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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Love Thy Neighbor

Plenty of people, including yours truly have written on, for lack of a better word, the intensity of this presidential election cycle. We have talked about not just people unfriending others they have never met in person on Facebook, but lifelong friends parting ways over differences of opinion on presidential candidates. It might sound like a big deal over something that ultimately may be trivial, but now it is personal.
  I am lucky. I have good neighbors. I don’t know them very well, but I like to think that if I really needed them they would be there to help. I most certainly would do the same for them. Even though the only thing we have in common is that we all live on the same street in the vicinity of each other, I like to think that in a world where people seem to avoid actual human to human contact, a small tidbit like that still matters.
  I live in Florissant Missouri. It is a city of roughly 50,000 in North St. Louis County. I have lived here all of my life. I live just a few miles from where I graduated from high school. Florissant is a welcoming diverse place, I am proud of that. I believe that my neighborhood reflects that. I want kids of all backgrounds who live in Florissant to have the same great experience that I had growing up here. I want them to be able to walk home from school, or play outside and not have their parent’s worry that something bad will happen to them.
  Perhaps just because of sheer numbers, urban areas have just as many opinions as there are people. That is fine too. One time honored way that people express their opinions, especially in an election season is with yard signs. But this year, yard signs take on a whole new meaning.
  In addition to them being stolen out of people’s yards, they also seem to be a kind of announcement as to what kind of person you “really” are. Apparently this year, they also sum up your character.
  I have a Trump sign in my yard. My husband is a true supporter. Personally, I am still not sold, but I realize what the alternative means, and like no other election that I have voted in, that alternative truly terrifies me. I have a neighbor who lives across the street from me. She is a single mother with a son and a daughter. Her mother lives with them as well. She is very nice, as is her mom, her kids are really good kids. Being a single mom is hard, and I knew that she must have worked really hard to achieve the American dream of home ownership. When she moved in I made it a point, like anyone trying to be a good neighbor, to go introduce myself and welcome her to the neighborhood. I would have done this for anyone.
  In between our coming and goings we would wave, say hi and maybe comment on the weather, just like I do with all of my neighbors. Then one day, the sign went up in my front yard, and all of that came to a screeching halt. A few days prior, on a warm Saturday morning when I had doors open to let in late summer fresh air, I overheard bits and pieces of a conversation across the street between my neighbor and a friend. I heard, “….the only one on the block….”, and “…..didn’t used to be like that…..”. I tried to tell myself that I was only hearing half the story and that I should ignore it. But curiosity got the better of me, and as we left to go out for dinner that night, my husband and I did a little community research. Sure enough, ours was the only sign on the block.
  As time has gone on, there are no more waves, no more “hi’s”, no more talk of the weather. The only thing I can think, like so many others, my character, or the lack of it has been determined by a sign in my yard. Huh??
  Donald Trump has said some inflammatory things. Because of many of those statements he has been portrayed as a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe. But for someone who has been in the public eye for thirty years, why haven’t these serious character flaws been discovered before now? Does my black neighbor now think I am a racist because of a sign?
  My neighbor has a sticker on her car with a picture of Jesus on it, so I assume she is a church going Christian woman. I can back that assumption up with the fact that she is usually gone on Sunday morning. I am certainly no expert, but is being judgmental traditionally a Christian hallmark?
  Again, maybe I should just chalk this up to one of those unfortunate aspects of life and move on, and for the most part I do. But I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. It goes beyond politics.  Someone thinks something about me that isn’t true, and that bothers me. I would also be lying if I said that it hasn’t made me take a look at assumptions I may have of others. I wish I could fix it, I wonder if it will change after the election and the sign goes away, or if this assumption about me and my husband is final. Guess I will have to wait and find out.

I value my neighbors and I like to think if she had a “Black Lives Matter” sign in her yard I would still wave, say hi, and talk about the weather. Not because I agree or disagree with her, but because your neighbors should also matter.