Editorial: Vandalism, not politics

A few years back, if I remember right, a pop song called “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” lamented the disappearance of the rugged, individualistic, masculine American male. Whenever I drive west on U.S. 211 near Amissville this week, I find that a new refrain keeps coming to mind: Where have all the Virginia gentlemen gone?

For there, right next to the county’s main thoroughfare, the gateway to Rappahannock, stands a defaced political campaign sign – so big and glaring you can’t look away. Measuring perhaps four feet by four feet, the blue-and-white Democratic sign – in support of President Obama, former Gov. Kaine and Gen. Douglass – has been vandalized, furiously spray-painted in bright, blood red.

Whoever took the trouble to spray-paint the sign could have, of course, simply knocked it down, or even carted it away. That kind of “dirty-tricks” campaign behavior, though not laudatory, can happen in passionately hard-fought political campaigns. Indeed, rumor has it that one Rappahannock candidate for public office (maybe even a Democrat?) has stacks of opponents’ signs from past campaigns ripped from the roadside and then hidden in a barn.

But the U.S. 211 vandal left the defaced Obama-Kaine-Douglass sign right where it was, for all the world to see, proudly displaying his misplaced anger, even hatred. Misplaced because the object of the hatred doesn’t really exist but, rather, is a cartoon creation of the vitriolic, bombastic, apocalyptic rhetoric of talk radio. The more outrageous and radical the claims, the more stirred up, the better.

The anger is so heated, made palpable in the frenzied spray-paint, that an intimidated neighbor says she will not put up an Obama roadside sign this year; she’s afraid her shed near the road might get mysteriously burned down.

This is not to say that people like her aren’t tempted to be drawn into a search-and-destroy roadside war. One Democrat I know jokes he would like to replace the “Believe in America” slogan on the Romney-Ryan signs with “Believe in offshore accounts.” But he would never actually do it. With his wit, not splashes of spray-paint, he shows he’s a Virginia gentleman. And so, too, are Republicans of the “old school.”

Walter Nicklin