Yard signs are popular during election years, and the closer we get to November 3, the more signs we can expect to see. But, lately, in my neighborhood, I’m seeing more and more social justice yard signs that read: “In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter, No Human Is Illegal, Love is Love, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, and Science is Real.”
Yard signs have become so common that now our neighborhood homeowners’ association is soliciting input from homeowners and considering changing our policy on yard signs. I hope the HOA doesn’t force neighbors to remove the signs; it’s their right to express themselves this way.
But I hope neighbors will take the signs down anyway, of their own volition, because whether they realize it or not, these signs contribute to division and polarization. Neighbors displaying these signs might intend to convey compassion and empathy. But instead, the signs give cheap, cursory treatment to a series of serious issues and imply that only one worldview is acceptable. The signs suggest that, outside of homes displaying them, hatred and bigotry are the norm, and only hatred and bigotry can explain any departure from the sign’s political creed.
This suggestion is not charitable or kind. Most importantly, it’s not accurate. Let’s examine the statements on the sign one at a time:
“Black Lives Matter.” Of course. No one argues otherwise. Yet some people are understandably reluctant to support the Black Lives Matter organization, which was founded by self-proclaimed “trained Marxists.” The movement supports an agenda that includes redistributing wealth and decriminalizing drugs and sex work. The BLM website even states that the group favors disrupting the “nuclear family structure requirement,” by “supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable. Regardless of how you feel about these issues, they are political and cultural issues worthy of debate and discussion, not simply being rolled into a slogan.
“No Human is Illegal.” No, humans aren’t illegal, but some immigrants do not have legal status in this country. How can we possibly address immigration reform without addressing this basic fact? A strong majority of Republicans believe that legal immigration can be good for America, but this issue ranks number one on the Perception Gap, a study of how Americans with opposite political views misperceive each others’ positions.
“Love is Love.” Similarly, most Republicans today say society should be accepting of gays and lesbians. President Trump has launched an effort to decriminalize homosexuality globally and appointed America’s first-ever openly gay cabinet member, Richard Grenell, who served as Acting Director of National Intelligence. Of course, it’s another matter to question whether private, Catholic adoption agencies should be forced to place babies with gay couples if this goes against their sincerely held religious beliefs. But “love is love” is meant to shortcut debate on issues like this where values collide.
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” Yes, but which rights specifically? The right to equal pay? Conservatives support equal pay but understand that the wage gap statistic misrepresents how women fare in society: It’s not a metric of “equal pay for equal work” but merely a comparison of raw averages (without controlling for profession, experience, education, hours worked or conditions). But let’s not kid: “Women’s rights” is the left’s favorite euphemism for abortion. A more honest sign would just say, “In this house, we are pro-choice.”
“Science is Real.” The issues of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have given the left plenty to work with to make the case that conservatives are anti-science. But a real discussion with your conservative neighbors might simply reveal that, while we acknowledge science is real, we recognize that it’s not the only thing that matters: History, philosophy, and economics do too.
Of course, I know many of my neighbors are kind people with good intentions. But by putting out these lawn signs, my neighbors are inadvertently participating in the collective shaming of those who hold more conservative beliefs. It’s bullying in a new form.
Platitudes don’t change hearts or minds. Yard signs don’t change hearts or minds. And shouting at passersby in all-caps, even in multi-colored font, undermines the message of inclusivity and altruism you may think your sign is sending. If you really believe that kindness is everything and want to show that “hate has no home” at your address (as another popular sign reads), and if you really want to contribute to a better neighborhood, public square, and country, please, take down your sign. Instead, get to know your neighbors and engage in a respectful dialogue. My welcome mat is out.