A yard sign in New Jersey business owner Holly Smith’s yard reads, “Love lives here: love of God, family, friends, country, community, & the U.S. Constitution.” Last month a neighbor, referring to the sign, called Smith and her 15-year-old daughter Megan “hateful.”
A public proclamation of love spurred accusations of hate. Let that sink in.
“We shouldn’t need to even have those signs. The majority of Americans are not hateful and those [‘Hate has no home here’] signs cause more [division,]” said Smith. “I wanted to show love lives here. I would love a sign that says ‘Love lives here and always has.’”
Unfortunately, as Holly and her daughter’s experience confirms, hatefulness is still alive and well in the United States. People on both sides of the political aisle are guilty of it. Although obviously minor, Holly’s experience is emblematic of fiercer, more nakedly partisan attacks, some of which can become alarmingly vicious.
Political persuasion has become a target for default hatred, much more since President Trump’s election. Along the lines of racism or sexism, some partisans automatically ascribe the most universally loathsome characteristics of the most fringe-like members to every member. One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch, they inaccurately reason.
This mob-like mentality powering partisan attacks is ramping up as we approach the 2020 election season. While Smith’s neighbor stopped at words, others driven by that same mentality will doubtless go much further. If hateful words lobbed at political foes have become socially acceptable, how long will it be until hate-fueled property damage or actual physical attacks get the nod, as well?
Smith’s sign seems to promote near universally lauded sentiments—love of country and countrymen. So, why would anyone construe a message of love as evidence of hate in the first place, you may ask? Politics. Pure politics. And, in this case, dueling signage.
Smith’s yard sign has an interesting history that likely sparked her accuser’s ire. The “Love lives here” motto and sign was created in response to another sign with origins in Chicago.
The “hate has no home here” message and sign went viral in February 2017. It began with a photo of a child holding a handmade sign during a protest against the Trump administration’s temporary halt to immigration from several chaotic countries, as the Chicago Tribune explained.
The “hate has no home here” sign features the phrase in English followed by that same phrase in a number of different languages on successive lines below it. It sports a representation of a heart-shaped U.S. flag.
Since then, lawn sign displays of the “hate has no home” sign have come to be associated with anti-Trump and politically leftist sentiment, while the “love lives here” sign is associated with the ideological opposite. Thus in some towns, the political proclivities of a given neighborhood have become easy to spot from the road. Lawns on some blocks are peppered with “hate has no home” while other blocks are a sea of “love lives here.”
It is not hard to imagine what it would be like to have the lone opposing sign in the area.
I spoke with the man who launched the copyright-protected “Love lives here” motto, Bob Gillies of Springfield Township, Pennsylvania. Springfield Township is about 45 minutes west of Philadelphia. Bob served 16 years as the southern Pennsylvania town’s commissioner and created the motto last June.
Demand for the signs skyrocketed when Gillies used them as a fundraiser for his local GOP group, the Springfield Township Republicans.
“We used the signs for a fundraiser for the local party but we not ready for the deluge of requests. We sold over 3,000,” Gillies said, adding that he had developed the motto after seeing the “hate has no home here” signs popping up in his area. Philadelphia talk radio host Dom Giordano quickly took notice of the signs, used them as a giveaway on his show, and ultimately named Gillies his “local patriot of the year.”
“Fifty signs were gone in the early minutes of [Giordano’s] event, as people were waiting in line for them,” Gillies said.
The “love lives here” signs and gear took off from there, and a year later, the one that ended up on Smith’s lawn generated an ugly response from a neighbor. Her expression of love and patriotism met accusations of hatred. Not because Smith had done or said anything hateful, but because she embraces conservative values and supports President Trump.
Hatefulness disguised as partisan loyalty is still hatefulness. Hatefulness meant as virtue-signaling is still hatefulness. Hatefulness is wrong. Full stop.
If hate truly has no metaphorical home in the hearts of those displaying that sign, people like Smith would not frequently encounter in-your-face accusations of hatred from those with opposing political values. Our collective goal, as a country, should be to embody the messages proffered by both of the dueling signs. We should shun hatefulness and exclusively embrace its opposite.
Doing so requires more than mere tolerance of our political foes. It requires respecting and loving them despite our differences. It may seem a tall order, but it is a goal we must prioritize and must constantly strive to realize. If we continue to fail at this as we are failing now, we will fail utterly as a country.