Thursday, September 25, 2008

Editorial: Sign thefts a sad campaign reality

Mary Toutonghi is angry. She’s got a right to be.

She’s got a right to free speech, too, but that’s been stolen along with her yard signs promoting candidates in the upcoming general election. Which gets back to why she’s angry.

In all the years Toutonghi has lived on the central peninsula — it’s been many — and all the years she’s put up signs in support of candidates, she’s never had them outright stolen before.

Well, once. A tenant’s son didn’t agree with her politics and took down a sign from the yard. After a long chat about respecting one another’s views and the rights of property owners vs. renters, Toutonghi’s sign went back up, with the renter’s son putting one of his own in his apartment window.

But earlier this month, Toutonghi’s signs were stolen altogether. Others have gone missing, as well.

When asked about sign thefts and vandalism, perennial candidates and campaign workers had a similar take on the situation: It happens. It’s a disappointing, but expected, part of campaigning.

How sad.

It doesn’t matter who the signs were promoting. Or that they cost money, which they do. And it’s illegal to steal them, but that isn’t really the point, either. This is one of those situations where there shouldn’t have to be a law to keep something from happening, like kicking puppies or pulling up flowers at gravesites. You just don’t do it.

It is staggering to imagine the ignorance, intolerance and inability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes that goes into stealing a campaign sign, or any other form of stifling someone’s ability to support whatever politics or politicians they choose.

“Kids will be kids,” is one thing. That’s not a valid excuse for any kind of misbehavior, especially vandalism, but it’s much less disturbing than the alternative explanation — that adults stole the signs in a purposeful attempt to hinder someone else’s ability to express their views.

It’s senseless, stupid and, in this case, ultimately useless, since all it’s done is made Toutonghi even more dedicated to supporting her candidates and spreading their message.

As she has every right to.

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