Sometimes, I must admit, when I see political signs on neighbors’ properties, I think about defacing those that support a candidate whom I oppose. Then, I realize that I would be guilty of vandalism and breaking the law.
I do some quick soul-searching. I appeal to my well-ingrained sense of law and order. I tell myself that democracy spawns wholly different political points of view. I welcome a sense of serenity.
When I read last week in The Star Democrat about the numerous instances of the wanton theft and destruction of Biden-Harris and Trump-Pence signs in Talbot and Dorchester counties, I felt sickened by the unbridled anger and spite on the Mid-Shore and our nation. It just seems irrational.
To assuage my disgust, I accessed my typical default: self-righteousness. That offered no comfort. Then, I sought solace in humor. That worked and distracted me.
H.L. Mencken, the acerbic, Baltimore-based journalist and keen political observer, opined, “Every election is a sort of an advanced auction of stolen goods.”
While I don’t share Mencken’s cynical, trenchant perspective, I do understand that some might consider politicians dishonest and devious, making promises they can’t keep and often unable to avoid the temptation of self-aggrandizement. The body politic becomes suspect about a candidate’s motivation.
What I find distasteful in the political arena is the theft–by political expediency–of dignity, civility and character. For example, since the death of Republican Senator John McCain more than two years ago, the Republican Party has lost its moral anchor. Silence has replaced disappointment in the unconscionably reckless behavior of the president.
The voice of honor disappeared upon McCain’s death. McCain was a maverick who refused to be hamstrung by the party line. He spoke out regardless of the circumstances. Courage was his constant companion.
Fear has supplanted moral outrage.
Amid an avalanche of ridiculous tweets by the president, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has dared to question the president’s competency and mental stability. Consequently, she then must withstand silly personal attacks; she refuses to be intimidated.
Unfortunately, I’m not surprised by the destruction and defacing of political signs. This blatant disregard of private property signifies the unleashed anger that has manifested itself in innumerable communities throughout our emotionally divisive country. My research reveals a comparable pattern of illegal behavior in communities small and large
Will Rogers, the great humorist, once said, “Elections are a good deal like marriages. There’s no accounting for anyone’s taste. Every time we see a bridegroom we wonder why she ever chose him, and it’s the same with public officials.”
Humor is an effective antidote in our distressing political climate. Signs and friends are destroyed by partisan strife. Our national dignity is shattered. Spineless politicians have watched and done little to obstruct our dangerous shift in values.
Political courage is in short supply.
“A politician is an animal which can sit on the fence and yet be able to keep both ears to the ground,” according to Mencken. At this time in our history, satire, though biting and bitter, can be good for the soul.
In three weeks, on Nov. 3, our presidential election will dominate our attention. Regardless of the humorous disparagement of politics and its practitioners by H.L. Mencken and Will Rogers, I suggest one thing above all else:
Vote. No excuses. It’s your right. If it rains, take an umbrella.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.