Lileks: YES and NO lawn signs are yard sails of democracy

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS
  • Star Tribune
  • November 1, 2012 - 9:01 PM

I have to wear a blindfold to walk the dog, lest I see the lawn signs.

They're so seductive. So effective.

You base your decision on an issue after a consideration of the arguments, you interrogate your own positions with a skeptical eye -- but then you see a small placard on a lawn and, whammo, you're whipsawed into a maelstrom of doubt.

That color! The choice of typeface! The blunt command to vote contrary to my opinion! Must -- not -- look --

Resolve -- slipping -- away --

You look around for a lawn sign that reinforces your opinion -- there! A block away! You can make it! Press on -- but no! No!

More signs from the other side! Look away, lest your deeply held beliefs melt like cotton candy in a hot summer rain! Think of Ulysses, lashing himself to the mast, stopping his ears with wax so he couldn't hear the Sirens' song. Maybe if I just look at the ground.

Is there anything more effective than a lawn sign? You say: Of course. A chain e-mail from a relative with 33 re:re:re:re: in the subject line. Those things are devastating.

Or one of those Facebook things that has words on a picture in some ironic juxtaposition. Granted, they're powerful.

But the yard signs -- the stoutest trunk of conviction is felled like a twig in the presence of a sign that says NO when you believe YES, or YES when you believe NO.

You dread the day they propose a Youth Employment Service, or YES, and the signs say VOTE NO ON YES. What if they have a Northland Opportunity measure, called NO, and the same lawn with VOTE NO ON YES has a sign that says VOTE YES ON NO?

And heaven save us from the Minneapolis All-Year Business Enterprise, or MAYBE. What if there was an initiative to rescind the program? VOTE YES ON NO TO MAYBE.

People would weep in the streets.

So many signs. In my neighborhood they have sprouted with such profusion they act as sails, propelling the Earth to spin faster and faster, which leads directly to hurricanes. If we'd had one constitutional question on the ballot, New York would have been hit by a squall, at best, but two amendments required twice the number of signs, and hence the significant increase in rotational speed. We have to remove them over a period of a week, or the Earth will screech to a stop, and all the dishes are going to come crashing out of the cupboards.

It's obvious why the signs go up. They're intended to assert your convictions, reassure compatriots, discourage opponents -- look upon the multitude of signage, ye of differing opinion, and despair! -- as well as remind neighbors that there's a good reason you don't talk politics while raking the lawn. Unless you can do it nicely:

"How's it going, delusional tool of the plutocrat class?"

"Can't complain, willing serf of the socialist overclass. How 'bout those Vikes?"

"I'm impressed so far, although I'm sure you see their high salaries as a refutation of systemic racism."

"Nah, I just enjoy that thing you hate -- you know, competition, merit-based outcomes. Hey, you want to come over for a beer when we're done raking?"

"Sure, ya Fascist."

"Great, Commie-symp."

Even the most ardent sign-pounder must admit that it's a bit of a waste. Once the passions fade and the signs sag limp in the maw of a November gale, they're thrown in the trash, never to be used again.

Perhaps we could come up with some sustainable signs that can be used over and over. They wouldn't have a specific message, but they'd accomplish the same thing. A big headline and some small print, like all the popular signs:


Your objections or arguments have already been weighed and discarded.


I want it, too.


Get a free sticker.


I put it out to get your goat.

In the future, the signs will be replaced with motion-sensitive interactive holograms of the candidates. They will pop into view while you walk past with the dog and wave at you. Once the technology's perfected, they will probably respond to questions, too, and that will mystify the dog.

He'll know it's a load of you-know-what, but it has no aroma. • 612-673-7858

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