Signing off

It’s campaign season. Everywhere I turn, I’m confronted by a vast array of two-foot-tall political signs. And with all of the additional issues being voted on this year, there is a true array: everything from abortion and gay marriage to a limit on how early school can start each year is up for a vote.

This is fine – I’m used to it, really. Our neighborhood is usually peppered with the signs of Democratic nominees. This is slightly reassuring and quite pleasing. It gives the illusion of living in a progressively leaning city, even though I know otherwise.

However, there is one problem. These signs – these props of political leverage – aren’t keeping themselves to the confines of residential zoning. They’re leaving the front yards and situating themselves on the front lines – the heavily traveled commercial areas and small-business storefronts of retail Sioux Falls.

I am appalled at the number of campaign signs being posted around the city in front of buildings by business owners and managers. I know it’s been done before, but this year it’s becoming ridiculous. It’s one thing to post your political views outside of your home. That is your domain. That is your area to do with what you want.

But it’s a completely different act to plaster a business’s front window with the manager’s political signage. That is a pigheaded act that takes no account of a customer’s views, not to mention the beliefs of an employee, who is oftentimes the first person you’ll make contact with inside the store and the de facto figurehead of the business at that point.

Much of this is coming around because of two major issues – the anti-abortion amendment and the ban on gay marriages, two issues that are moral at their core and therefore shouldn’t be regulated by any government body. These aren’t issues of tax leverages or public institutions. These are issues of human interest – and human interest only. What’s next, an amendment dictating when I can eat dinner? An amendment setting the ground rules for taking our dog for a walk? Or for choosing the correct race in marriage? Or for speaking out against the government?

(I digress.)

Businesses have two duties in the world: to employ and to sell. It’s irresponsible to allow businesses to campaign for any cause, regardless of how it affects their company or their right to sell whatever it is they sell. That is something that should be done after hours, outside of the confines of retail, away from the captive audiences.

To me, this is akin to posting signs that say, “no homosexuals allowed.” Or “No shirts, no shoes, abortion? No business.” Would you feel comfortable going into a business displaying anti-abortion signs if you were someone who had gone through with an abortion?

Does Little Caesar’s Pizza think that they are bolstering the anti-abortion cause by placing signs in front of their building? Do they think they can gain customers from this? In fact, they may be losing customers. I know our household has mentioned a simple boycott of the chain’s local franchises because of their strong political leanings. They’ve become a part of the political machine. And since we don’t support the amendment, we don’t support them.

I know it’s not illegal. And I know that, after this season’s campaigning, it will get even worse in the future, especially as businesses realize that they are able to do it without repercussions.

However, it’s tacky. And it’s wrong. Imagine the outcry if Wal-Mart came out and started putting anti-abortion signs throughout it’s stores. Imagine if they began posting banners throughout their parking lot in support of the next Republican presidential candidate, or of a local partisan cause. There would be public boycotts. We would see the papers filling up with editorial pieces.

So why not now?

This was lovingly handwritten on October 16th, 2006