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A (stolen) sign of the times

Rick Holinger
Rick Holinger

You may have heard there’s an election coming up. For president. Of the United States.

Okay, let’s stop right there and focus on that phrase. President of the United States. As in, The United States of America. The operative word is “United.” That’s what we depend on to keep it together. To keep us together. To keep the country together.

Lately, I’ve been wondering just how united we are. Because I sure don’t feel it. And our president’s not helping things.

I’ve been getting the same feeling I had in second grade when Eisenhower ran against Stevenson. Mrs. Alright Class invited us to wear pins to school showing whom we support. That night we asked our parents whom we supported, and they gave us pins with the likes of “I LIKE IKE” with the brave, handsome military hero’s photo, or some tin nonsense put out by Adlai Stevenson’s gang of thieves.

Can you tell my parents were Republicans? Can you tell I had no idea who the candidates were, much less what political philosophy they espoused? In those days, before I started reading and thinking for myself, my parents played the part of Fox News, telling me everything I should believe without question when it came to religion, politics, and washing behind my ears.

Next day, our class formed into two diametrically opposed camps. If another’s pin didn’t match ours, we branded the person dumb, misinformed, recalcitrant, and unwashed—as though knowing whether or not the person had bathed.

In other words, we judged before understanding, dismissed anyone not in our camp a senseless traitor until they came around and thought like we did. Or, rather, like our parents did.

Debates tumbled out something like this:

“Ike’s great.” “He is not.” “Yes, he is.” “He is not. Stevenson’s great.” “He is not.” “Yes, he is.”

“All right, class,” Mrs. Alright Class would eventually say. “In your seats. Time for arithmetic. Richard, stop yelling at Cynthia.”

“She likes Stevenson,” I defended myself.

“That’s her right,” our teacher taught us.

“But she’s wrong.”

“She has her own opinion, you have yours.”

“Yeah, Richard,” Cynthia screamed. “I have my own oh-pin-ee-on!”

“You’re a jerk,” I said, hoping she’d be my girlfriend.

“Turn to page 73 in our ‘Arithmetic Can Be Fun!’ text,” Mrs. Alright Class directed. “Today we’re tackling long division.”

Unfortunately, we’re still tackling long division, the same division that separated our second grade class into two factions. Little real dialogue exists; insult and/or demagoguery rules the internet. We’re entrenched; a lack of empathy results in anger and frustration.

Take lawn signs. In fact, that’s what people are doing, taking political signs off private property.

Frankly, I’m hesitant to step foot on a neighbor’s lawn even when picking up our dog Chewball’s droppings. “Do your business on the public parkway,” I reprimand the dog. “Show some consideration.”

Yes, local social media report signs thanking the Illinois governor for saving lives have disappeared. Go figure. You compliment someone and get silenced for the effort.

That’s like Little Johnny ripping his opponent’s presidential pin off a blouse or shirt pocket! Instead, Jimmy should write down his manifesto and give it to Mrs. Alright Class to read aloud, then give the other side equal time.

Stealing lawn signs reveals a lack of respect bordering on fascism (“My beliefs should be your beliefs”). Anyone selfish and cowardly enough to be threatened by a name should go back and repeat second grade.

This time, they should listen to Mrs. Alright Class until learning to have some class.

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