by Marla J. Gold
In our neighborhood, some presidential campaign signs were slow to disappear from street view. First there were the weeks following the election. Shocked signs standing in November disbelief. Signs waiting for the Electoral College to say it wasn’t so. Then there was the time leading up to the inauguration. Signs grasping hold onto antiquated electoral procedures.
Gradually some neighbors were able to remove their signs, able to talk about the American way of democratic elections and accepting the vote of the people. I was not among them. I chose instead to slowly move our sign from its curb location to an area adjacent to our front door. I find comfort in its memory as you might with an urn of someone’s ashes you deeply love. I am still grief-stricken. Gone, but impossible to be forgotten.
Then came a new, collective wave of print information. Our neighborhood once again appears dotted with declarative language. Lawn signs proclaiming “hate has no home here” in multiple languages began to appear where once stood the names of presidential candidates. Walking by, I wonder, where am I, this place where my neighbors are compelled to tell me hate does not live in their homes? Does the absence of this proclamation equate with hate taking up residence?
These signs are notably red on one side and blue on the other, providing a subtle message of hope that hatred is not defined by political affiliation. And these are not the only messages staked in the ground. There is the “No Matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” sign. This one too, written in several languages to underscore the message. Paper versions of this sign are taped to shop windows and store counters, as if your origin could ever be a determinant of how happy we might be to meet you, talk with you, live next door to you or have you patronize our stores.
Beyond the hate-free welcome signs, there are those declaring multiple beliefs. “In this house,” reads one, “we believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, no Human is Illegal, Science is Real, Love is Love and Kindness is Everything.” That’s a lot of ground to cover on a lawn sign, but there it is, on the corner, staring at me in defiance.
As I read, I realize I am guilty of assumption. In the days before signage, I assumed hate was not welcome and kindness did matter in our neighborhood. I did not require position signs to know where members of my community stood regardless of their political affiliation; regardless of the buttons they pushed.
But now post-election, there exists a palpable need to take a stand. Why? We have a president of the United States who repeatedly lies and divides us. A Divider-in-Chief who blames the “other,” fanning the flames of smoldering hatred which now burn unchecked across our land. Some of the Divider’s key, unqualified cabinet appointees appear not to believe in science, or the importance of public education, or a clean, safe environment.
His executive orders often reflect a total disregard for human dignity and freedom. A flagrant disregard for the First Amendment. The Divider casts his Tweets carelessly into cyberspace with upsetting regularity, spewing disdain across the land, giving voice to countless hate crimes. The president of the United States has given voice to hate, and thus when he paradoxically speaks out against it, I find more irony than respite. These are the facts. Some days my head feels like it will explode.
There is seemingly no respite from this horror show, except, perhaps in the solidarity of others – in the solidarity of my community working together for social change. Resisting together. Indivisible, together. Doing what we can to change the course of this madness. Of course resistance is much more than planting slogans. But surely it helps. These days, the signs are holding me up. The Divider-in-Chief spews hatred and lies. My neighbors choose to take a collective stand. “Not here! Hatred has no home here! All are welcome here!” These are the signs of our times and they give me hope and strength.
Dr. Marla Gold is a resident of Chestnut Hill