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Advertising acrimony


Hollywood, MD - The controversial roadside sign in central Calvert County that was seen as a threat to some and an embarrassment to many was finally taken down late last week. Its appearance in a community that has experienced political parity for several years prompts a few things to ponder.

First, as offensive and ugly as the sign’s message may be, posting it was as legal as buying a hotdog at a ball game. In 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Westboro Baptist Church and affirmed that their actions—as reprehensible as they truly are—still are guarded by the U.S. Constitution. The church is known for its lavish use of hate speech and protests at military funerals. The case Snyder vs. Phelps stemmed from an incident that occurred in Westminster, Maryland, at which the Westboro band showed disrespect for a young, deceased U.S. serviceman. The court’s vote was 8-to-1 with only Justice Alito dissenting. Another Supreme Court case that Calvert Countians might remember since it impacted the process for drafting a new sign ordinance was Reed vs. The Town of Gilbert. Under the ruling, governments may not regulate the message content of signs.

To some extent, the sign was no worse than anything that gets posted on social media today and it may not have been as visible as a vitriolic Internet posting. While the billboard was visible to traffic heading north on Route 2/4, it was on the opposite side of the road. A few national and regional news outlets jumped all over the story, giving it better visibility and thus putting many locals on the defensive. The Calvert County Republican Central Committee was right to condemn the message. The statement on the sign did absolutely nothing to promote the GOP’s support for the policies of the Trump Administration or the role of leadership the party currently plays in Washington. No impeachments are on anyone’s realistic agenda in the Nation’s Capital at this time. These are acrimonious times in America with some individuals—and groups—behaving like national politics is synonymous with professional wrestling. Taunting, trash-talking and threatening bodily harm to your opponents are not tactics of statesmanship.

I am honored to know many of the longtime party stalwarts—Republicans and Democrats—in Southern Maryland. These people are Americans first and they truly demonstrate that ideological differences are not deal-breakers when it comes to friendship and compassion. The sign was an insult to those individuals who understand and relish the two (or more) party system and its role in our nation.

True, the right to free speech is not a right to free “nice speech” only. However, if you want the country to be great, advertising acrimony is not the way to do it. It sells a product that shouldn’t wear the “Made in America” label.

Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of TheBayNet.com management.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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