changing signs and blurring lines

I dashed down to Roundrock over the weekend, passing through a deeply red part of rural Missouri to get to my little cabin. I’ve made this drive hundreds of times and have grown familiar with the homes and farms and small towns along the way. For the most part, the people who express their political allegiance along this route are not shy about it. Where one flag would do, most have two. Beside the highway with its fast-moving cars, the dozens of political signs tend toward the larger, held upright by two fence posts slammed into the neatly mowed easement before well set-back homes. There is no doubt about dominant political tenor of the region and no visible expression of any alternative leanings.

But on my recent Saturday drive I saw something so unexpected that at first I didn’t trust my eyes. The roadside political signs have large blue letters on a white field giving the name of the presidential candidate favored. Except in one case it appeared to my glance, as I drove past just over the legal limit, that the first letter of the candidate’s name had been covered with white paint so the name read R U M P. I dismissed it as sun in my eyes or bugs on the windshield or obscuring plants by the sign. But then I saw it again, and it was clear to me, because I was looking more deliberately, that the sign had been altered. Here again was R U M P. And then a little farther along, a sign was further altered to spell H U M P.

This went on for miles, and I could see it on both sides of the highway.

What to make of this? Was it merely a bit of naughty pranking by some rowdy boys with a can paint and too much free time? Perhaps, though the signs have been in place for months, and they weren’t altered when I last passed through two weeks before. Or did this perhaps indicate some shifting allegiances, given the recent news from the campaign trail? Is the more timid leaning become more assertive?

It’s impossible to say, of course. This is the first election in my life where I have placed signs in my suburban front yard. This is so unprecedented that my daughter posted about it on her social media. Yet in my red state I’ve read accounts of yard signs being stolen in the night (yard signs that must be purchased, for a nominal fee, but still some effort and expense is put into getting them). So far that hasn’t happened to me.* About the only reaction I have seen, and it may be merely coincidental, is that my neighbor up the street moved a contrary political flag on his front porch so it is slightly more visible from the vantage of my front yard. In fact, there are far more signs in my neighborhood in support of my candidate than for the opposition, which would be surprising in a normal election year in this purple county of a red state, but this year is far from normal.

In fact, rural Missouri might be shifting slightly from normal this election year as well. Not only have I noticed the altered signs (and I’ll be watching for them the next time I pass through to see if they’ve been fixed or replaced), but at least two farms that regularly flew flags in support of the incumbent no longer do so. They still have their usual American flags and POW flags, and often a flag for the Kansas City Chiefs, but the pennant of the incumbent are missing. Coincidence? Perhaps. But perhaps not.

__________

*I found, on the morning I wrote this post, that one of the signs — about diversity, not a specific candidate — in my front yard was uprooted and lay on the grass. It hadn’t merely blown over but was clearly pulled out of the ground. At least it wasn’t stolen. Fortunately, since I rise freakishly early on the weekends, I discovered this in the predawn hours and restored it. Perhaps the pranksters will be disappointed.

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One Comment on “changing signs and blurring lines”

  1. markparis Says:

    You all might be more intelligent up there than around here. My congressional district is almost certainly going to elect a QAnon conspiracy believer.


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