I pointed to 20 colorful yard signs stacked in my hallway and asked my kids to deliver the signs to our neighbors.
“What are they?” my daughter asked, examining them.
“Mom’s starting a war,” my husband interjected.
“I didn’t start it,” I replied, glaring at him. “I’m just providing the ammo.”
“I don’t want to deliver your signs,” my 13-year-old son said, clearly exasperated by the request.
He’s busy, you know. He has homework to do, video games to play, YouTube to watch, food to inhale.
But still, I had a feeling both of my kids could be convinced to walk the neighborhood delivering the signs. I just had to explain the cause.
It all started with an email, sent by one of our neighbors to our HOA board, complaining about a yard sign. The email claimed another neighbor had erected a yard sign in support of a terrorist group, and they wanted the HOA to force the terrorists to take down their sign.
Initially, the complaint was, of course, a private matter between the HOA and the offended homeowners. The HOA responded, explaining that our city has no regulations surrounding this type of yard sign, and noted that censoring the sign would infringe upon the household’s First Amendment rights.
However, when replying, the HOA erroneously ran into a pesky “reply to all” mishap. The HOA’s response was distributed to the entire neighborhood, at which point the matter became public, and a great discussion sprung up on our neighborhood’s Facebook page.
The sign owners posted a photo to clarify the “terrorist” messaging. It said, in a rainbow of colors:
“In this house we believe:
Black lives matter
Women’s rights are human rights
No human is illegal
Science is real
Love is love
Kindness is everything.”
Fights for justice invigorate me, and this sign was a proud proclamation of my support for many rights and groups that are under fire right now. For displaying the sign to be a simultaneous stand for freedom of speech was the icing on the cake.
Naturally, I would have to get a sign like that for my own yard.
Our neighborhood rallied, supporting the sign owners. Before I knew it, I was taking names to order the signs in bulk.
Which brings me back to explaining the situation to my kids. What a rich conversation we had. We discussed the Black Lives Matter movement, differing opinions over women’s rights, recent advances the gay community has made and more.
My daughter parsed through the question of if “no human is illegal” even makes sense, if someone is, indeed, doing something illegal.
We discussed that point-by-point — opposition to this sign is based in fear, and that fear is an animal instinct that can lead to attacks, such as wanting to coerce someone into hushing our beliefs.
Our freedoms in the United States rely on acceptance and confidence. We must to bravely let others be who they are, believe what they want, and to do those things openly.
“And so,” I explained, “a lot of our neighbors want to put up these signs in support of our freedoms.”
And both kids put on their jackets to help.
Emily Parnell lives in Overland Park, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org