What if you were forbidden to put a sign in your yard?

no signs

I raise that question because a neighborhood in walking distance of my house — I walked through there yesterday, and took the picture above — forbids political signs. “Stop,” indeed.

Which offends me, of course, since I’ve only recently been in a position to express my views that way. You can’t do that when you’re a newspaper editor. You have to stay out of the fray. But in 2018, I decided to get in it, and the idea of some neighborhood association telling me I can’t rubs me the wrong way.

Make no mistake — the members of that association are perfectly free to make this rule. The Constitution says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech….” It says nothing about HOAs. Or about newspapers, with their ethics rules.

You are free to decide whether you want to live in such a neighborhood, and be governed by such rules. In this case, a neighborhood so dedicated to maintaining its sterile purity that the application of “pre-emergents” is coordinated. No weeds. And no having our tranquility disturbed by political expression.

Not that it’s the best form of political expression. In its black-and-white, for-this-one-or-that-one simplicity, it shares some of the limitations of chanting at a political demonstration, which you know I’m not crazy about. But I see it as an adjunct to more-developed forms, such as the essay, or my blog, or all those years of editorial- and column-writing, which have allowed me to develop ideas more fully.

All of that stuff adds up to some choices that are clearer and plainer than others. Yes, the choice between Joe Biden and his opponent is as clear, once you’ve thoroughly examined the factors, as ones and zeroes. The choice between Jaime Harrison and his opponent is closely related, and not far behind it in clarity.

And I think it’s important for my neighbors in my Republican precinct to see that several of their neighbors are willing to take this stand.

Speaking of which, I was pleased to see this expansion of expression in one neighbors’ yard (see below). This yard is one of those I’ve mentioned previously that had a sign for Jaime, but not one for Joe. Now, as you see, they’ve added one for Joe (perhaps they were on a waiting list to get it, as I see this one has “Harris” on it, unlike my vintage primary signs).

And it has one for Adair, too! That should please Sally, who asked me why I didn’t have one of those. (My short answer is that I plan to vote for her, and I don’t mind saying so, but that my commitment doesn’t have quite the same black-and-white quality of the Biden and Harrison choices. Here’s the long answer.)

I’m glad people are expressing their views in my neighborhood. So I prefer to live here, with our opinions and our weeds and all.

Oh, and by the way… the yards like this one are few. There are five now that I know of, counting mine. Four that I pass regularly, and the other day a woman stopped to tell my wife she appreciates our signs because not many people see hers on the side street where she lives. (Indeed, on the high corner where I live, the signs are about as visible as you get in this neighborhood.)

And so far, I’ve seen none for Trump, or Lindsey. I expect that to change, but so far it’s been nice to keep seeing such a trend. Actually, I almost hate to mention it, since we have a no-hitter going so far…

yet more signs

19 thoughts on “What if you were forbidden to put a sign in your yard?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Quick update: I just got back from a walk around the neighborhood on this gorgeous day (just under 5,000 steps), and there are three more yards with signs.

    And they’re all for my senator, Nikki Setzler. I guess Nikki just got a shipment in, or just now distributed them.

    Which means I’ve got to look into this: I didn’t realize Nikki had serious opposition. If so, that concerns me.

    But maybe, since there were no OTHER signs in that yard, maybe those folks were just saying “Hey, I’m with all of y’all! I’m for Nikki!”…

  2. randle

    The Biden campaign is finally getting around to the importance of signs. I got an e-mail last week asking me to donate. In exchange, I would get a sign. Seems in a pandemic, when canvassing, rallies and voter drives are problematic, signs would have been encouraged earlier. They show enthusiasm. And, as you say, in this state especially, it’s good to see another point of view.

      1. randle

        Precisely. But I think people throughout the country have been asking for them. I’m glad they are responding.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    Interesting HOA restriction, but given how volatile and ugly our politics has become, can you hardly blame the HOA?

    I would start from the presumption that this HOA restriction is valid unless there’s a specific act of the SC legislature that prohibits such a restriction in an HOA’s set of covenants and restrictions. I’m not aware of any such statute off the top of my head, but I haven’t looked into it.

    1. Barry

      Given the “good conservatives” in the general assembly and their penchant for getting involved in local issues all over the state (despite repeatedly saying the opposite) and telling local elected bodies what they can and can’t do about all sorts of issues (I’m thinking of you plastic bags), I’m sure if enough Trumpers complain, the GA will seek to prohibit HOAs from banning political signs next go around.

      Especially since so many of those signs will be pro trump.

      That will surely help calm political divisions amongst neighbors.

  4. Bill

    Yard signs point to the Old Pop Psych..Stop taking it out on the lawn!
    (Transactional analysis is a psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy wherein social transactions are analyzed to determine the ego state of the communicator as a basis for understanding behavior. In transactional analysis, the communicator is taught to alter the ego state as a way to solve emotional problems…)

  5. Doug T

    A co-worker’s brother drove from Ohio to Indiana. According to his observation Biden signs badly trailed Trump and “Sweet Corn for Sale”.

    I don’t know if I could conform to an HOA. I enjoy the couch on my porch. : )

  6. Doug T

    Not many signs in our small town. I gave an extra Biden sign to my neighbor around the corner. I told her to be prepared to be criticized, ostrasized demonized, vulcanized, etc.

    Half my neighbors don’t return waves anymore since I out my Biden sign…especially those driving jeeps and pickups. I can see their white knuckles gripping their steering wheels and their jaws clenching tightly.

    1. Barry

      I won’t put up a Biden sign. There are no signs in my neighborhood.

      But the real reason I won’t put up a sign is a friend that did have a Biden and Roy Cooper sign had rocks thrown at his front windows, breaking 2, about a month ago. He lives in North Carolina.

      Conservatives can be plenty hate filled too, as we all know too well.

    2. Barry

      “ and their jaws clenching tightly.”

      When you have dentures at 30 years of age, that is an automatic response.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You would violate the contract? Presumably, people have to accept an agreement when they move in.

      I mean, I think that’s the usual way.

      It’s my understanding that my neighborhood doesn’t allow chickens. My son lives in a place where there’s no such problem, and last year he got four chickens (there IS a limit on the number), and built a henhouse and a coop in his garden.

      It’s been a fun project — for his kids, and the rest of us.

      But I don’t think we can do that.

      Not sure, though. I’m not eager enough to grow chickens to look it up…

      1. Ken

        Yes, let them take me to court. I doubt they’d bother, though. This isn’t anything like keeping chickens. Neighbors tend to get really riled up about stuff like that. But probably not so much about campaign signs. I mean, if you can put up a “My kid is the proud graduate of X,” why not a political sign? Each is a form of personal expression.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, I’m with you that people might get more riled about chickens.

          But some people DO really hate campaign signs. Have you noticed that? I think (and hope) it’s a small minority, but they get stirred up about it. I guess one of those folks was on the committee that drafted the HOA rules…

  7. Mark

    You know what offends me? People who drive around with decals or license plate frames from the business where they purchased their car. Let alone car manufacturer names on more surfaces then Nike emblazons its “swoosh.” Ban them. Also, garish lawn mower paint colors. What’s happened to the idyllic suburban neighborhood? It’s all anarchy out there! Help – HOA’s to the rescue!!!

    1. Barry

      Every new car I have ever purchased, I removed the dealer ID on the back as soon as I arrived at home.

      I’m not a traveling billboard.

      When Bob Bennet Ford use to be around, that dealer would apply a sticker to every car that said afFORDable. That was as tacky as Donald Trump saying if he wasn’t his daughter’s father, he’d want to date her.

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