• Beth Hoffman

A Public Touché

After almost three inches of rain, the sun is now shining. The world is at least ten shades of green – from the light green of the grass heads to the deep green of the giant silver maple’s innermost leaves. The trees sway regally in the breeze today, not like they did yesterday, swirling like a carnival ride in the storm. The cows seem "happy" (although the flies are thriving too now, forever the rancher’s battle), their calves bigger and more curious every day.


Our neighbor's truck

But even here in this fertile nirvana, on a dirt road outside a town of 500 with only a gas station, the outside world and her unrest peeks in. Or drives by in our case, four or five times a day in the form of our neighbor’s truck proclaiming his love for our current president and his ideals. Occasionally, while working late on the farm we can hear the muffled muttering of what sounds like people yelling – the neighbor’s television turned up to 11 while listening to FOX News.

Sometimes I too feel like yelling – about the fact that multiple white people have felt so entitled they could choke to death another human being pleading for his life. That the nation has turned a public health crisis into another political us-or-them event. That some have decided looting and rioting is the take away of world-wide, mostly peaceful protests by hundreds of thousands of people.

But I am also oh-so sick of the yelling and the political divides, as John could well attest when I get on him for mentioning the daily political shenanigans of our leading politicians (of only one particular party). I am sick of the "I can't believe he said X" every single day, the three ring circus of micro issues that occupy the news when we have so many bigger fish to fry. How about we spend the time talking about how we can change everything – from the police departments to farm ownership - instead of simply demonizing the other and digging in our heels?


So instead of yelling, I made a sign. A sign isn't much, but I made it for my neighbor and his MAGA trucks, with a saying I wanted him to have to think about, instead of simply being able to discredit it as just another liberal slogan. A sign that referenced his elaborate placards, but still said something substantive and meaningful to me.

It was honestly a bit hard – making a good-looking sign is more time consuming than I thought. What to put on it took days - I am still not sure I like how it sounds too much like "all lives matter" and does not reference African-Americans specifically. My letters droop a bit to the right and how long it will last in the rain and wind is anyone's guess. But it felt good to basically say "your view isn't the only view out here in rural America, buddy," to bang the posts deep into the ground, a public "take-that" for all to see.

A day later several small lines of print appeared on the neighbor’s truck sign, parked across from his house. “Fake News” it now reads and lists hist top offenders - NY Times, CNN and NPR.

It’s all fake? I incredulously yelled out as I passed. The repeated police assaults on African-Americans? The needing to wear masks so other people stay safe? How do you even know what to call fake if everything is possibly a lie? And why are we having a "discussion" via signs now, instead of actually talking, as neighbors should do?


But dismissal is now the way we deal with things in this country when something doesn’t align with your own beliefs. You chalk it up to biased media reporting (take your pick – the New York Times or Fox News?). For every complaint and every event, there is someone out there to say it didn’t exist, it is not a problem, it is just those wacko people making things up - just yell louder that your side is right.

I have watched as his truck has driven past our house again and again over the past week my sign has been up. And in that time I decided that I didn't in fact make the sign for him. I made the sign for his kids, to give them a tiny window into the idea that the world is made up of many different perspectives. Their dad’s is but one. Maybe my silly, simple sign will place an ear-worm in their brain and give them a greater ability to listen, not just to the yelling on the TV but to the often quieter, more important pleas to make this nation far better than it ever was.


Instead of flipping him the bird as he drives past, I smile and wave.

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