It’s A Sign

by Maria Theresa Maggi on August 22, 2020

(Spoiler alert: this post is unabashedly in favor of the Democratic Party and the Democratic ticket. If you are a Trump supporter, you have your right to your views, and you have plenty of venues to air those views.  This is not one of them. If you air them here or  troll those who disagree with you, your comments will be blocked.)

I was surprised to  realize the other day that despite my sporadic activism over the course of my life for a number of causes, I could think of only one other time I’d ever had a yard sign. There may be others but the time I am thinking of was many years ago in Idaho. I had just moved into my blue house on Asbury Street and was still teaching at the University. That year there was a lot of talk about a referendum on the ballot called Proposition 1. When I got my voter pamphlet and poured over it, I realized that the confusing narratives were not so confusing after all; this referendum was meant to curtail the rights of the gay community (We didn’t call it LGTBQ then). Having come from California, I was appalled by this and quickly worked to find where I could procure a sign that would proudly announce that I was voting no on it. Thankfully, it did not pass.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a sign for a presidential candidate in my yard before, though a shadowy memory of a sign for some Democratic candidate who lost languishing in the barn on Asbury Street lurks in the background. But it is not memorable enough for me to recall if it was a mayoral candidate or a presidential one.

This election cycle I had not really thought about doing it either. But then my sense of play came, well, into play, and here’s how that happened.

One of my neighbors about five houses down and around the bend, was quick to put up a Biden sign for President when he and his wife returned (later than usual because of the virus) for the summer (which will now be longer than that, also because of the virus). He and I love to chat about politics and I could not help but smile to myself that he was back as I walked by and saw the Biden sign, at that point the lone one in the neighborhood, a couple of months before the convention and just at the point it was looking certain he would be the candidate.

It made me laugh not only because this neighbor was the proud first to do what he knew would antagonize some of our Trump supporting neighbors, but also because I was happy about it. Biden had never been even close to my first choice, but now I knew it was time to get on the train and hope for a VP that might speak more to the platform I wanted to see. And if so many other Democrats wanted him then I was going to go with that to get the Gaslighter in Chief we now have occupying the White House out.

But I still didn’t think about getting a sign of my own.

As the weeks rolled by another neighbor who lives high above our neighborhood beach access, draped a large Trump sign over the railing of his deck, the effect of which is that when you come up from the stairs to the beach and look up to catch your breath you cannot help but notice it. I thought it was obnoxious, but my neighbor took it as a call to arms. Besides the Biden for president sign, he added another that read “Pro America Anti-Trump” and hung a flag from one of the huge pines surrounding it. This in turn, apparently evoked the ire of yet another Trump supporting neighbor just down the hill and around the bend from both of us. He’s a friendly gentlemen who used to have an elderly dog who passed away and so I would see him out walking dogs, as did my sign collecting neighbor, often in the late afternoon when we’d all make our way to the mailbox bank. His wife, it is rumored, is more liberal, but the only time I’ve ever seen her out is when she was being gently walked by her doting Trump supporting husband after surgery. It was a touching sight and I wished them both well.

As the story goes, on one of these late afternoon walk times, this neighbor was visiting with two of my friends, a couple I met on the beach and have known from the time I lived in the trailer, and he was telling them how much he hated that darn Biden sign. Apparently the husband said, “Well, there are a lot of us who feel that way here,” addressing this neighbor considerately by name. It surprised me to hear he said this because while I know he feels that way, he is also the president of our HOA and often has to bridge the divide on many topics, some powered by this divide, in order to get things done around here. Apparently, doting husband Trump supporting neighbor was so incensed that he waved his arm dismissively in the air at HOA president neighbor, as if to brush him away, turned heel and stomped off without a good-bye or another word.

I’ve had something similar happen more than a year ago now with another Trump supporting neighbor when I tried to talk to him about the terrible and distinctive legacy of chattel slavery in America. He still avoids me like the plague. For weeks he wouldn’t make eye contact at all and when I was finally able to just thank him for trying to talk to me about a difficult subject, I thought he might choke he seemed so afraid to talk to me. But that is another story.

I knew what had happened with friendly Trump supporting neighbor, and I knew another good friend of mine  who lives between Biden sign neighbor and up the hill from friendly Trump supporting neighbor  had also ordered a Biden sign the afternoon last week Cotton and I were starting out down the street on our afternoon walk. I saw this Biden sign hating neighbor approach us in the opposite direction. We waved to each other from across the road and he stopped and asked me if I time my walks to when the mail is delivered. I said no, not really, we just go and see what happens (and also there is a field beyond the mail boxes Cotton likes to play in off leash), but it made me merry because I tell you the way these seniors in this neighborhood circle like hawks to get their mail out of the boxes the minute it’s deposited, in cars, bicycles and on foot, you’d think they’d all be Biden supporters after what’s happened to the post office.

Then friendly Trump supporting Biden sign hating neighbor said, “Well, I bet you hate walking by that Biden sign!” We were talking at an acceptable social distance, so none of this was confidential, if anyone happened to appear. But all that appeared was a little smile on my face, and I heard myself say, using his name, “Well, I might actually like having a Biden sign in my yard.”

Here it comes, I thought. But what came next surprised me. There was a little pause, in which I could almost feel a pivot. And without snark, but some considerable effort, I imagine, as he began to walk away, he said back, “Well, maybe you should get one!” And I said, “I think I might.” (the title of a guitar instrumental album I used to love). And as we walked away, I heard him add. “And you might like the sign even better now that Kamala’s on it!” He pronounced her name “KaMAla,” but I was so surprised because his tone was not derisive in the least, I just called back an enthusiastic and sincere “Yes!” over my shoulder.

As one who geelfully has raised her hand in a conversation where yet another of my Trump supporting neighbors referred to “them dang bleeding heart liberals,” I laughed all the way to the mailbox bank and the field and off and on at the beach and for the rest of the night. And I knew that now I was going to get a sign. I told this story to my neighbors here who know this man, and who have received his ire about their signs or their allegiance. My first Biden sign of all neighbor likes to tease me that Biden hating sign neighbor is also a sexist because he saved his ire for the gents but didn’t spend it on me. But I just laugh and say maybe his wife told him to be nicer to the neighbors.

I ordered my sign online after I knew Kamala Harris would be on it, and was waiting patiently for them to begin shipping August 24th. My other neighbor friend who ordered a sign was also still waiting for hers. Then one morning during the convention when Cotton and I were coming up the steps from our early morning walk, we saw our friend with her two golden retrievers about to go down. She told me that she had made contact with someone from our Lincoln County Democrats Committee who lived in our area and had a trunkful of signs she was taking down to the headquarters in Newport. She was going to meet her and buy an additional sign, so I decided what the heck, and I got the one you see in the photo later on that morning. As my friend and I were placing it out front, another neighbor across the street called out from her upstairs window, “Hey, I want one too! Where did you get that?” By that afternoon my friend had delivered 7  signs in total, four of them in our neighborhood.

The next day I was out on the driveway trying to spot the squirrel who is bent on getting inside the roof and taking up residence for the winter. (That’s also another story.) Two women I don’t know were walking by with their dogs and they called out, “We like your sign!”

I had mostly been thinking about the Trump supporting dog owners I know who walk by, so this was a pleasant surprise. It felt good to give these two women a boost in solidarity and courage of conviction. I was glad I had gotten a sign sooner, and that all the money will go to this campaign. It was a leap from the ethos I was raised with that one’s vote is a private and confidential matter and doesn’t have to be broadcast, though we discussed politics openly and often.

Don’t get me wrong here. What makes this all so remarkable to me is that Biden was not one of my choices. I am ancient enough to remember the way Anita Hill was treated under his chairmanship during the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, and I still think he needs to do way better. But I watched all of the debates, and came to have the utmost respect for nearly all the candidates, including him, who loved our country enough to speak truth to power. And I deeply respect that he was willing to pick someone as a running mate who went up against him hard in the debates, and that he is including so many of the voices of his opponents and at least giving their policies a listen and trying to find common ground. And if Black thinkers and activists I deeply respect like Tarana Burke and Ta Nehisi Coates and even Bernie Sanders himself understand the need to support and vote for him in this election, then I can do the same. And in that light, the first ever online convention gave me hope, with its inclusivity and compassion and genuine interest in all of us who are “we, the people.”

This morning Cotton and I were walking home past a house we always pass. I don’t know the couple who live there, but always wave if they are in the garage or wait if they are pulling out of their driveway. The only personal detail  about them I’d tucked into my memory is one I really love: one year they’d kept their Christmas tree up, lighted and visible from the window well into the end of January. It turned out they were waiting until their extended family could all get together to celebrate, which I learned from a young relative I saw out front during their postponed celebration.

But the husband seems gruff, and it takes some effort for him to return a wave. This morning he was in the garage and I waved, not knowing if he would wave back. He did. Then as we were about past his driveway from across the street, I heard an “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” I turned to see he had come down the driveway and was actually talking to me.

“Sure,” I said. “Do you live in the house on the corner back that way, the octagonal one?” He had confused my location on the rounded corner with the house just past mine, which is octagonal, so I said, “Well, it’s not octagonal, but it is on the corner. And I have a purple door.” He looked relieved. “Where did you get your Biden sign?” he asked. “I’ve never put one up before. I’ve always voted, but never had a sign.” “Me either,” I said, and added “Thank you! Bless your heart.” And I told him the two sources I had for signs. I said something to the effect that it this was such an important election. And he said, “This is an election for the soul of our nation.”

In this one exchange, I felt the profundity of my merry prankster decision in a way I hadn’t until then. I had given someone, a stranger who is rather standoffish, the courage to approach and ask me a question about how he could join me in sharing our conviction about what it takes to preserve the future of our democracy. There are going to be people who don’t like my sign and some will tell me so. Although such things are rare here, someone may even deface it. If so, I have another sign coming.

Maybe the sign that hasn’t arrived yet will go to another neighbor, or in the window. In a way, they are like lights leading us out of the darkness, as they help give people the courage of the shared convictions they stand for, echoing the words Biden ended his acceptance speech with, which do not feel forced or over the top to me, but spot on in this particular political moment:

“Here and now I give you my word. If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I’ll be the ally of the light, not the darkness.”

The time is now. Get ready to vote, and help others do the same, no matter how many obstacles in the way. Put up your signs. Stand your ground. Your voice matters and your vote counts. These times themselves are a sign calling on us to shine with the courage of our convictions, and stand together for the soul of our democracy.

Maria (moonwatcher)





Leave a Comment

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Silvia August 23, 2020 at 6:50 am

I love your story! It is so important to speak your truth and build bridges.

Greetings from Germany, Silvia


2 Maria Theresa Maggi August 23, 2020 at 9:30 am

thank you so much, Silvia!–warmest greetings back to you!


3 Jerri August 23, 2020 at 9:55 am

Love your blog today, and love your sign! For the first time, I’ve ordered one too!


4 Maria Theresa Maggi August 23, 2020 at 10:41 am

Thank you, Jerri! And yay! Another sign going up! xo


5 Cynthia Dunn August 23, 2020 at 10:33 am

Biden wasn’t my first choice either as I also remember Anita Hill. That doesn’t matter anymore. The most and only important thing is to get the current occupant out of the WH. I really fear this will be a rigged election and my anxiety is sky high. Excellent post. Stay well.


6 Maria Theresa Maggi August 23, 2020 at 10:43 am

Thank you Cynthia, and thanks for sharing your own alliance with my perspective as well. Let’s stay strong and stay well as we meet this grave challenge–hope and courage to us all!


7 Bernadette August 23, 2020 at 10:41 am

“…an election for the soul of our nation,” indeed!

Thanks for this post. Thumbs up, up, up!! 😀


8 Cathy August 23, 2020 at 11:44 am

Great post, Maria! I want to get a bunch of signs and share them! Thanks for the inspiration! I also hadn’t thought of the possible supporters of my (future) sign, just the naysayers. 🙂 xo to you! C


9 Bea August 23, 2020 at 2:01 pm

I rarely comment but this simple act of yours moved me. Although my association does not allow yard signs, you’ve inspired me to get one (or more!) for our windows. So here is to President Biden and VP Harris!


10 Jacque August 23, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Maria, I have followed you for years for so many reasons but this post just flew to the top of my reasons I have always enjoyed your blog posts.
Here is to making this an incredible voting year.



11 Maria Theresa Maggi August 23, 2020 at 6:14 pm

Thank you so much, Jacque! Much appreciated–and yes, here’s to making this an incredible voting year!


12 Veronica August 24, 2020 at 11:49 am

“an election for the soul of our nation” – words that could not be more true.
I’m extremely fortunate to live in a city that has a large majority of like-minded people (Berkeley). I don’t often interact with Trump supporters. So in the past years I hadn’t felt the need to put up signs. This year will be different – there are also a lot of Bernie supporters who, again, won’t vote because of “principle” and that Biden is “just as bad as Trump.” Those are the people we need to get through to. There is so much more at stake. Don’t get me started on Kanye…
Anyway, I’m very anxious and concerned about this upcoming election. I have little hope that people will do what’s right. But we still have to fight, and try our best. I love reading your posts, you have this wonderful way with people, patience, and hope, that helps beat down my pessimism a bit. 😉 Thank you for sharing. xoxo


13 Maria Theresa Maggi August 24, 2020 at 8:12 pm

HI Veronica, thanks so much for reading and for voicing some of your views and concerns here, for the sign you plan to put up, and for your kind words about my commitment to people, patience and hope–if it beats down your pessimism a bit I am ever honored. xoxo


14 Nasreen Kabir August 24, 2020 at 7:55 pm

I live in Bangladesh am not an American but as a brown old woman from a S******e country beg all of you to do the right thing. It was so hateful how Anita Hill was treated Lived in NY then. There should be no choice. May we all stay healthy, safe & well


15 Maria Theresa Maggi August 24, 2020 at 8:13 pm

Thank you Nasreen! You are so right–there should be no choice! We will do our best not to let you down. You stay health safe and well too.


16 Debra Maslov August 24, 2020 at 11:12 pm

Thank you for your wonderful uplifting post Maria! This is by far the most important election of our lifetime. Let’s hope your delightful discovery of many like-minded neighbors is an omen of what’s to come in November. Here’s to positive, seriously-needed & way-overdue change.


17 Maria Theresa Maggi August 25, 2020 at 8:40 am

Thank you, Debra, and amen to everything you say here about November and way overdue change! xo


18 DONNA BETTS August 25, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Oh brave heart – you give me courage to put up a Biden – Harris sign in my yard. I also have never done that – but this is the time to stand up. I love the way you began — if you are a Trump supporter warning —
I also was not for Biden initially – didn’t think he had the stamina but it seems he has renewed strength and spirit — I adore his wife Jill.
I think she will bring new energy and light as First Lady — I am 77 years old (can hardly believe that) and it saddens me so much to see how many in our country are blind to the actions of this president. After watching the Democratic Convention — thought it was inspirational and uplifting. I decided I needed to watch the Republican convention — so I watched the first night — oh my goodness — their strategy is so obvious — using the Democratic convention as their template. I have to say they are a sly bunch.
I am praying that their message and their lies do not work.
All the Best, Donna Berlin Betts


19 Maria Theresa Maggi August 25, 2020 at 2:34 pm

Oh thank you Donna! You are a braver woman than I to try and watch their convention. I will not do that, I can glean enough of what it’s like from the news. Yes, their strategy is obvious–gaslighting par excellence–time to stand up and shine the truth! So glad to have you along–


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