NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Last weekend proved to be an emotional roller coaster for the Beal family of Nacogdoches.
After hosting an Obama sign party to replace the Obama-Biden campaign signs stolen from their fence and having dozens of people show up to hang homemade signs and show their support on Oct. 19 evening, their signs were vandalized again the next morning.
However, Brent and Heather Beal chose not to get angry when their daughter came back late from band camp and discovered that most of the signs had been ripped off of the fence. The signs are literally trashed, but there's a lesson in there somewhere.
"" I don't know how much it can be used to characterize the other side," Brent Beal said. "I think it's just some people that aren't playing by the rules."
Convinced of the importance of the democratic process, they planned yet another sign party for 5-7 p.m. Friday.
Now voters from both sides of the political fence are coming together to show their support for freedom of speech. Beal even offered to give Republicans a section. One of the people that came by to show his support was Jack Rohrer, a moderate Republican who will be voting for Obama.
"There are reasonable people, and most people are actually," Rohrer said.
"Republicans are welcome," Brent Beal wrote in an e-mail. "We've had a few Republicans stop by and offer to help us, given that the process is more important that than which party wins. Seriously … we've saved a small spot on the fence for any Republicans that come by and would like to put up Republican signs."
The Beals haven't given up on their vision of covering their corner fence in support of Obama.
"As you can see, we've got a lot of fence, a lot of room for political expression," Brent Beal said. So come on over on Friday, and we'll see how much of it we can get filled."
In the meantime, the Democrats are using cattle panels over the more expensive signs. Plus, vandals should beware; camera surveillance may capture a picture that may end up on a fence for everyone to see.
Brent Beal urged supporters of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidates in the upcoming presidential election, to bring some sort of Obama sign, whether it's handwritten, professionally done, on cardboard, or on paper. He said they will have cardboard and paper on hand for the folks that want to make signs while they're there.
In an Oct. 21 blog, Beal wrote that she and her family knew when they put up the original Obama-Biden signs "that there was a pretty good chance that they would be vandalized or taken down."
"But I decided to trust in the goodness of my community and encouraged my kids to do the same," Heather Beal wrote.
Sure enough, someone stole both signs four days after the Beal family put them on their fence.
"The kids were sad. And disappointed," Heather Beal wrote. She added that her son was puzzled and said, "Someone stole our signs? But, I mean, we would never steal someone's Romney/Ryan signs."
Heather Beal wrote that some of the on-line comments that appeared as a result of stories that ran on the KTRE Web and Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel Web sites were downright scary. Many people were angry, and others referred to the Beal family as "sitting ducks" and threatened to call Child Protective Services on them. Nonplussed, the Beal family exercised their constitutional right to free speech and went ahead with their planned sign party.
The family bought sodas and hot dogs and got the supplies ready for Friday's event. Heather Beal wrote that they didn't have any idea if anyone would show up, but that they would have been OK with it if it had just been them putting up new signs.
"Cars started showing up," Heather Beal wrote. "People we'd never met before walked up our driveway and introduced themselves. Some brought signs; some brought kids ready to paint. Some thanked us."
In all 40-60 people came to the Beals' sign party. Heather Beal wrote that one college student who had attended all four years of high school in Nacogdoches, told them, "I cannot tell you how happy this whole event makes me. It is so hard to live here if you're not a conservative Republican."
"I told the kids to write nice messages because it doesn't make any sense to fight hate with more hate," Heather Beal wrote.
Friday's event proved to be a "profoundly spiritual experience for Heather Beal. She wrote that she felt a sense of "goodness and rightness" that trumped party affiliation or support for a particular candidate.
"This experience reminded me - and hopefully, my kids - of the importance of the political process. This is about free speech, free elections, and the democratic process," Heather Beal wrote. We need to learn to talk through our ideological differences. The issues surrounding this election are huge - health care, women's reproductive rights, the economy, immigration, marriage equality, etc. - and if we can't talk about big ideas like these without resorting to theft, name calling, intimidation, and threats of violence, we've lost more than a few campaign signs."
To read Heather Beal's blog about their sign party, visit this link: http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2012/10/ride-to-our-sign-party/.