Friday, October 31, 2008

Dealing With Some Political Injustice

I’ve never been a big bumper sticker promoter. I never wear t-shirts that state a political viewpoint. And I rarely put out political yard signs during election season. It’s not that I don’t care about politics; it’s that I see little need to advertise my beliefs publicly. I doubt many people cast their vote for a candidate because of a sticker that they saw on someone’s car.

But this year, my three children are old enough to appreciate the gravity of the political situation and they have been paying attention to the daily news and polls, and how the candidates may affect their futures. So it was no surprise to me that they spent two hours last Sunday afternoon making their own homemade “McCain-Palin” sign to post in our front yard. I gave them some long garden stakes to which they could attach it, and they proudly set it up in the yard. While they are not old enough to vote, they suddenly felt like part of the political process – something that I encourage. And while it was colorful and bold, it was also clearly the work of elementary children who were proud to display their belief.

So imagine our surprise when we woke up two mornings later to find that someone had spray-painted the word “Obama” over their artwork, ruining the sign. The faces of my kids were so sad when they saw this vandalism. It was the first experience they have ever had of someone directly disrespecting their property. It made me sad to see their loss of innocence over this event.

Our family gathered together to talk specifically about the defacement of their sign, and what we could learn from it. While their first reaction was some anger over the event, they began to ask questions about the sense of this act. Don’t these people see that they are violating our free speech? Don’t they have some remorse over entering our private property and vandalizing our sign? Don’t they realize that writing “Obama” on our homemade sign is more likely to drive people away from supporting him as a candidate? I was most proud when one of my children said that we should pray for the person or people who committed the act, in hopes that they might realize their wrong. We did and we all decided that the right thing to do was to make another sign, and park our anger over the loss of the first. A new homemade sign graced our lawn the next day.

Two days later, the same spray paint showed up on their new sign. By the looks of it, we believe it’s likely the work of other kids or teens in our neighborhood. My children’s first reaction was to start writing the words for their next sign. They won’t be suppressed, and they refuse to be angry about it.

But a part of me burns over the injustice. They destroyed artwork created by my own children. Would we not be upset if someone ripped up a picture painted by a first grader that was hanging on the family refrigerator? Wouldn’t we be angry if a stranger smashed the little pottery planter brought home from school by an eight-year-old? Shouldn’t I be able to reserve some judgment for people who would destroy my children’s art and suppress their free speech?

That was my first reaction. But my children’s own example made me think twice about it, because there is something greater to be thankful for in this true story. The vandals are not my children. My children are the ones who are learning to respect the opinion and property of others, and who will keep their anger in check when they are treated unfairly. Knowing this, my own anger fades away, because I have something far more valuable than that first homemade sign in our yard. I have a father’s pride for obedient and respectful children, who will possibly grow up one day to govern with those same principles.

By the way, here is their next response…