The Rest of the Story About the Political Sign Vandals
As the presidential campaign fades into the past, I wanted to share a postscript to my letter of some weeks ago on campaign sign stealing.
What I reported was that at the intersection of Lake Forest and Sugar Gum roads beside Lake Pinehurst, there was a display of campaign signs. I had placed one there supporting President Obama. A day later, it was bent and pushed backward as if it had been run into by a car.
While I thought that was a bit strange, I parked my car and went to repair the sign. I successfully bent the frame back into shape, smoothed out the colorful signage and replaced it, only a little worse for wear.
A day or so later, I came by and saw that the sign was lying on the ground in the wood lot behind the gaggle of signs. Again I parked my car and went to see what was up.
The frame was lying on the ground. The plastic signage envelope had been slipped off and was lying there crumpled on the ground. I bent down and picked it up, only to discover that it was covered with a sticky substance that felt like Vaseline.
It was messy and got all over my hands. I knew I couldn't clean it right there, so I put it in my car and went home. It took repeated washing with hot water and rubbing with an old towel to remove the stuff. The next day, I returned to the intersection and resolutely put the sign back in the ground for the third time.
I was not surprised when a day and a half later the sign was gone again. I was surprised at how upset I was - I mean, it was just a campaign sign, but it was MY campaign sign, promoting my candidate. It was my political view that was being censored,
So I wrote a letter to The Pilot and in it informed the sign stealers that I still had an Obama sign in my front yard on Burning Tree Road.
I suggested they simply knock on the door and I would give them the sign. And if they told me what the deal was with the Vaseline, I wouldn't press Class 3 misdemeanor charges against them for stealing, defacing, vandalizing or unlawfully removing my sign
That's actually where I thought the whole affair would end, so you can imagine my surprise when a person called to tell me about the Vaseline. This gentleman had put up six Obama signs. They had all been stolen. He decided that to discourage the thieves, he would coat the plastic panels of his six new signs with Vaseline before putting them up.
To review: The thieves had stolen the original sign I had fixed and put back up. But when they returned to steal the one my colleague had put up, the Vaseline had worked as a deterrent. They just threw the sign on the ground, where I found it and painstakingly cleaned it up. When I put it back, they returned and stole it again. The mystery was solved. It was a fellow supporter who had greased the sign, not the thieves.
I know this seems like much ado about just a little thing, but for me it epitomized the nastiness of the recent campaign. And that nastiness had reared its head on both sides of the political struggle.
Not long after my letter appeared in the paper, I made my usual left turn at the Sugar Gum intersection and drove out to the light at Monticello. I noticed that all but one Romney sign had been removed from in front of the houses on that stretch of road.
Anger gave way to disappointment and sadness. Even though acts such as stealing campaign signs will have little effect on the outcome of any election, it seriously diminishes the bonds of trust that hold us together as a community.
It may be seen as a childish act, but that doesn't change the fact that stealing the signs is an illegal act.
People spend money and time putting up signs that promote their views and candidates. They are hurt and angered when the signs are trashed and taken. It is censorship and suppression of their ideas and wishes. It really shouldn't happen!
Let's promise that we will not steal any more campaign signs.
Pinehurst resident Ron Sutton is professor emeritus of film at American University in Washington, D.C.
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