Sunday, November 6, 2016

Signs of Life

This is the season for political signs. Like many neighborhoods across America, ours is festooned with political signs of all kinds. Because I live in a politically diverse area, there are Trump signs and Hillary signs, as well as signs for all sorts of other things - local politicians, judges, ballot issues, even one proclaiming "Giant Meteor 2016: Just End It Already".

The picture above was taken in my neighborhood, just a few blocks from my home. It's plain and ordinary enough. But like the crocus poking up through the spring snow, I see it as a sign of life.

Why? Those who have read this blog before, or who otherwise know me, will know that I am not a supporter of Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency. As such, I would never put a Trump sign in my yard.

The hope I see here is in the other sign - the yellow one that reads "Oakwood Schools: Proven Value". I have one just like it in my front yard. It's a sign in favor of an upcoming ballot measure for a levy to support our school district, which is the pride of this community (and, without much exaggeration, one of the best in the state).

I've heard so many people in the last few weeks say, "I can't imagine how anyone can support Trump" or "I can't imagine how anyone can support Hillary". I would guess that most people identify with at least one of those statements. And in the gulf that we have created around these two candidates, we see the other side as really Other, as alien, even treasonous.

Yet here is a member of my community - someone I do not know - who supports both Trump and our local school levy. I may not be able to understand supporting Trump for President. But I certainly do understand supporting our local schools. This family and I have something in common - something which, were we to talk, we could understand about each other.

That is a very important thing to remember. The people who put Trump signs in their yard are not themselves Donald Trump, any more than those who put Clinton signs in their yard are Hillary Clinton. Our support for Presidential candidates, however heartfelt and passionate it may be, is still just one small piece of who we are.

We are neighbors, these unknown people and I. Our children go to school together, cheer for each other at sporting events, sit side by side in class. We drive the same roads, visit the same shops, frequent the same concerts and ball games and museums. The fact that we support different political candidates does not negate, and should not overshadow, any of that. We have so much in common, so many shared interests.

This is a small example, and for those who know Oakwood and its demography and history, probably a somewhat unfair one. I live in a small community that is political diverse but economically and racially homogeneous. And what about my less-near neighbors in Trotwood? Huber Heights? Centerville?

None of this is to diminish the differences between us. Many of those differences - race, gender, class - are far more consequential and important than which candidate you're voting for. We have real work to do to insure that our differences don't do damage, that we are one diverse community rather than a collection of tribes at war with one another.

But like the crocuses in the snow, this little pairing of signs suggests that maybe there are things we can understand about one another. In therein lies a sign of hope.

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