Politics Politics Everywhere

Campers now bring flags, signs, and glitz to adorn their campsites, sometimes displaying information like their alma mater or home town but increasingly political or cause-specific messages. In campgrounds, the motivation to experience nature and be outdoors now comes with a campscape of “Impeach Biden,” “Hillary for Prison,” “Let’s Go Brandon,” and the ubiquitous Trump banners and flags.

Out on the road political messages are even more in-your-face, with many billboards, car stickers, and large format graphics on semi trucks displaying more and more unfiltered political statements, many beginning with the letter “f.” In addition to corn or soybeans on farmland, the agricultural landscape now includes lots of roadside messaging, some of it pretty explicit. Even in harbors, we were struck by how many boats were displaying political flags.

Not all political messages are conservative or extreme, although the majority are clearly ideologically right, if not far right. In particular communities, it is easy to pick up the local controversies such as zoning issues, pipeline resistance, or advocacy for issues such as right-to-farm. Perhaps disappointingly, visible political sentiments appear to mostly correlate with ideological context, with rural New York and Maine tending to openly express conservative gun, anti-government, and energy positions, while Massachusetts and Vermont display health care, women’s reproductive rights, racial equity, and environmental causes vigorously and openly.

The emphasis on political statements, especially in environments as temporary and integrated as public parks and campgrounds, says much about the state of our country. We apparently can’t let it go, even for a weekend in the woods or on the water. Politics are everywhere.

This aggressive and visible politicking also chills out the kind of chance and diverse conversations that otherwise might happen in places like parking lots, campgrounds, grocery stores, or public parks. Even without reacting to political imagery, we experienced contacts looking to make a point—such as an immediate and unsolicited tirade about the governor of New York on first greeting—that absolutely shut down any further interest in conversation or engagement. When we were invited over to a campfire with our next-door camping neighbors, we realized that much of the early conversation was not-so-subtley testing our social/political views. While I guess we passed their ideological filter, this is too bad.

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