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I knew my kids would feel violated, angry, and afraid. Their own attitudes toward dissent are being tested and formed. So we did what we do. We talked it through.

I told them our sign had been taken from the yard. (At this point we hadn’t found it again.) Erin’s reaction was utter disbelief.

“Really?” she said. “Really?”


“Really? Cause sometimes you joke. Really?”

“Erin, jeez, yes, somebody took our sign!” Connor said. “It totally stinks!”

She looked at the floor. “Omigosh. I feel like I want to cry.” She looked up at me with a worried forehead. “So people in our neighborhood are mad at us?” I could see the scared siege mentality forming on her face.

“Now wait a minute. How many people took that sign? It was probably one person walking by last night. That’s not everybody.” I really wanted to nip the generalizing assumption in the bud and had an idea how I could. “You know who would really be mad about this? Mr. Ryan.” Ryan is a neighbor of ours, a wonderful, soft-spoken guy. “And he wants McCain to win. But he doesn’t want it by cheating.”

They agreed, and Erin’s face relaxed a bit.

“So what do you think we should do?” I asked. “Maybe we should just…you know…not have a sign?”

All three erupted in indignation at the thought of being silenced. Exxx-cellent. I checked the box for moral courage on my mental list.

“But if we put another one out, it might be taken again by this doofus. What should we do?”

They started brainstorming. Connor wanted to put a sign out again and stake it out all night from his window. Erin wanted to put a sign at the top of our 30-foot tree. Laney suggested putting Obama and McCain signs in our yard so everyone would be happy. Erin suggested getting 100 signs, “And every time he takes it, boop! We put another one out. Like The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins!”

They all laughed. Finally we decided to put it out every morning and take it in at dinnertime.

By the end we had achieved everything I was hoping for. They refused to be silenced; they were referring to one perp, not a silent army; they were using their own creativity to get around the problem; and they’d relaxed and moved on to other things. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Side note…

Becca continues to simmer about it. Last night she said, “I hate to say this, but can you picture Obama supporters doing something like that?” I resist this idea too. My knee jerks, and I say, “Oh, I’m sure Democrats do it, too.”

Then I Googled these four phrases and got these hit counts:

Obama sign vandalized“: 309 hits
Obama sign stolen“: 105 hits
McCain sign vandalized“: 6 hits
McCain sign stolen“: 4 hits

…and two of the McCain hits are from my own blogs. Also interesting: nearly all of the other McCain hits were during primary season.


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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.