hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

September 27, 2012

Political signs stifling our environment

By Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Next to littering our highways and byways, or tossing a cigarette butt out the window of your car, I find nothing more revolting than a rash of political signs.

Everywhere you turn, left, right, or straight ahead, don’t matter. Signage along the way is creating an eyesore. I’m not the only motorist who feels thisdisgruntled. Perhaps you do as well.

I know what you’re thinking. Does a candidate need five signs clumped together in one spot — so blatantly obvious that if a moose were there, you wouldn’t see it?

Okay, being realistic, I may condone one sign on someone’s lawn if that’s being politically correct. But an entire surge along the way — no way. If you’re a jogger who smells the roses, guess what? You’re catching a whiff of signs first.

Actions appear to be speaking louder than words, especially in sign language. Or so our aggressive campaigns are suggesting. What they don’t realize is that signs reveal rather outlandish and wayward thinking.

The other day, I was driving along, keeping my eyes on the road. On one side was a bevy of signs promoting some guy for governor in New Hampshire. I’m only there because I have a summer place in the Granite State. I could care less whether the guy’s name is Smith or Popowicz.

All I know is this. It’s taking me away from the beauty of our intended environment. It’s bad enough we see signs promoting businesses. Or trash by the side of the road. I cannot tolerate even a carcass in the road.

In my travels are boats and cars for sale, billboards that promote everything, and a general outbreak of obtrusiveness. On the spiritual side, God didn’t intend for his earth to be a stomping ground for refuse and commercial overtones.

You’re probably wondering, “What’s getting into Vartabedian? Is he losing his marbles?”

No, simply venting my rage. On occasion, I like to be controversial, even at the risk of irritating a few politicians. So what I’m proposing is this.

All those running for public office should refrain from erecting their wares. Stay clear of the roads. That way, you could save some precious dollars and invest in another campaign like radio, newspapers and television.

No need to worry about opponents defacing your signs or seeing them fall prey to Mother Nature. It seems that the bigger signs dwarf the small signs, so unless you have one the size of Godzilla, don’t even bother.

Over the years, I’ve seen signs tacked on trees, hanging from people’s porches, in their gardens and on their lawns. I’ve seen them hung in windows and held by pollsters the day of an election.

This is the voice of experience talking. I ran for public office once while attending Boston University in my youth. The guy I was running against was the clear-cut favorite.

Not one sign was erected. While other candidates had them plastered on the walls of our cafeteria and recreation hall, I chose a more subtle approach. After some thought, I decided to unleash a “cents-si-ble” campaign.

I had a thousand cards printed up. On each one was a shiny penny with the inscription: “A penny saved is a penny plus interest. I’d appreciate yours.” The year was 1960 and I was attending BU on $1,250 a semester.

Well, anyway, the strategy paid dividends. I wound up as class treasurer, nixed my accounting major, switched to journalism, and wound up a happy pauper. Never did earn much of a salary as a reporter, but what the heck. I’m still writing today and happy with my life.

Today, people won’t even pick a penny off the sidewalk, much less a dime.

No one passes out calling cards anymore. They don’t even encourage debates. It’s all about political signs. The more the merrier, it seems.

If people like me are turned off by them, don’t these politicians realize the detriment they’re causing. The onus is also on the homeowner who agrees to hide his property behind a sign. And who gives someone the right to abuse city and state property?

There’s a guy on my street who still displays a sign for “Ron Paul President.” Don’t they realize the guy bowed out of the race months ago? Either they’re too lazy to take the sign down or figure the candidate will be reincarnated.

Count me among those who can’t wait until we’re past the primaries and the finals. Only then will our environment be restored to its natural beauty.

In the words of Woody Guthrie on the 100th anniversary of his birth, “This land is our land” — and let’s preserve it.

Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from the Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.