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Signs of the Times
I was in full solidarity with those protesters I saw the other day. They were out picketing a local appearance by Republican congressman Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Nunes says there is no reason for him to investigate Russian interference in our election or of their ties to our new president. He’s all over that Obama wiretap, though.

I regret not being one of those protesters. I need to be out there, because it’s important to take responsibility for what you believe in. I’m not talking here about the case against Devin Nunes (who is considered by many to be either a craven weasel or a loathsome parasite), but rather about an issue absolutely fundamental to our shared mission of resistance.

I’m talking about signs. Many of the picketers were brandishing them at the protest, and I confess that I was not impressed by the overall quality. Now, I want to be careful here. These protesters are my brothers and sisters in the cause. We share the same outrage, and we are ready to take action — including effective messaging.

My compatriots certainly had some things to say. There was one sign at the event that read, “Nunes, U.S. Intelligence Needs To Investigate Trump-Russian Connection.” I have no quarrel here with the signholder’s message. In fact, it precisely states why all those people were out there in the first place. But I am reminded of that old philosophical question. You know the one: “If a sign falls in the forest and nobody can read it, did it really have a point?” Maybe the holder’s fellow protesters could read the sign, but I don’t think they were the target audience. Anyone driving by would have to have been Evelyn Wood herself to take that all in. The only reason I saw it was that a photo of it appeared in the newspaper the next day. I am sure that Nunes, to whom the sign was addressed, could not have read it. The message, then, was never received.

We need terse, punchy signage if we want that to happen. Something that will pierce defenses and get through. Words of one syllable and not too many of them. Lettered clearly in a large, thick font. Black on a white background. These are the basics, people. If you have something to say with your sign, this is how it needs to be done if you want your message to be received. Beware of deviations from this model. If you want to use pictures, that‘s fine, but make sure they’re readable at a glance. Forgive my bluntness, but bluntness is what is needed. Especially on a sign.

“Do Your Job” is a recent good example. It’s punchy, and it carries several clear messages: we’re watching, we’re your boss, you’re not doing your job, we’ll fire your ass if you don’t. It does assume that the audience (the elected official) knows which particular job is being talked about, but that is a fair assumption in this case.

“Fuck Trump” has a nice clear message and it’s certainly punchy, but using the word fuck can turn off potential converts to whatever fucking philosophy you’re pushing. “This Shit Is Fucked,” however, is acceptable because it’s funny. “Electile Dysfunction” is also funny, but “We Shall Overcomb”… sorry, but no. “Free Melania” is somewhat amusing but rhetorically insubstantial. “Queef on Him,” even though it will send some people running to the Dictionary of Slang, qualifies nicely. When it comes to humor, we are walking a fine line, so be careful out there.

“Resist + Persist” connects to current terminology and actually tells a little story as well. Plus, it rhymes. “Dump Trump” is another good rhymer, as is “Hate Ain’t Great.” Of course, not every sign can or should have the same message. I don’t claim to have a recommendation for every righteous grievance. That’s your job.

I know it’s not easy, believe me. Making a good protest sign is like drawing a good political cartoon: it has to cut through the haze and get to the heart of the matter. I’ve been trying to come up with something for my own sign, and it’s been a challenge. “No One Is Above The Law” states my case, but it’s just too dry. A good sign needs passion or else what’s the point? I want to tell that gecko Nunes that the Constitution is more important than politics or policy or party or presidents. That’s a tall order in four or five words, especially when it also needs some flesh and blood on it. And maybe even some hair.

“Prune The Executive Branch”? “Impeach The Tangerine”? “We’ve Lost The Founders”?

I don’t know; none of those sound that great. Too cute perhaps. How about something more in-your-face? “Bite My Emolument”? “Tweet This”? Or better yet, go full tilt aggression with “Crush Orange!” or “Why Orange You In Jail?”

Too much? Maybe, but in times like these, even too much may not be enough.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee