Stealing more than signs
Sept. 3, 2012
by Ivan Raconteur

I have heard reports this year, as in other election years, that there have been instances of vandalism and theft of political signs.

Some people might think the perpetrators have provided a community service by removing a blot from the landscape, but it is more serious than that.

I suppose we could try to understand the knuckleheads who do this kind of thing, but I am not all that interested in understanding them.

Regardless of their motivation, it is the consequences of their crime that are important.

It should be noted that there are rules governing political signs, and if they have been placed in locations that violate the law, a simple call to local authorities should be all that is necessary to remedy the problem.

I would also like to make it clear that I am not a proponent of political advertising in general. I would be happier if campaigns were scaled back and limited in scope.

Especially at the state and national levels, campaigns these days seem to have degenerated into contests to see which candidate can spend the most money, rather than being about who is most capable or has the best ideas.

Many potential candidates are squeezed out by special interest groups and candidates with more money.

Instead of focussing on what is best for the state or the country, elections seem to be little more than competitions to see which political party can score more points than the other.

For these reasons, it is more important than ever to be sure each voice is heard.

With regard to campaign signs, acts of vandalism or theft of signs is an attempt to silence another voice.

The theft of a campaign sign is not just a crime against the candidate or group who purchased the sign. It is a crime against all of the citizens of the district, whether it is a city, a school district, a state, or the entire nation.

We are fortunate in this country. We have choices.

Despite the fact that large numbers of Americans fail to exercise their right and responsibility to vote, we still have choices.

Many people seem to take this for granted, but there are a lot of places in the world that don’t have a choice when it comes to their political leadership.

One might argue that citizens in the US may not always like the candidates who make it onto the ballot, but that is a different discussion. The point is, despite our widespread and chronic apathy, we still have the opportunity to go out and cast ballots for the candidates who will represent us.

When we allow any candidate’s voice to be silenced, at any level of government, we become a little more like one of those countries where citizens have no choice.

One of the key issues that led to the founding of this country was the colonists’ refusal to accept a government in which they had no voice.

Today, many of us don’t even bother to exercise our voice.

Regarding political signs, it doesn’t matter if we approve of the candidate whose name is on the sign.

We may not like them, but each one of those signs represents another point of view, and a different set of experiences.

The theft of a political sign is not just the theft of wood, wire, metal, or vinyl; it is an attempt to silence a voice and rob us all of our form of government.

Some may think this is making much out of a minor issue.

One would point out, however, that most change occurs slowly, in small steps.

If we allow malcontents to take away our freedom of choice, we may one day find that we no longer have a choice.

If, at the local level, we allow candidates to be harassed and their signs stolen, we may soon find that good people are no longer willing to step up to take their turn at leadership, and we will be stuck with whatever is left.

We may consider political signs an eyesore, and we might think the candidates are buffoons, but that does not give us the right to steal their signs.

If a candidate says stupid things, we must still defend his right to say them, just as we defend the free speech of candidates with whom we disagree.

We must trust that the election system will weed out the most dangerous candidates in due course.

Signs represent more than the individual candidate – they represent our freedom of choice.

History has demonstrated that if we do not defend them, freedoms have an unpleasant way of becoming former freedoms. Once they are gone, it’s extremely difficult to get them back.

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