The 1990 Honda Civic the wife and I owned when I was finishing grad school is the only vehicle I have ever had which was vandalized. Someone keyed the right-rear bumper; later, someone stood on the tailpipe, bending it down and nearly separating it from the muffler. One morning, after a party next door, the windshield had (I hope) had beer poured on it.
The young man next door was active in both College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom. He and two of his colleagues filed a complaint with the University of Iowa's Educational Policy Committee about an experimental text I had helped edit: one of their complaints was "one of the editors is a known Marxist."
Back in the days of landlines, I received a call from a young man who wanted me to know "Jeff Klinzman's a f*gg*t" after I wrote a letter defending les/bi/gay civil rights. A few years later, after penning a similar letter, an older man called to confirm my address, asking if I had written a letter defending les/bi/gay rights: "Now I have a phone number and address to go with your name." He then hung up.
I've gotten calls from "Bill Stalin" and "Marx." GOP activist Mike Thayer once sent me his newsletter, unsolicited, after I wrote a column about police brutality. The Campus Review, a late and unlamented right-wing "opinion journal," started showing up on my doorstep.
None of that has ever discouraged or intimidated me. I'm not claiming to be a victim, simply noting episodes which indicate, to me, a pattern of behavior common among some conservatives. It's the same character flaw which causes some College Republican chapters to hold spoof "illegal alien" hunts, or some young people on campuses in the Southeast to commemorate plantation slavery with costume balls.
The vandalism in the accompanying photograph is different. The sign is on display on Coralville's northern 12th Avenue. The original message was "Romney is Stupid." Trivial as it may be, that vandalism is a criminal act. No matter what you think of the message, the sign is someone's personal property. It was not displayed on the city right-of-way, but at the edge of the property owner's private driveway. Don't like the message? Put up your own sign, but don't vandalize someone else's property.
I don't think this vandalism was the act of a bored adolescent: the vandalism shows too high a level of political awareness for an adolescent, and lacks the vulgarity I would have expected. 12th Avenue is not a busy arterial way: most of the traffic is people from the neighborhood, which has some tony developments, on their way to Forevergreen Road, Front Street, or Highway 965.
Coralville 6, my precinct, is solidly Republican. In 2004, the GOP candidate for Johnson County Sheriff, who announced his support for "diversity" because he owned a "n*gg*r horse," almost beat Lonny Pulkrabek in this precinct. After that, I joked that many of my neighbors are "white sheet" Republicans: they'll vote for any GOP candidate, even one wearing a white sheet.
This vandalism fits the pattern I've seen so many times before. Some conservatives just cannot stand people who think differently, and they have no problem with petty harassment or criminal acts to "punish" those of us who deviate from their ideology.
That's sad, and sickening.