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AMID THE UGLINESS, SOME SIGNS OF HOPE

A couple of weeks ago, our next-door neighbor staked a sign for his presidential candidate in the middle of his front yard.

"Wrong sign," I muttered to myself.

Not good sportsmanship, I know, but I was feeling outnumbered. The two houses across the street had the same signs in their yards. So did the neighbors on the corner, and all the signs went up the same day. I was pouting.

Imagine a 51-year-old fourth-grader, and you've got a pretty good picture of my state of mind as I stood there in our driveway with my hands on my hips and frowned really big.

Fortunately, at such moments, my mind summons the voice of my mother faster than a Ouija board at Lily Dale.

Mom was less than 5 feet tall, but that woman could jump, I swear. Whenever she thought I was getting full of myself, she'd leap for one of my earlobes and yank me to my senses. You don't know silly until you find yourself bent at the waist and facedown in the beehive of a woman who won't let go until you promise to act your age. Makes my scalp tingle just to think about it.

So after I saw those yard signs, I took a deep breath, thought about Mom, and grew about four decades. Amazing how it clears the head.

I like every last one of the people in those houses. Just recently, Beth and Henry helped us wrestle our son's runaway dog to the ground. Bob and Linda had us over for dinner only minutes after we'd moved into the neighborhood. And Barbara and Gene were the first to show up with gifts for our new grandson.

They've been nothing but kind to a couple who couldn't be more public with viewpoints that oppose their own.

God bless America, indeed.

A few days ago, I pulled in to the driveway and spotted a flash of something white shoved into our front bushes. I parked the car, walked over and pulled out what was left of a blue-and-white McCain sign crumpled around its mangled metal base.

I looked over at our next-door neighbor's house and saw that his lawn was empty. Then I looked across the street and saw that the McCain signs in both of those yards were gone, too.

"Bad sign," I muttered to myself.

It was one of those moments when I wanted to run from house to house, bang on the doors, and shout, "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" I didn't take their signs, but somebody who thinks they share my political beliefs did. I wouldn't have been more embarrassed if the cowards had been my own children.

Always on the hunt for that kumbaya moment, I do want to point to one bit of good news: In this painfully polarized political season, it appears that bad behavior is a bipartisan endeavor.

I've lost count of the number of readers from both sides who've let me know that someone either stole the signs out of their yards or peeled the stickers right off their bumpers. Doesn't matter what the stickers or signs say. "Obama," "McCain," "Shut up Hippy, "Jesus was a Liberal" - you name it, they steal it.

Whom exactly do these people think they're helping? Those angry McCain fans shouting into video cameras that Obama is a terrorist? Their appalling sound bites now are dogging the McCain campaign. And how about the Internet photo of the people wearing T-shirts calling Sarah Palin the C-word? Whom is that supposed to help? Obama? Really?

And now we've learned that Ohio's secretary of state had to shut down her official Web site temporarily because of hackers

Still, I remain hopeful. I don't know whether my neighbors will replace their signs. What I do know is that they continue to wave whenever they see me, and they do it with smiles.

As signs go, that's a mighty good one.

©Creators Syndicate Inc.

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