Joseph L. Shimburski has every right to post anti-Obama signs on his front lawn – however offensive they may be – and that free speech, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes America great.
The community should take notice of those signs and use it as an opportunity to start a productive discussion on race relations. Moreover, those in disagreement with the Town of Aurora resident may want to consider posting their own pro-Obama signs. That is, if they don’t already have any decorating their own lawns.
The election of this nation’s first African-American president brought up strong feelings among citizens, and in his March 18, 2008, speech, “A More Perfect Union,” Obama sought to address the controversial matter of his relationship with the lightning rod, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose own sermons were criticized as hate speech against whites. But just as important, during his first run for highest office, Obama attempted to address a still roiling undercurrent of race-related anxiety.
His words at the time remain true:
This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
It’s safe to say that Shimburski, 77, without making assumptions on his racial views, didn’t like it when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, and he really didn’t like it when Obama was re-elected earlier this month. Shimburski decided to voice his frustration in a public manner by placing on his front lawn for more than 3½ years, a large sign stating, “Obama Ain’t My Pres” on one side and “Say No to Obamacare” on the other.
And when Obama was re-elected to a second term, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Shimburski changed his original sign to read, “Voters Reniged.” The other side of the sign reads: “Still No President.”
The registered Republican does not believe his new sign is racist or hate speech. If other people think it’s racist, he told a reporter, “tough crap.” The fact that “Reniged,” plays on the word renege and can easily be interpreted for the highly offensive N-word does not faze him.
Paul Bradford, who lives farther south on Center Road in West Falls and is an Obama supporter, expressed his own outrage to The News. He is likely not alone, but it’s hard to tell because there have been no calls of complaint.
Shimburski has a right to express his opinion. Even if others disagree. Frank B. Mesiah, president of the Buffalo branch of the NAACP, also believes in the Aurora resident’s right to place signs on his lawn but would like to see more people on the other side of this debate step up with their own First Amendment messages. So would we.