Gateway Tolerance

This morning, after I dropped my son off at his high school, I saw a yard sign that gave me pause. This yard sign has been in the front yard of this family’s property for over two years, but recently, the sign has taken on a new significance which I’ll reveal later.

Gateway Tolerance – Indiana

I wondered, “What possesses someone to put something like this in their front yard? What message is this guy trying to convey?”

To manufacture a metal sign such as this isn’t always inexpensive. I know the sign’s owner was retired when he had it printed. Apparently, making this sign was so important that he wanted to convey a very important message for all to see. Everyone who drives by or stops at the stoplight can clearly see this sign because the family lives on a corner lot in the center of a very small town with only one stoplight.

The first word seems benign: “Welcome” What a wonderful word. Typically this word is associated with Openness, Love, Caring, and Tolerance. It appears the owner is setting a hook to get the viewer engaged in something very important and worth reading. Welcome is a warm embrace of things to come. Its encouragement is to feel comfortable with the information to follow. Let’s see if the welcome is warranted.

Following the lovely opening word, we are slammed in the face with a statement which sets the tone for all information to come. “We the Branham’s (sic) are politically incorrect.” (not to mention grammatically incorrect, ahem, but I digress…) In today’s age, politically incorrect can have many different meanings. For me, the phrase “politically incorrect” conjures up thoughts of Bill Maher and his show of the same name. Maher’s show, which airs Friday nights, takes a comical look at the political right’s take on government. OK, so maybe the owner of this sign is a political lefty. I’m interested, so I read on.

“We say Merry Christmas, God Bless America, and in God we Trust.” Uh-oh, this sign and its owner have tipped their hand quite a bit here. “We say Merry Christmas” means they are a Christian or a Christian-tolerant person. Recently, this has become a dog-whistle for the conservatives which actually means: “We only believe in OUR God, and we reject anything that you believe.” The next slug read: “We say God Bless America.” Apparently, the sign’s owner is now conveying the message that his God shines blessings on the United States. I’m not exactly sure which God he prefers but I’m still thinking the sign owner is likely a Christian. And…the pinnacle of this trifecta: “In God we Trust.” Once again, I’m guessing the God he trusts is the Christian god and yet I’m still not sure. At this point, I’m suspecting the owner of this sign is likely not a left-leaner and is likely a right-winger trying to let people know how proud he is to be a God-fearing man of Christian values. Let’s look at the next line of this sign.

“We salute our troops and our flag.” One could infer that the sign owner is likely former military, has family who is military, or just simply loves his/her country. In and of itself, I see little wrong with a statement suggesting this sign owner loves his country. Now for the denouement.

“If this offends you……(sic)LEAVE.” Here we’ve come to the crux of the matter. The real message appears to be: “At this home, we are a God-worshiping, Troop-loving, Flag-hugging, right-wing family. If you believe what we believe, you are ‘Welcome.’ If not, we want you to LEAVE our house, our yard, our little town, and our country.” The sign clearly displays the family’s anger toward those in this country who are different from them. Recently, this story took a turn that has prompted my exploration of the sign and a search for deeper understanding.

Sadly, I’ll never get to know exactly what this sign’s owner meant because he died suddenly last week from a heart attack. The homeowner’s wife works for a family member of mine: she is extremely sweet to everyone she encounters. I’ve known this woman for years and had no idea she was married to the guy who just died. Either she agrees with the sign’s viewpoint, or she tolerated its placement in her front yard and viewed it as an appropriate message to send to all her neighbors and town visitors. I’m sad for her. I’m sad partly because this woman recently lost her husband, and also for the ideology and thinking which went into producing this yard sign.

On this site, we examine “Gateway Beliefs.” What gateway belief or beliefs would drive someone to position a sign like this in their yard so they could convey their message for all to see? In my opinion, the need to make this sign and post it came from two opposite positions: fear and pride. Somewhere it became acceptable for this family to believe people of other religions were not worthy of love and respect. Somehow their vision of America where people worship and think differently isn’t acceptable. To them, if you don’t say “Merry Christmas,” you need to LEAVE. If you don’t say “God Bless America,” you need to LEAVE. If you don’t say, “In God We Trust,” you need to LEAVE. If you are opposed to America getting involved in foreign wars and choose to protest, you need to LEAVE. In essence, if you don’t love the Christian God and buy into the Gateway Beliefs purported by the religious right in this country, you need to LEAVE.

What happened to the “melting pot”? My generation was taught that one of the things that made America the Greatest Nation on Earth is that we embraced people from all races, faiths, and lifestyles. How has this ideology been corrupted to say, “Be like us…or LEAVE”? I know there are people who claim “both sides do it” – but that is patently false. Is there hatred on both political sides? Yes, but let’s look at this a little deeper.

There appears to be a backlash among the right-wing conservatives that the left’s intolerance of their beliefs is a form of hatred. It is no secret that most people on the left embrace those who are gay, transgender, black, female, differently-abled, non-white, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, et. al. I can already feel the ruffled feathers of some conservative who may be reacting to this simply because of the words that I choose. However, what I see on the left is INCLUSION: all are “Welcome.” However, what I see in my conservative family and friends is EXCLUSION. Conservatives want to use their religion, their whiteness, their privilege as a cudgel to hate people who are different from them. To quote: “If this offends you…LEAVE.” What if this sign had said, “If you don’t believe the way we do, I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee and learn more about you!”? Wouldn’t that have been a much more loving message – one worthy of their God’s love and acceptance? No, the left’s rejection of your intolerance, exclusion, and bigotry is not hatred. It is living the values on which this country was founded, and the values of the God you claim to worship.

This morning, a video of our president hugging the American flag at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) appeared in my news feed. I have a soft belief that the patriotism shown in this picture closely mirrors the patriotism shown on this yard sign. To me, this is a childish and immature love of our country. It is the same love that a child has for “Mommy” – one that is too young to recognize that “Mommy” is a fallible human being with idiosyncrasies, quirks, and faults like any other human being. That doesn’t diminish the love between parent and child, but as the child matures to adulthood, he or she begins to recognize that “Mommy” is not the infallible super-human they once thought. There is nothing wrong with this concept of course, but it shows that we can still love and accept someone despite their inherent human flaws. Or not. In many cases, some people are too toxic and must be confronted with their issues, or the person must jettison the relationship.

The left doesn’t “hate” America. Quite the opposite. Just like the child whose love for “Mommy” matures into an adult relationship, we recognize that America is NOT perfect, and we simply want to confront these imperfections: misogyny, racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, homophobia…on and on. As I have stated, intolerance of these faults is not hatred, but rather a desire to see our country mature into the “Welcome-ing” place we were led to believe in.

Unless this country can rid itself of entrenched beliefs based upon fear and division, it’s going be very difficult to remain a cohesive nation. If you read this and believe others are less patriotic and less deserving of freedom and love than you, I challenge you to look closely at what is driving your beliefs.

I wanted very much to stop and talk to this guy using SE. In my little
part of the world in Indiana, I actually feared approaching this
house for fear of weaponry. Even though the sign said “Welcome”
the rest of the sign sent a very different message. This is not a
sign of tolerance and understanding. This sign was placed in the
front yard to send a very clear message: “At this home we’re angry Americans who are¬†intolerant of other’s opinions, freedom
of speech, and religion.”

“Welcome” to America, indeed.