As I drive around my corner of Aquidneck Island, I’ve noticed something missing: political signs supporting the presidential candidates.

So far, I’ve seen just two places where there are Biden signs – one of which doesn’t count, since it’s sprouting from the hedge of my home in Newport’s “Fifth Ward” neighborhood. And I have yet to spot any Trump signs.

Now, I haven’t driven on every road, and I know this will change, the closer we get to the official voting day, Nov. 3.

But the contrast between the relative scarcity of presidential lawn signs, and the robust and fast-growing crop of those for local and state races, is startling, considering the enormous stakes of the presidential race, as signaled by the daily avalanche of news crushing us from every kind of media.

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Why?  Are Aquidneck Islanders oblivious to what the pundits (correctly) are calling the most important election of our lifetime?  Are our lawns too small and our hedges too puny to support one more political poster? Don’t we care?

I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite: passions about the presidential race are so intense that a lot of people don’t want to offend their neighbors, their friends and even passersby by making such a consequential public statement.

The minute you tell someone you are a Trump or Biden supporter, everything changes. Friendships break. Marriages crumble. Neighbors stop speaking. Strangers glare. – “I thought I knew you,” the primitive core of our brain says to itself, while the rational part stops us from putting the outrage into words. “How could you….? How can you be so….?  What is wrong with you…?”

Once declared, where you stand with Biden or Trump is not something you can take back. And it’s not something forgotten. Ever. And it’s surely not the sort of thing casually discussed.

Even in the best of times, it’s hard to change anyone’s mind about their political choices. – “What a fool I was to vote for Hillary!”  “I can’t believe I actually voted for Donald!”

Words rarely, if ever, spoken.

And nearly four years into the presidency of Donald Trump, the divisions have only hardened.

To a Joe Biden partisan, the case against Trump is so open and shut that we cannot conceive of any human being supporting his lawlessness, relentless attacks on democratic processes; his cruelty to immigrants and refugees; his contempt for climate and other science; his inept leadership, racism,  psychopathic lying, misogyny, foul language, empty boasts and his carelessness about the millions fallen ill to The Covid and the hundreds of thousands who’ve died. Biden is kind, experienced and not scary in the least. Grow older with us, Joe.

All of which, to a Trump supporter, is just so much noise, in fact proof that Trump is doing just what they hoped he would do. He’s put the establishment, the know-it-alls, the experts, the Word Police, the phonies in their place. Driven them stark raving loony. The real disease is not The Covid, but Trump Derangement Syndrome. The Donald’s made the socialists mindlessly miserable, while getting the real job done. Heaven sakes, he got the economy going, the best ever, before The Covid – and look how he’s bounced back from that, just like he’ll bring back the economy. Stay well, Donald.

So, why put up a sign? Speaking for our household, the answer is simple.

This election is too important to say nothing. We know that our Biden signs – actually, we’ve got two, an official version in the hedge, and a homemade job taped to sun porch windows – aren’t going to persuade anyone, and that at least some of the people who drive or walk by are going to think dark, even dangerous, thoughts.

But silence is worse. And that goes for Trump supporters. It won’t improve my already-off-the-charts stress levels to see any Trump signs going up. But the failure to speak out is terrible, whether it’s out of fear, a desire not to offend or just plain not wanting to be bothered.

Democracy is difficult. But it shouldn’t make us – literally and symbolically – speechless.

So, there’s still time. Let’s get those signs out in plain sight, where they belong.  More for Joe would be nice, of course.


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