I Saw the Sign

As you may have gathered, Betsy and I were pretty excited about the legalization of gay marriage, and we tried to think of some way to express our excitement. Betsy suggested a rainbow flag, but we decided we’re too lazy to maintain a flag properly. So I ended up getting some markers and making a sign. We put it up in our front yard about two weeks ago:

rainbow-heart(We have since moved the sign back behind the sidewalk – since having it that close to the road technically violates local law – and replaced the flimsy rulers with a sturdier base.)

We intended the sign primarily as an expression of our happiness, secondarily as a message (moral, and – to a lesser extent – political). It was not meant to be hateful or anti-Christian, especially since Betsy is Christian herself. We simply put up a sign on our own property, without hurting anyone else. Theoretically, no problem.

However, this isn’t exactly San Francisco. Ohio as a whole is fairly bipartisan, but that’s because the city blue just about evenly balances the country red. We’re in a pretty conservative neighborhood. Not 1950s Alabama conservative, but conservative enough.

I honestly had no idea what might happen. I figured it would be a kind of social experiment, and I was a bit nervous. Not that I thought something would happen; I just thought it might.

As it happened, our next-door neighbor came out, along with her young son, as I was putting up the sign. She is herself a lesbian, so I wasn’t too worried about offending her with this particular message, and indeed, she was happy to see it. We talked a little while, a neighborly conversation that drifted from “Exciting news, huh?” to “Do you have Amazon Prime?” and “Did you know Amazon will donate money to your choice of charity, free, if you just type ‘smile.’ in front of ‘amazon’ in the URL?” And we parted ways.

No other direct comments for a few days. And then, as I was going outside to get the mail, our neighbor from across the street called out, “Brian?”

This is it, I thought. We’re going to have the “Can you take that thing down?” conversation. I smiled and crossed the street to talk to her.

We don’t know these neighbors particularly well. (We don’t know any of our neighbors particularly well; we’re introverts.) I had spoken to the husband a few times, and he was always very friendly, but I don’t think I’d ever talked to the wife before.

And then she started to tell me how incredibly happy she was that we’d put up the sign, how she couldn’t believe it when she saw it. As she told me this, she cried – I mean a tear literally rolled down her cheek. You never know what kind of influence you’re having on other people.

These are the only two direct conversations we’ve had about the sign. I will mention, though, that my other next-door neighbor – who I think is pretty conservative – has remained very friendly to me.

So has there been any negative response? Actually, it’s hard to say.

A lot of people walk their dogs around our neighborhood, but they’re very good about cleaning up after them. In the five years before we put up the sign, I can recall zero times we’ve found dog poop in our yard. In the few days after the sign, we found it twice. Coincidence? Maybe, but the odds seem against it.

Also, one morning we found the sign uprooted and lying flat on the grass. It had been planted very firmly in the ground, so it’s hard to see how the wind could have pulled it up – and, if the wind had been strong enough for that, wouldn’t it have blown the thing more than a few inches away? That one I’m pretty sure was deliberate, but it only happened once.

All in all, people have been pretty positive.

At the risk of getting all sappy, I think it’s true what Jon Stewart says – the culture wars are overstated, overblown, and largely fueled by the media. Yes, people have real – and deep – differences in belief. But for the most part, it seems like we’re capable of being friggin’ adults about it.

What a concept, right?

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