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Not all signs of spring are pretty

Larry French, Community Voices Columnist • Apr 13, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Here we are, a little more than three weeks into spring and already we’re seeing those magnificent colors we associate with this time of year. Reds, yellows, greens, purples, whites and an occasional blue dot the landscapes of Northeast Tennessee.

’Tis a beautiful sight to behold. One can almost hear Rodgers and Hammerstein’s, “The hills are alive with the ...”

Now if you thought I was referring to flowers, trees and music, then guess again.

I’m talking about those obnoxious political campaign signs found on every street corner, by-way, highway and driveway throughout the entire region.

They’re so annoying even dandelions refuse to grow under them.

A colleague of mine humorlessly said, “I didn’t know there were so many real estate agents in Carter County.”

Yes, gentle readers, political signs are a sight to behold. Or question.

While political candidates are indeed an interesting lot, they’re not half as interesting as their signs.

It’s not “A vote for me is a vote for change;” “A vote for me is a vote for jobs,” or “A vote for me is your voice being heard” that’s disconcerting; it’s the list of attributes under the candidates’ names that are problematic.

Honesty, integrity, principled, forthright and truthfulness are difficult enough to prove, but the one attribute that concerns me the most is Christian.

Does the word Christian automatically make one candidate any better than all the others? Does this mean that all Christians should vote for this candidate based on what he or she is proclaiming?

What if the signs stated the candidates were Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, Gnostic or atheist? On the other hand, what if the candidates narrowed it down to Baptist, Methodist, Universalist Unitarian or Presbyterian?

Would it really make any difference as long as the candidates were honest and truthful and had the voters’ best interests at heart?

Besides, what’s behind the meaning anyway? Voters have no idea if the candidate is a Christian or if they’re merely using the self-proclamation as a way to garner votes.

Religion has no place in the political arena, just as politics have no place in the religious arena.

Of course, if it wasn’t for those signs, elections — for the most part — would quickly become the equivalent of watching paint dry. By all indications though, the next several months are shaping up to be anything but dull as accusations, complaints, whining, stunts, finger-pointing, character assassinations, backbiting and fake news have all arrived in full force.

And you thought petty and dirty politics existed only in D.C.? No folks, this is the Northeast Tennessee version. A manmade quasi-religion designed for dinner table talk. In fact, if you’re not talking politics at the dinner table, you’re not talking

Just imagine if we could calculate how to harness all the hot air generated by all the candidates during the next seven months. Why we’d probably have enough energy to supply every home in Northeast Tennessee.

To paraphrase, George Orwell, “Political language (and signs) — are designed to make lies sound (and look) truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Yes, the signs are a nuisance. But after the elections are over and the losers go home and ask, “What happened?” the signs remain as reminders of faded dreams, transcending into winter where they will soon resemble the leaves of a mighty push-oak tree. Faded, brown and still clinging to hope.

An esteemed colleague of mine has the solution for those signs left in the ground after the elections.

“With all the fancy gardening tools available, you know the ones, Bulb Boppers, Bulb Augers, Pro Pluggers, Bend-Free Tools, Jim-Gem Speedy Dibble and the ever handy-dandy posthole digger, maybe Lowe’s should invent a tool to assist in removing the losers’ signs. They’d be a big seller. They could even incorporate the candidate’s party of choice with the name on the handle. “Left-handed” political sign removers for Democrats, “Right-handed” political sign removers for Republicans, and for those independent candidates, they’ll just have to pull their signs up the old-fashioned way.”

Yes, election time will come and go and there will be more losers than winners; but until then, join in the political debate. It’s the American way.

Larry French lives in Butler. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association of Opinion Journalists and teaches composition and literature at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. You may reach him at  FRENCHL@etsu.edu.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed by all Community Voices columnists are their own and do not necessary reflect those of the Johnson City Press.

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