Fear. I felt not abject terror but the queasy uneasiness that stills one’s spirit and fills one’s imagination with looming harsh events. I had authorized placing in our front yard a sign supporting Democrat Andrew Janz for Congress against Trump sycophant Devin Nunes!
I had felt this unsettled, uneasy feeling before: on my first day of law school and on my first day in court. And I had huge worries as my wife entered the hospital to give birth to our first child, enduring 16 hours of labor. Would she be OK? Was the baby going to be healthy? Could I successfully provide for my burgeoning family?
Thinking that I was being a “wuss,” I checked with friends who had or were thinking of authorizing yard signs. They all had similar fears. And I learned a bit of history. We used to put bumper banners on our cars lauding our candidate. No more. Instead, I learned a new word: “keying.” If people didn’t agree with you, they will drag a key along the side of your car, destroying the paint. Farewell bumper stickers!
My fear was of vengeful acts by conservative advocates. I am not alone in such apprehension, as I learned. For example, Fresno State Professor Randa Jarrar asked for a police escort when she resumed classes on this local campus after her controversial comments on the death of Barbara Bush.
Of course, our country has a long history of political violence and it snarls from all spectra of the political landscape. During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1781) Loyalists, those supporting the English crown, were harassed and injured to the extent that it is estimated that about a third of them fled to Canada. And there was the famous Boston Tea Party that celebrated the act of violence of boarding a ship and throwing the tea overboard; this act is lauded by the Conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Range conflict between ranchers and farmers lit up the West as barbed wire was introduced and often aggressively torn down.
Then the supporters of the early labor movement were beset by goons who beat those advocating strikes or improved conditions for laborers. Or think of the horror of lynching African Americans to enforce Jim Crow laws.
Violence from the left of the political spectrum has also occurred. Think of the Black Panthers and the anti-Vietnam protestors of the 1960s and ’70’s.
So what is the source of my fear and the reality of violence in our current society? No doubt it is fundamentally based on the deep divisions within us. And this violence is incipient in the American psyche like a jackal just waiting to be aroused. It slumbers in many of us.
Donald Trump helped rouse this beast in his conservative followers by saying he would like to “punch in the nose” demonstrators. He offered to pay for supporters’ defense in court. Or cries of “lock her up” referring to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Or saying neo-Nazis shouting vicious anti-semitic slogans “have good people among them.” And he is viciously adversarial rather then accommodating.
In short, the current administration has tapped this deep, shadowy, snarling, and ugly vein in the American psyche for their own benefit and to the danger of us all.
I decided to allow the yard sign. Not all that courageous. I thought of how insignificant and petty my concerns were compared to the bloody sacrifices so many have made to preserve our liberty and unfettered advocacy. And I also had a frisson of understanding for those who have not and are not standing up in the face of violence.
Each of us must make a steadfast decision to face opprobrium and vengeful acts against us and our property if, as Abe Lincoln said, “a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people” is to long endure on this Earth. So let the yard signs bloom; let adverse voices contest this election with vigor and fearlessness and hopefully without vengeful violence.
Phil Fullerton of Fresno is a retired lawyer. Email him at Puyricard8@ sbcglobal.net.