For a good portion of every 24 hours at this latitude at this time of year, we are under the cover of darkness, which provides ample opportunity for the unscrupulous to steal around neighborhoods uprooting or defacing political yard signs.

It happens more than you'd think, based on the letters to the editor we've been receiving almost daily from the newly victimized. The main targets this year are signs pertaining to the marriage amendment, and although the "vote yes" side seems to have an anecdotal edge in being targeted, the theft and vandalism have been directed both ways.

Who would do such a thing? Ideological operatives? Uncurfewed youths? A friendly neighbor, all passive-aggressive in the still of the night?

Impossible to know in the aggregate. All we can surmise is that someone faced two ethical roads diverging into a yellow wood, and took the one easily traveled by.

That's right: The low road is easy. According to behavioral economist Dan Ariely, we can still think of ourselves as good people even when doing the wrong thing -- an idea with broad implications. (An 11-minute video about Ariely's latest book, "The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone -- Especially Ourselves," can be seen via YouTube, and is worth your time for the animation style alone.)

That most yard signs make it through the electoral season unscathed suggests a general understanding that contempt for them is no trivial matter -- that it is, at best, an act of trespassing, and at worst, by some theories, a hate crime.

So vote yes on the marriage amendment, if you must. Or vote no (my incontrovertible stance). But should you find yourself strolling in the night, eyeing the opportunity to ignominiously negate someone's sincere expression, vote with your feet and walk away.

Isn't that obvious?


David Banks is the Star Tribune's assistant commentary editor.