Today is a strange, sad day in the U.S. for a lot of reasons. It made me think of an essay draft I wrote last June for a Corporeal Writing class called Ontologies: Writing Your Way into the World. It still needs work, but it presents a true story about my life in one of the reddest counties in New Jersey. Names have been changed.
The Trump/Pence sign went up in my neighbors’ front yard before the election.
It was no surprise: I knew their political beliefs long before 2016 – and they are completely opposed to my own. But we followed “good neighbor” rules and didn’t discuss politics or religion. They usually held back on the proselytizing that’s part of their Evangelical faith, though Ann was better about it than David. I was thankful they kept their political support to just the sign and didn’t paint their choice on their home’s foundation wall, as someone a few miles up the road from us did.
But the election came and went, and the sign stayed up, a beacon of disappointment flashing “WE WIN! YOU LOSE!” Every night I walked my dog, the sign was there reminding me of what I feared, and what was lost.
About a month later a snowstorm came, bending the sign under the weight of snow. I hoped the disappearance would continue, the cardboard melting into an unreadable pulp that would encourage a trip to the trashcan. But the sign survived. Its metal posts were unbent, its folds smoothed out, its message unapologetic to everyone who saw it. It stayed in the yard even as other Trump/Pence signs on the street were removed.
The winter solstice approached, cloaking the sign in darkness. But I could make out its silhouette, hidden just beyond the red and green Christmas lights that dotted the front of the house. I grumbled quietly to the dog about it as we made our nightly trip around our house.
Another month went by, and the sign lingered. As the new administration proved itself intent upon destroying progressive gains AND also corrupt as hell, it became an even more painful reminder. I started to fantasize about the sign’s destruction. What if I just stole it? Or lit the thing on fire? Or let my dog pee on it? I hoped another giant snowstorm would bury it again, but the weather defied me.
February came, and one night after work I was in the upstairs bathroom when I heard the faint sound of a woman yelling for help. It was coming from my neighbors’ driveway. It was Ann.
I rushed downstairs and through the garage to the side door, flicking on the outside light and running into the frigid winter night. It had been sleeting, and my shoes slipped for a moment before I got it under control. David and Ann were in the driveway, and he was looking down at her as she lay on the ground next to their car, her left leg oddly placed up against the car’s side.
I continued through the crust of ice and snow on the lawn into their driveway. Ann, even from her prone position, saw me coming down their driveway. “Be careful!” she yelled. “I slipped on black ice!”
I side-stepped my way down the slight incline to them. Thankfully, Ann was talking and alert, and David took advantage of my being there to slip inside and get something to help Ann get back up.
While we waited, I asked why her leg was at a strange angle (it wasn’t broken – she was just holding it like that), what she’d hurt (her head slammed into the pavement hard enough to see stars), and what had happened. This was the second time I’d actually helped her after a fall in the driveway. It was a pretty upbeat chat, considering.
David came back outside and the three of us slowly got Ann straightened out and leaning against her car.
“How many fingers am I holding up?” I asked her.
“Two,” she said, which was correct.
Since it looked like disaster had been averted, they gave me a few “God Bless Yous” and headed back inside. I carefully made my way back to my own house.
The sign stayed up.
I finally complained about it to my partner. “The election is OVER. Do they think Trump is going to drive by and reward them for their loyalty?”
He agreed it was annoying, and early in the spring he ran into Ann. He politely mentioned how political signs have to be taken down within a certain number of days after the election.
The sign disappeared, though at first it was just moved closer to the house where we couldn’t see if from our yard. Then, it was gone for real. Maybe they set up a shrine around it in their living room.
Honestly, I could have stayed inside that night and it would have been okay. I didn’t save Ann’s life. I also didn’t use the occasion to point out that you don’t have to be religious to follow the Golden Rule. I didn’t tell my neighbors that I would help only on the condition that they took the damn Trump/Pence sign down. It was merely me being humane to another couple of humans despite our differences.
I still talk to my neighbors when I run into them outside, sticking to safe topics like home renovations, gardening and what their grandchildren are up to. While the sign is gone, they display Trump bumper stickers one car. I know their faith has blinded them to his utter immorality – first and foremost, they must see him as the ticket to overturning Roe v. Wade. The chance of that becoming a reality became even stronger today as I write this.
But I wonder if they ever considered it on a more personal level: Trump sure as hell wouldn’t be launching himself off the toilet on a cold winter night to answer their call for distress.