There’s a silent conversation going on right now on my lawn. It’s a political debate between the lawns signs in my yard and the lawn signs in my neighbor’s yard directly across the road. They do not agree one bit.
I’ll admit to placing the first sign, though it wasn’t technically anything partisan. You may have noticed these blue signs proclaiming “Hate Has No Home Here” in multiple languages. The signs were designed by a group of neighbors from a racially diverse neighborhood in my hometown of Chicago and have caught on across America as a way to foster a sense of openness and safety in one’s community, particularly in response to the Trump administration’s racist and anti-immigrant policies and attitudes. While my new chosen home of northern Vermont is far from racially diverse, and it’s possible that no one of color or who speaks any of the non-English languages on the sign will ever set eyes on my front lawn, I still felt compelled to express our family’s support of the values behind the sentiment, Hate Has No Home Here.
Then one day in late summer, as the Vermont primary election was approaching, a sign in support of Governor Phil Scott’s reelection appeared on the lawn across the road from ours, placed there by my elderly neighbor who we’ll just call Griswold (because that’s his name). As someone who will be enthusiastically voting against Scott in this November’s general election, I promptly contacted Christine Hallquist’s campaign asking, “Where can I get a sign?” Griswold quickly added several other lawn signs in support of candidates running on the Republican ticket. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that instead of being angled for the viewing pleasure of passing traffic, they are all pointed directly at our house.
In spite of our feuding signage, Griswold and I continue to have friendly exchanges about how our tomato plants are faring. Imagine that sort of civility in a Facebook or Reddit comment thread from two persons with opposed political views!
And that, in a nutshell, is why my husband and I decided to move to Vermont after over a decade in New York City. In a city of over eight million people living together like sardines, civility and respect go out the window. It’s too exhausting to maintain and too easy to get away without it. We were absolutely beaten down from daily insults to our humanity. Here in Vermont, I can express my views, but I may also have to look someone in the eye who feels quite differently and explain my opinions. Possibly while they sit in their pickup truck in front of my house.
As election day nears, the volume of political signs on Vermonters’ lawns has escalated. I may not always agree with the candidate or the sentiment that’s being promoted -- take for example the hand painted “All lives matter” and “No new guns laws!” sign I saw in someone’s yard the other day -- but I appreciate that so many Vermont citizens have a point of view. It’s possible people just like to have something to root for, and without any major sports franchise in the state, participating in the social and political debates will have to do. Though I prefer to believe our manageable population size and our tradition of participatory democracy with town meeting day means we feel like if we raise our voices, we might actually be heard.