Driving from Yonkers to Rye one day, I skipped the parkways and took the back roads through tree-lined streets that typify the lovely confines of Lower Westchester. It was an experiment. I wanted to count the lawn signs (more like miniature cardboard billboards) that read: “Hate Has No Home Here.”
Like Lime bikes, these signs are a noticeable feature of the modern suburban landscape. They are not ubiquitous but rather found in small clusters. You can go some distance without seeing any and then come across two or three on one block. I counted 11 signs on my circuitous nine-mile route, including one in front of a house in the Mamaroneck neighborhood where I grew up.
When I was a kid, it never crossed my mind that hate had a home anywhere on our street or that it was remotely necessary to declare one’s house hate-free. Those were very different days — and I’ll leave it at that.
I’ll just stick to how things are in the here and now, starting with the obvious fact that hate is no longer merely a noun or verb but a toxic, shapeshifting commodity with a capital “H” traded in the marketplace of Internet chat rooms, comment threads, mad manifestos, and crime statistics. Hate is the “in” thing. There are haters, haters of hate, and haters of haters of hate.
There is even a board game called Hate, a perfect catharsis, perhaps, for road-rage maniacs, isolated paranoids, and rejects from anger-management class. Its sales pitch: “Don’t lose. Don’t die. Keep killing.” Up to six can play.
The “Hate Has No Home Here” movement started in a diverse Chicago neighborhood, ostensibly to welcome those who are targets of hate because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or place of origin. A couple of elementary-school students came up with the poster’s phrase. The idea caught on and the inexpensive signs spread across the country.
It all seems innocent and harmless, yet some people were offended, believing that the signs amount, at best, to public expressions of liberal-minded sanctimony. In a caustic op-ed piece in the New York Post, F.H. Buckley, a Scalia Law School instructor, coined the term “vice signaling” to describe the signs’ intent. He insisted that the signs he observed in his Beltway enclave were primarily meant to vilify a couple of Trump supporters who happened to live in the all-white Washington, DC, neighborhood.
Rather than unifying communities, Buckley wrote, the signs create the opposite effect: They serve only to alienate, pit neighbor against neighbor, and break communities apart.
Earlier this year, “Hate Has No Home Here” signage took root in the exclusive manor section of Larchmont, a place that was all but devoid of conflict — until Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes moved in with his wife and children.
The McInneses, who live within spitting distance of the village’s picturesque harbor, bitterly complained that the posters were a purposeful attack on them. The cry of persecution was strikingly ironic — given the Proud Boys’ extreme right-wing politics, misogynistic tendencies, and penchant for street brawling.
McInnes reportedly declared: “I hate ‘hate has no home here’ signs.”
Janet Harrison, who has a sign displayed on her front yard in Eastchester, chuckled when asked about such negative reactions. “Vice signaling?” She’d never heard the term.
“I can’t control how somebody interprets it,” she told me, “and I’m not worried about it.”
To her, the sign is meant simply to comfort the afflicted — “the marginalized, whether they’re people of color, whether they’re immigrants, whether they’re of a different religion.
“In these times, [which] I don’t believe are normal,” she continued, “I think it’s really important to stand up and say, ‘We’re here.’ That’s just the America I know. This is the America that I’ve always seen as a compassionate place.”
Harrison, who is in an interracial marriage (“My kids are black”), says it has crossed her mind that the sign in her yard might be misconstrued by someone with a chip on their shoulder. After all, this is the age of reflexive outrage. She does not worry.
She recalled a friendly conversation she’d had with her next-door neighbor, a man who was not a liberal. “At one point he said, ‘You are such a kind person.’”
Love thy neighbor… what a radical idea.
The opinions and beliefs expressed by Phil Reisman are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Westchester Magazine’s editors and publishers. Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org