Political lawn signs were not as prevalent in my childhood as they are nowadays it seems. At least in my neighborhood.
There is not a single photo from my childhood wherein a gaggle of neighborhood kids are gathered on someone’s front stoop or even lawn, and so much as the corner of a sign with Carter or Reagan or even Grasso’s name sprawled across it could be spotted if you looked close enough. No Grasso on the grass!
But, these days my kids know exactly where all of their friends’ parents stand politically before they even get the dog inside, who’s barking as they walk up to the front door of the house. Or, at the very least, they know where one of the parents is standing anyway.
I recall Yankees signs on doors of homes directly next door to one with a Mets sign hanging on it (no - seriously!) more than I do anything political. The baseball team ones - particularly when it was a Yankees house (during the Bucky Dent, Thurman Munson years) next door to a Red Sox one - smacked of a declaration of war. It was the stuff of Hatfields and McCoys. I’d ruminate once inside if the neighbor even liked the team whose sign was plastered across their bay window or, moreover, disliked who was living next to them. This rumination would years later transform into routine; it became a portion of my earliest stand-up comedy sets and killed every time. Especially ‘round these parts.
While I had very civic-minded aunts and uncles growing up, as outspoken at all the wrong family functions as humanly possible, my father raised his four children to do their best to keep politics and religion out of conversations when we were off for get-togethers, parties, clubbing and so on, throughout each of our childhoods. He was completely unaware that this was not going to be a problem, as it was the last thing any young person on the way out to “bar hop” in the 1980s was thinking about - let alone interested in discussing. My, how things have changed.
My children have sat front row at politically-charged conversations at their friends’ houses, get hammered with peer pressure via social media to show where they stand by clicking “like” on posts on a daily basis, and basically can dodge a homework assignment better than they can political banter today. I think it’s kinda sad.
Do I want them informed? To a degree. My 17-year-old, yes. My 14-year-old? Not so much. Pop a wheelie, kid!
To be sure, when I was 14 those aforementioned political relatives of mine worked the polls, too. They called every single niece and nephew on election day and made sure we were all going to vote. Even those of us not yet old enough to do so. Many was the time I had to say, after a considerable stump speech, “But I’m only 15, Aunt Tessie.” There was/is a stark contrast between this and the lawn post/daily social media posts minefield that today’s kids have to navigate.
And when there were signs, it never fell beneath those who were running for Mayor. Actually, if memory serves, the presidential races of my youth earned fewer lawn signs that the state’s gubernatorial races, and probably even mayoral races. Those were the three tiers. I don’t even think I knew what an alderman was until I was 30.
There are signs for every political post imaginable, from the most inconsequential to the much-ballyhooed. The former - most would contend in today’s uber-political climate - does not exist. Every post, seat, gig is of the greatest consequence and therefore must be fought over utilizing every weapon imaginable, and that surely includes the lawn sign. I’ve seen incumbents without an opponent shell out the dough for lawn signs, only for me to later question if they’re that flip about spending maybe someone should be running against them.
There are quite literally dozens of photos of my children decked out in Halloween costumes over the course of their lives, with their arms around a classmate or fellow trick-or-treater, with political lawn signs looming in the background stored in my phone. In the background of all my childhood Halloween Polaroids was some kid I didn’t know or like in an identical costume photo-bombing before we called it photo-bombing.
So, while this year the kids don’t get the traditional trick-or-treating experience, they are also not going to get hit over the head with politics while going door-to-door either, campaign taglines subliminally finding a place to hide in the dark recesses of young minds caring only about recess. And being able to eat the candy they’re lobbing into pillowcases during said recess. Maybe that’s a good thing. My Aunt Tessie would probably disagree, but so be it.