Is vandalism a sign of today’s politics?

July 24, 2012

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, pass the sign each day in front of Hudson Management’s building on Route 1 and Eagle Crest Road.

For a long time it paid tribute to the late Craig Hudson, son of owner Joe Hudson and father of Christian and Jamin Hudson.

More recently, Christian decided on what he considered a “very benign” message: “Pray for the country, Repeal Obamacare, Vote Romney.”

That’s when the trouble started.

“The first incident occurred, ironically, on July Fourth,” Christian said, when the office was closed. He received calls that the sign had been changed. His first thought was that it was teenagers up to some mischief.

Instead, he found that many of the letters had been stolen. He ordered more letters and replaced the message.

The second incident occurred the weekend of July 14-16. More letters were stolen and a few screws ripped out. So far, he said, the vandals have cost him about $400.

He has not reported the damage to the police and doesn’t intend to. “If this is the price I have to pay to exercise my free speech rights, then so be it,” Christian said. “They won’t find any ‘back down’ in me.”

This past week motorists have seen a new message. It honors Bill Hopkins, who retired after 53 years with the family business.

As of 8 a.m. Monday that sign was still up, but Christian said he plans to replace the “Vote Romney” message as soon as his new letters arrive.

“I think these left-wing vandals are cut out of the same cloth as the leftist whackos from Occupy Wall Street, Code Pink, New Black Panthers, etc.,” he said. “This was clearly a politically motivated attack on my private property, in an attempt to stifle my free speech rights.”

Unfortunately, he’s probably right. He thinks it’s too much of a coincidence that the business suffered two acts of vandalism within two weeks of putting up a conservative message. I agree.

Hudson Management, he said, has also received email threats calling for a boycott of the family business.

In our polarized political climate, however, feelings about the healthcare law are running high on both sides.

A recent column in the Cape Gazette made a jaw-dropping statement: the writer compared the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act to a “mini-9/11.”

Let’s take a look. On one hand, you have foreign terrorists bent on destroying America launching a suicide attack that killed more than 3,000 innocent people. On the other, you have U.S. Supreme Court judges rendering a legal decision on the healthcare law. There were no casualties, with the possible exceptions of reason and common sense.

What’s interesting is that while progressives have cheered Roberts’ decision, it was many ways a conservative victory. Roberts - and four other judges - rejected the notion that Congress had the right, under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, to pass the health care act. The law was upheld only on the narrow grounds of Congress’s ability to tax.

So what? Consider the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forced restaurants not to discriminate on the basis of race. It was upheld under the Commerce Clause, which allows Congress to regulate interstate commerce.

Because restaurants received supplies from out of state, the reasoning went, Congress had the power to regulate whom they could serve. Would that pass muster today?

Much federal power rests on Congress’s ability to pass laws under the authority of the Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court’s decision to limit that authority lays the groundwork for future rulings that could reduce the reach of the federal government. For Republicans, that’s hardly a cause for gloom.

Yet, in some conservative circles, Roberts’s decision has made him a pariah. In the imagination of a local columnist, the chief justice’s decision elicits a comparison to 9/11. That’s straight-up hysteria.

The difference between the two cases mentioned above, of course, is that the first was a criminal act, the second merely an opinion. I applaud Christian Hudson’s decision to continue exercising his First Amendment rights.

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