Sunday, May 4, 2014

Passionate Signs

Passionate Signs

Dreary.  The only word to adequately describe the scene outside my car window last week as I waited, somewhat patiently, at a red light on a busy city street.  An evocative word, possessing an uncanny power to ooze and drip its two grey syllables into every atom of the atmosphere, permeating each and draping the collection like a shroud over every steely inch of pavement, every brave spring flower.  As I peered out from inside the relative comfort of my car, I spied three people on the corner, huddled together in the misty rain.  A well-dressed trio, with intelligent faces, and sincere expressions; each one holding up a homemade sign decrying one of the more egregious decisions recently made by the governor of our state.  As so happens, this particular traffic light has a deserved reputation for sluggishness so I had ample time to consider these three as they stoically stood on the corner.  The light turned green and I moved on but found their dignified visages remained in my mind throughout the rest of the day.

Like many people, I feel strongly about a wide range of issues that vary in their level of importance. I believe in treating other people the way I’d like to be treated. I believe our slavish devotion to money coupled with our hobbling terror of change prevents us from dealing effectively with the changing climate and I believe we shall all regret this. I believe health care is a right, not a privilege.  I believe our country’s love of guns is ludicrous and shameful.  I believe that every effort should always be made to prevent the cutting down of tall trees and the razing of historic architecture.  I believe Walmart destroys communities.  I believe people should adopt dogs and children.  I believe teachers should be the highest paid members of society.  I believe the book is always better than the movie, fox hunting is cruel, and stilettos are bad for the feet.  But am I on a street corner holding up a sign?  No, it is true; I am not.
Like the waters of Corryvreckan, these thoughts swam round and round my head all afternoon, reaching no port of conclusion.  My beliefs were strong, but did I lack the appropriate passion?  Was I apathetic?  Oh God, was I cynical?  Was it that I didn’t believe the type of action I’d witnessed would ever bring about change?  Truth be told, I seriously doubt those three people at the traffic light realistically thought our illustrious governor might perhaps drive by their corner, spot these signs, and be racked with a sudden repentance.  No, I rather think it was sheer ardor that put them there; an ardor that, apparently, I seemed to lack.  I thought back to the brave people of the sixties, whose heckled marches and homemade signs had indeed, eventually, brought change. Would I have been one of those revered individuals?  Are the injustices and dangers of today any less great?

At the end of the day, I turned my car towards home, still pondering these thoughts.  As I drove along the street leading to my own I saw up ahead on the side of the road a man dressed in the unmistakable clothes of the eccentric.  Obviously obtained from a costume rental agency, his garb was made up of red and white striped waistcoat and trousers, fire-red tail coat, and an impressively tall, consistently red, top hat.  His grin was as wide as his confidence was deep and he was holding up an enormous sign that read, “Jesus Loves You”. 

Now everyone knows the best way to deal with these sorts of pavement people is to refrain at all costs from making eye contact.  But this day I chose to look at this chap straight on.  He grinned at me broadly, waved his sign vigorously, then nodded.  And somehow, in spite of myself and my doubts, despite my concern that the fires of my passion were too cool to be effective, in spite of it all, I felt better. 


  1. Dear Pamela,
    thank you for your words!
    And for your SIGNS!

  2. i don't think that 2nd sign was random.... :-)

  3. I'd say I share all of your beliefs, and especially appreciate the one about teachers, since I am one! Unfortunately, most people think teachers should be paid more, but when asked if they'd like to have their taxes raised, it's a resounding NO!!! We can't win...
    I used to hold up signs on corners when I was younger, but now life gets in the way. I do sign almost every petition that is emailed to me, and donate money when I can. I hope to do more when I retire!

  4. Dear sweet Pamela, I read in blog of late the following (I hope it wasn't yours I'm repeating), but it did resonate with me. "I feel it all, I feel it all." Feist. Methinks, so do you. I draw the line at the shrill voices; like Ghandi's approach best.

  5. So well said. Being an introvert I am not a joiner nor do I feel inclined to make public declarations. I don't wear my colors on my sleeve. I do agree with everything you said and I try to do my part by staying informed and voting my conscience, signing various internet petitions (which I wonder whether they do any good at all), and giving where I can. On occasion I'll get steamed enough to write to my representatives. I haven't marched or risked being booked or served jail time. I had friends who engaged in the Moral Monday protests in our state capital and I supported them, but didn't participate myself. Here at primary election time as one party's candidates try to out-conservative each other (though I don't think the appellation 'conservative' is very accurate since it's more about dismantling government) and since my congressional representative will be guaranteed to come from one of them because of gerrymandered districts, I'm inclined to despair. Our state public education gutted, our unemployed cut off from benefits, our poor not covered by expanded Medicaid, our voting restricted, guns allowed in public parks, playgrounds, bars (!), and campus parking lots, pollution safeguards removed or unenforceable due to lack of funding - I could go on - while corporate and wealthy individuals' taxes were slashed, are all legislative hallmarks since our legislature and governor went to majority control by the 'conservative' party. I just wonder when our former moderately progressive citizens will wake up.

    1. And how, on God's green earth, is this situation "American" or compassionate or even acceptable for anyone with a conscience? I have to ask: if someone must gerrymander and find false reasons to deny voter rights, what is the value of his/her/their message? If you have to win by cheating, where is the victory?

      I share your despair and admire those who would make things better -- even if only by standing on a street corner and trying to remind people that there is such a thing as Right. MK

  6. SAVE the Lady Slippers, Oh yes. I have them on my property pink and yellow.
    I have given up on the Govt. The only was is to fire them all and start over
    down sized. My taxes are outrageous, the roads get fixed and next year
    the road is falling apart again. Theft theft, and more theft.


  7. Beautifully observed and beautifully written!
    Welcome to BY INVITATION ONLY!!I am new to the group as well..................

  8. There is nothing like a few red and white stripes to cheer one up on a dull dau Pamela.

  9. the last thing i was the most passionate and vocal about was asking everyone under the sun within sound of my voice both on paper and in person... is to BOYCOTT sea world attractions wherever they are.
    tilikum... the tragic prisoner who killed his trainer... is now kept in solitary confinement in a tiny pool. he is not allowed near the other whales.
    whales are by nature not solitary creatures. they communicate. and they stay together. he peers over the gate at the other whales. they have drilled his teeth down to nubbins. one can only wonder at the trauma and pain that procedure caused him.
    this is a HATEFUL corporation that is concerned about ONLY MONEY. as most huge corporations are.
    the only way to get their attention is through their pocket book. if families would simply find other "entertainment" . . . and let the whales live in peace. it's too late for those in captivity now. now would have to be re-introduced probably into 'holding' pens that were in the ocean specially made. but that is better at least than concrete small man made swimming pools. intelligent creatures. magnificent creatures being made to perform like circus clowns. it's heartbreaking. i know this is too long. way too long.
    but if just one person reads it and passes along the plight of these wonderful whales and DOESN'T participate... it's worth it.

  10. Hi Pam, an artist friend down the street sent this video of opera in a London Grocery store.
    I have been singing it all morning. Happy Mothers day

  11. Sorry forgot site go here. you will love it


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