Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

EDITORIAL: Big lie on little sign

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THE BEST THING YOU COULD say about the sign is that it was made from recycled garbage, literally.

It was stuck in the ground in the middle of the night in front of a home in the Town of Ghent. It’s not clear why that particular home was targeted except that in the past the homeowners have placed lawn signs supporting Democrats. Some of those earlier signs were ripped up or thrown away.

A similar sign appeared at another Ghent home the same night.

As this political season grinds toward an off-year election in November, it looks like our local political sign snatcher has returned. Or maybe a new generation of political vandals has emerged. Whoever it is, he (or she or they) decided to craft a new sign from pieces of an old one—so the snatcher gets credit for recycling. And this time around he’s adding a sign to the roadside rather than stealing the signs that belong to somebody else. But this is an escalation that no one should ignore or applaud. It’s not a prank. This is a threat to one of our neighbors.

The message on the sign reads: “Baby KiLLERS LiVE HERE.”

Four words. Together they constitute a lie. But it’s not just the words. It’s the fact that the former snatcher has now become the trespasser, assuming the right to place the lie on the owner’s property.

Snatching the political signs of the opposite party’s candidates has a long history in this country. That’s not an excuse for vandalism; it’s an observation that snatching appears to be self-limiting. It stops no later than Election Day. But what do we make of the Ghent case? The lie it advertises has no expiration date.

At the very least, placing a sign like that in front of a property might lower the value of this residence. Then there’s the question of what intangible damage has been done to tax-paying residents and the town itself?

But let’s not be coy. Identifying the address of the people you hate was a technique perfected by the Nazis. You’ll hear people say that it’s just the work of one extreme individual. Don’t count on it.

However you figure it, the one-time sign snatcher has put his own crusade above the law. He is judge, jury and guiltless victim entitled to experiment wherever the lie takes him.

That’s a pretty bleak outcome. But there are other, more optimistic conclusions to this story.

The first step is that law enforcement agencies—the sheriff and the State Police—must treat these threats as a crime and open vigorous investigations.

And while that’s happening, the snatcher and others who approve of his signs might spend some time coming to terms with the truth. Simply put, the truth is that the recent Supreme Court decision is only a small wrinkle in the legal and political struggle to expand the control woman have over their own bodies. The lie can’t change that.

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