By REP. MARJORIE PORTER, InDepthNH.org
My late husband George was born just up the road in an old farmhouse on the brook in East Washington.
When he was six, economics forced his family to move to where the jobs were, but they kept the farm and returned to it every opportunity they had. In high school, he spent the summers working on the Eccardt Farm saving money for college. A kind and sensitive soul, he loved the life here.
When we were dating, and he brought me here for the first time, I was charmed, and fell in love with both.
We spent our honeymoon, and every other chance we got here in the valley. And as soon as we were able, we bought a home so we could raise our family here.
George drove off to work each morning and the kids and I went to school in Hillsborough—they were students, I was a teacher. We built a life. When they graduated and moved on, and George and I looked forward to having an empty nest.
When George passed away at the too-early age of 49, the overwhelming support, compassion, and love the kids and I received from the community got us through the most difficult time of our lives. It let me know this was truly my home. And although after his death I could have moved anywhere, I chose to stay right here.
I left the public school and opened a small preschool-kindergarten and continued teaching. For more than twenty-five years, I had the pleasure of teaching the wonderful children in Hillsborough and Deering. It’s been a good life.
That’s why, when ten years ago the need arose for a candidate to run for state rep, I decided to give it a go. I still had some good years left, and it was a chance to give back. I must admit to being a bit surprised when I won. And then won again.
I really do enjoy the work the legislature does. I’ve learned so much. Although we only hear about that work when there are conflicts, the vast majority of the bills we pass or kill are done with unanimous bipartisan support. We really can agree on things.
But to do the work, I have to keep being re-elected, and that’s the part I don’t like at all. Election season has always been mean, something to be gotten through.
For example, there’s the bit about the signs. Signs get stolen. EVERYONE’s signs get stolen. New candidates are always shocked that they are losing signs this way and are quick to accuse the other side of stealing them. I don’t know who steals the signs around here, but it’s been going on since forever. It is against the law, but no matter.
Usually it’s signs along the roadways that get taken, but more recently the thieves have been venturing into people’s yards to steal them, adding trespassing to their offense of theft. The police get called, but without evidence there is not much they can do. Truth be told, I don’t think they take it too seriously. Some veteran campaigners recommend using fox urine on the signs—it smells really bad on the hands that have pulled the sign out of the ground. I’ve never tried it.
You get used to losing signs this way.
I started to get concerned, though, when I learned that my signs—and only mine—were being targeted for more disturbing mischief. A few election cycles ago, I got a call from a friend, terribly upset because one of my signs along the road had been defaced. And sure enough, when I went to retrieve it, there was my sign, carefully painted with white paint, changing my name to an insult, targeted at me because I am fat.
Where there is one, there is most likely more, and there were. Lots of them. In the next cycle, whoever was defacing them began moving them too—all around town, so we had to drive to find them. Because this is harassment, I had to report it to the police and to the Attorney General. And when one Sunday morning I awoke to find the signs on my lawn slashed, bent, and crushed, the police had to be called again.
This year it started up as soon as we put out signs. My signs, and only mine, defaced, flattened, or ruined. I’ve spoken several times to my Republican colleagues in town, asking them to please do something to stop the harassment, but they have told me they have no idea who is doing this. No idea at all, and that it must just be someone who doesn’t like me, that’s who.
As the cycle is heating up things are getting worse. Last week a friend sent me a message. One of my signs had been cut up and attached to a traffic sign. Another defacement, another insult, another trip to find it.
But it’s what I found on my way home that stopped me in my tracks.
Right there, on the road across from McDonald’s, was one of my signs, covered with a big, black swastika. The universal symbol of hate, and a threat of physical harm.
A symbol meant to terrorize.
I had family members who fought the Nazis in World War II. I know what the symbol means. A symbol so evil, it is banned in Germany, and for years never dared to show its ugly face here. But there it was, clear as day.
At first, I was shocked, then angry. But now I am just so incredibly sad and disappointed. So much division, hate, and fear in our country. Even here in my hometown. Is this really what we have become?
I’ve made Hillsborough my home for close to thirty-five years. I raised my family here. I buried my first husband here. I taught the children here. I’ve served the people here to the best of my ability.
Please, tell me what I always believed is still true. Please tell me we, in this town, in this state, are better than this. We just have to be.