Americans’ need to announce their political orientation

Flags, banners, and stickers: Instead of staking out territories, modern Americans seem to stake out very visible political fences.

I’ve been on a long road trip through the US, from the South-West to the East Coast for nearly a year now, passing through many States and Counties. In some I stayed longer, others only served as a through-way. And I got to peek into many a front yard, driveway, and car window. As an outsider I always found it odd that one would stick a banner in one’s yard during an election year, because I wasn’t used to people feeling so strongly about who’s president that they needed to announce it in print form. I’m still not used to it, but have come to accept the “ads” as I’ve lived in the US for a few years now. In some towns I saw houses that had streamer face-offs across the street with Biden trying to stare down Trump and vice versa. It felt more like trenches than democracy. But putting up a flag may as well be the only unifying aspect of American politics these days.

With the 2020 election closed for months, I found it increasingly amusing to still see many Trump and Biden banners and posters early this year — one particularly stubborn voter just outside of Durango Colorado had a Bernie banner on his plot of land all the way till late March 2021.

Now we’re in May and it seems only the Trump “messages” remain prominently attached to buildings. My main gripe is not the name on those banners, but the very idea of what they represent. I’ve come to reverse my stance on accepting them, because they are not innocent statements of support. They are unconditional declarations. People are staking out their political territories, fencing everyone out who might not agree with the particular surname printed on that rectangular piece of cloth. It’s a clear “don’t approach me, if you’re not on my side” (or in the Trump-supporters case maybe even a “don’t piss me off or else…”). Do not trespass! It’s just short of putting up an invisible electrical fence.

Ultimately, it is about taking sides, which is directly linked to the ridiculousness of the US political system — I like repeating this: You cannot represent such a large population with only two parties and call it a democracy. And as the divide gets deeper, each side gets more fervent and therefore feels a stronger need to declare their position. And the more banners, stickers, and posters are up, the less we’ll talk to each other. Say, if you’re on the other side are you going to strike up a casual, friendly conversation with someone who has the wrong sticker on their car? I assume not. That is exactly the intention of that sticker. If you strike up a hostile conversation, then the sticker succeeds at reinforcing the worldview of whoever decorated their car with it. And if you don’t strike up a conversation at all, you don’t expose yourself or them to someone from the other side and thus neither you nor they get a chance to realise that you might get along swimmingly and even have quite a few things in common. Nobody’s winning here, other than the print shops who produce the damn things.

I am a scientist and writer. I aim to be a voice of reason and facts in this distorted world in which opinions are considered truth.

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