Political signs are, on surface level, innocuous little things that show up around election season each year.
I can’t tell you how many of them I’ve driven by, barely even registering their existence.
Despite that, political signs have long been a source of varied controversy, in almost every place I’ve worked.
Typically it’s a more mundane controversy – are candidates allowed to place signs now? Where can candidates place signs? Perhaps you might even get someone complaining about a candidate placing a sign on their property without permission.
Less frequent is what’s happening in Fort Bend County, where the act of placing campaign signs appears to have become a proxy war for partisan politics.
In recent weeks, the Fort Bend Star has spoken with people from across the political spectrum who’ve described a season of almost open warfare on signs across the county. Look at the photo on our front page for a perfect example – it almost looks like someone took garden shears to someone’s political sign.
There are many things we could say about this sort of behavior. For starters, it’s plain mean and rude.
We have no idea who started this dispute. Likely, both sides are to blame. But while the average person might not realize it, candidates invest a fair amount of money in purchasing and placing those signs.
Would you like it if your property were wantonly destroyed?
Perhaps most importantly, though, recent events paint a dire picture of political life in Fort Bend County.
I’ve never been one to wax poetically about how good life was years ago, but suffice it to say that there’s nothing inherent to politics that means groups need to destroy the opposing party’s property to really make their point.
And it’s not hard to imagine a world where supporters are willing to criticize, debate and critique their opponent until the cows come home. But who aren’t willing to cross that line into outright vandalism.
The conversation surrounding elections no doubt plays into the us vs. enemies rhetoric that make possible this sort of action.
If your political opponent is no longer someone with a different vision for the county, but someone who is illegitimate and an enemy, then it’s not difficult to see why some residents have begun treating each other with little respect.
There should be a line in the sand here. County Judge KP George told the Star last week that if he heard about Democratic supporters destroying Republican political signs, that would make him equally angry.
Everyone should agree this is the best path forward. Criticizing your opponent’s record, ideas or conduct is totally above board.
But if we’ve reached the point of vandalism and racism in support of political ends, it’s OK to stand up and say “this is not right.”
Rather than showing yourself weak, we here at the Fort Bend Star argue it’s ultimately a sign of maturity and responsibility – qualities we should seek in all of our elected leaders.
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