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Reading sign language

I have a love-hate relationship with campaign signs - the ones you see in front of every third or fourth house here in LO. Why do people put these signs up? Is there any chance one of these signs ever influenced anyone? A lot of people must think so since you see so many of them.

It's really a scary thought, someone voting for the leader of the free world based on a cheap plastic sign. (Personally, I want my vote to go to the candidate whose supporters have the greenest grass, the most well-manicured lawns, and who have the good taste to not put up yard gnomes.)

Or do these signmongers believe that some people make their decisions based on the number of signs they see - with the undecided voter simply counting the number of signs for each candidate on his way to the polling place. (After all, when has majority opinion ever been wrong?)

On the other hand, there's a certain amount of pride in knowing that you, a resident of Lake Oswego, have declared to the world (or at least the part of the world that passes by your house) that you fully support 'Candidate X' for President. It's a way of saying: 'I've got political beliefs and I don't care who knows it.'

You can even use it as a networking service. In this monochromatic political world of ours, you only have to look out the window to decide which neighbors get invited to your next barbeque. Insulating yourself from dissenting opinions is fun! But maybe not as much fun as a heated argument over whether or not a vice presidential nominee is really qualified after naming one of her kids Track.

Personally, I believe some yard signs are actually a cry for help. McGovern lost in '72 (at least according to Wikipedia). It's been 36 years, people - it's time to let go. And those of you who still have Hillary signs up in your windows, it's time to accept reality and get back to lying to the pollsters about how you're just going to stay home this election. As for you folks with Nader signs up - I admire your tenacity, but you're starting to scare me. Please - think of the children.

Then we come to those political signs that are old enough they don't include the words 'Biden' or 'Palin' in slightly deemphasized font. These hombres have been fighting the good fight since the ole' Straight Talk Express was just a Mini Cooper. They probably know all about 'the issues' and not just the ones you can learn from reading Cosmo. Never discuss politics with these people.

If you agree with them, you'll spend the next 35 minutes going 'uh-huh' as they talk endlessly on what exactly the word 'change' means to them.

And if you're against them, ho boy, watch out. You'd better be familiar with the voting record of your particular candidate for the last several decades, because before you know it, they'll bring up the 1986 vote against the Highways and Interstate Commerce Bill. A vote that they personally believe is one of the most important issues of the day.

Maybe the real issue with political yard signs is they're obsolete. In an age where campaigns ads are streaming out of every electronic device in your home (I swear my microwave said 'Vote Democratic' right after I put in a bag of popcorn), who needs boring old yard signs? I can get the latest speech by Obama up on my browser in 10 seconds, so why would I ever care about a piece of plastic that just stands there? If I feel so inclined I can mass message everyone in my cell phone a text reading '0b@m@ Roxs!' That's got to be at least as effective as a political sign.

If politicians were smart, the signs they gave out would be full of the newest and coolest features. I can see it all now, personalized signs reading 'Vote Obama, Dave, he'll get you your own parking spot at the steel mill.'

Or maybe motion censor signs that can tell when a potential voter is nearby, scan to see their political preference, and react accordingly: 'Greetings, fellow Democrat, would you like to see the latest bulletin from Moveon.org?'

In fact, until I see real change from the sign-making industry, I'm going to boycott the reading of, commenting on, or any further thinking about signs.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some yard signs to put up.

Zane Sparling is a sophomore at Lake Oswego High School. He writes a column every month for the Lake Oswego Review. Contact him via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .