Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sign Wars

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, really. I've taken to watching the 11:00 news the last few days, primarily to see what kinds of shenanigans they choose to report. With the rampant stealing of Yes on 8 signs around the area, there has not been one story in the past week about the issue. Instead, they chose to focus on one incident of someone spray-painting the "n" word on an Obama sign, as if this somehow indicated institutional racism among McCain supporters.

What did I expect? Local newsies are just as liberal as the national guys.

Still, the Sign Wars have been fascinating to watch. I've driven by more disappearing signs than I can count now. Despite what I thought was very reasonable counsel from Prop 8 leaders, signs keep appearing on public corners at night. Then, of course, they're gone by morning. But the most fascinating battles have been the sign-wavers that we plant on busy intersections every day.

"Battle" is probably not the correct word, I suppose. These really are "campaigns" designed to flood drivers' minds with Yes on 8 sentiment until the election is over. Our ward has turned out in droves to wave signs on those intersections every afternoon for about the past two weeks now. Our youth in particular are getting into the spirit of this campaign and are just as enthusiastic as their parents as they cheerfully wave their Yes on 8 signs at passing motorists. Bishop mentioned a couple of weeks ago that many people honk and wave, and several even indicate "Number One!" with their middle finger.


For all their Hollywood and CTA money, however, the No on 8 forces are nowhere near as organized as the Yes folks. For one thing, when they finally showed up at those same intersections it wasn't until the weekend. They were crowded around the Yes folks trying to out-muscle them with their own homemade signs. My first thought was that they must have had a blog-burst that called them to action. It would fit with their M.O. on other protests. But as I drove by, I couldn't help noticing a few things. Since an observer can't spend copious amounts of time gawping at them without tying up traffic, you only get impressions. But those impressions will stay with me right up to the ballot box next Tuesday.

First of all, the Yes on 8 folks tend to be respectful and polite. They hold their signs up with pleasant looks on their faces, wave them to attract attention, and wave cheerfully back even to the people who communicate with sign language ("Number One!"). They also tend, where possible, to work in family groups. It's quite a sight to see parents and youth working side-by-side on this issue. Younger moms wave their signs while their babies snuggle in their carriers.

The No on 8 folks tended to be college-aged kids. Most of them had multiple piercings and interesting hair. From their hand-painted signs to their grunge/punk clothes, their appearance was closer to that of 60's and 70's era war protestors, except not quite as stoned. Their activities spoke of quite a different attitude than the Yes supporters. They were far more aggressive, tending to shout and cat-call and all but jumping right out in front of motorists in order to attract their attention. The attitude was "in your face" rather than "here's what we believe."

Had I been a painter, I couldn't have come up with a sharper contrast.

As if to underscore the attitude of the No crowd, I happened to stop at a drug store in a shopping center at one of those intersections. As I stood in line to make my purchase, one of the No kids was just finishing his own purchase. Probably needed some caffeine to get him through those exhausting hours. He had the piercings, the hair, the grungy clothes with inappropriate slogans on his shirt. But it was his conversation with the clerk as he was leaving that caught my attention.

"Those Yes on 8 idiots have nothing, man! They wave their little signs and think they're winning, or something, y'know? But they have no idea what they're talking about, dude! They're just a bunch of ignorant losers, man! They're so pathetic!"

Ah, yes. Another informed opinion.

Interestingly, these dedicated opponents of Proposition 8 only showed up over the weekend. By Monday they were nowhere in evidence. No doubt gathering their collective strength for another loosely organized assault this weekend. I'd like to think they're at home, writing term papers on how voting for Sarah Palin will drive a stake through the heart of civilization as we know it, or whatever their liberal Poli-Sci instructors are assigning them these days.

This has been an interesting campaign, indeed.

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