire playing politics. But I am a voter and an American. So I did a small thing.
I put a sign in my yard.
It was a nice, rather small bright tomato-red and white sign with nothing more than my candidate’s name on it.
Two weeks ago, when things were looking very good for my candidate and not so good for his opponent, someone drove by my house and threw bleach at the sign.
I didn’t notice it right away, but within a day, the red had mottled and my candidate’s name had faded away.
I am not wealthy. I am not a corporation. I am not a millionaire playing politics. But I am a voter and an American. So I did another small thing.
I got another sign, and put it in my yard.
Two days ago, when things were looking even better for my candidate and not so good for his opponent, someone drove by my house and stole my sign.
Does that seem like a small thing?
They also stole the signs of all the other folks in my neighborhood who, like me, had chosen the same candidate and wanted drivers-by to know who they were voting for, and to encourage them to follow our lead if they were undecided.
I called the police, and they did a small thing. They took my complaint by phone, and then they mentioned that in another modest neighborhood, the same thing had happened to others who’d put signs for the same candidate in their yards.
“How much is the sign worth?” asked the police officer who took my complaint.
The sign itself is a small thing, worth maybe five dollars if you buy them wholesale.
What’s big is the theft of America’s Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.
What’s big is the theft of your Constitutional right to be free of warrantless searches and seizures in your own home (and your front yard—where your children play, where you garden and putter and mow your lawn and throw the dog a Frisbee now and then– is surely an extension of your home)—even if it’s just the seizure of a small thing, like a sign.
What’s big is the idea by Republicans that Democrats are, in the words of one commercial I just heard this morning about an hour ago on my way to work, “liberal idiots.”
Since America’s inception, it has been a Democracy with a strong two-party system. But last week, listening to conservative political radio, I heard that Republicans believe that if a person speaks out against U.S. President Bush’s Iraq War or even criticizes Bush or his administration in any way, that person is a “terrorist” or a “terrorist collaborator.”
You might think this is a small thing.
But to accuse someone who merely has a different opinion or view of being a criminal of the worst order, to accuse that person of treason and national disloyalty for merely thinking differently, or for exercising their free speech rights, is a big thing.