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Oct-12-2010 19:06printcomments

Lawn Signs Sprout Like Weeds: Are Voters Mere Sheep?

Election Daze: Part I

Election signs
Sign of the times?

(SALEM, Ore.) - Springtime may be long past but each fall comes with political weeds, so to speak. Welcome to Gullibility Gulch--in all its variations.

Just as the leaves start to turn, countless lawns seem to display signs trying to tell us whom to vote for. And just like that fall foliage, they come in countless colors. Thousands of politicians around our fair country have paid for the services of graphic artists to see how well they can tempt you to buy "their brand".

Will repetition ravish your eyesight? If a candidate's campaign crew manages to talk four dozen people to putting up signs, does that make him or her twice as qualified as the candidate who has only two dozen vote-for-me posted?

Actually, let's look more closely at the message, if any. The vast majority offer little reason to prefer Candidate X to Candidate Y. Blasting your name in large print is hardly a solid premise why you deserve anyone's vote--we can see through that quite clearly...

And occasionally come the slogans, which are supposed to be a kind of courtship. Better analyzed, they offer only generalities of what's ahead. One side may try to promote "experience" but few in the public usually have witnessed just how persuasive or otherwise that person was while in office. Being media-friendly is not sufficient.

On the other end we have wanna-bes for office who promise some magical change, something that will right all the frustrations a voter feels at the moment. Can this person deliver a panacea, or simply supply a placebo?

I've noticed lately that some campaign signs end up on public land. How so? Did some invisible person give permission for that indiscretion? It would seem a bit arrogant for any taxpayer to have campaign signs crop up on a public site. What gives here?

Finally, we cannot but notice some merchants put up campaign signs rather than opting for public neutrality, and begin to wonder if there is some hidden IOU's if that merchant meets up with a zoning or inspection problem later on. The barter system may be alive and well, and even thriving.

This Election Season, let us look beyond the superficial and become more aware to the way that voters can be manipulated. If I could push the "delete" button on some of these sorry practices, I'd be among the very first in line. Community Writer Barry Lee Coyne brings to our readers stories from his combined career of journalism and gerontology, and explains that these paths shaped his values. Lee Coyne once worked for The Civil Service Leader in NY State and covered the Legislature. He has also done features on mediation and arbitration, and believes in healthy skepticism. This writer-therapist often views the world as the masks of comedy and tragedy placed upon the scales of justice. For him, optimism inevitably wins. "Lyrical Lee" has traveled to 30 nations aboard and was once a press intern at the UN. His first published article was in The NY Daily News in '59, dealing with the need for integrity in public office.

He also launched the nation's first tele-conference on health education for shut-ins, created the Eldermentors project in VA to pair retirees with immigrant students needing role models, and was the main catalyst behind CCTV's "Public Public" panel show here in Salem. Lee received his BA in International Relations and an MSW in community organization. He currently serves as a member of Salem's Library Advisory Board. To send Lee an email, please write to this address:

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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