FALMOUTH, Maine — I committed a crime this month, along with two of my friends. I’m not the lawbreaking type. In fact, as a 52-year-old mom, my life is pretty predictable and boring. But this election, a particular candidate’s boasts about women pushed me over the edge.
In the suburban, upper-middle-class part of Maine where I live, Republicans and Democrats live together mostly in harmony. In every election cycle, there’s some tension. But the 2016 presidential campaign has been different. Tensions in my town are running at a fevered pitch.
Which is how three middle-aged moms came to be running down the road, tearing up the Donald Trump signs along our version of Main Street. We’d been talking about the infamous Billy Bush tape and the women who have since come forward to share their own stories of abuse. We were angry. Getting Trump’s name off our median strip seemed like the best way to express our rage.
In retrospect, I realize I shouldn’t be proud of my transgression. Hanging out with a bunch of moms, we started grousing about the proliferation of signs. Can you believe someone would put that many Trump signs so close together on our roads? It’s so rude. Who is this jerk? We felt assaulted by the number of signs. The idea of “cleansing” our streets seemed like the fastest way to restore balance and alleviate our election stress — at least, that night it did.
The escapade was not premeditated: We simply jumped into my Jetta wagon, drove down to the strip and got to work. In all, it took less than 20 minutes. We grabbed about 40 signs and threw them in the hatchback. I hadn’t really thought about what I would do with the signs; I just wanted them gone. At the time, we believed we were doing the right thing. There were so many Trump signs up and down our main drag — it was destroying all sense of equilibrium in our community.
But the Falmouth police happened to spot us as we were preparing to leave the scene of the crime. The officer was kind, informing us that we had stolen someone else’s personal property, which had not really entered into my mind while I was doing it. He took the signs and sent us home.
The next day, I received a summons to appear in court. The officer informed me that the signs belonged to a local Falmouth business owner and chairman of “Making Maine Great Again,” a PAC supporting Donald Trump. He had been told about our little escapade, and he was pressing charges. (Maine law allows for a civil fine of up to $250 for taking political signs.) Reality began to set in. But there was no going back.
I have not met the man I offended, but if I did, this is what I would want him to know about me: I’m not a deeply political person. Yes, I vote, and I’m a registered Democrat, but I’m no political animal. This year, motivated to support anyone but Trump, I bought my own sign for Hillary Clinton and have it placed in my front yard. I know a lot of families who are doing the same.
Reflecting back, I realize that I momentarily snapped. But there was a deeper reason for my anger than just the signs. Over the past several weeks, grasping the depth of Trump’s predatory behavior toward women throughout his adult life (and even worse, his denial of it) has simply become unbearable. I became unhinged.
Like so many American women, I have my own story about a powerful man using his position of wealth and influence to demean my integrity and put my job at risk. My version of Trump was a board member of a nonprofit where I worked more than a decade ago. Over a period of many months, he called to talk about personal and board-related matters. He was married, so I never believed he had serious ulterior motives. Then, one day, he called to proposition me to enter an illicit “relationship” with him where he would fly me around the world to exclusive resorts. For sex.
“You’re not the marrying type of woman,” he told me. “I never see you having a family of your own, so I have an offer for you.” He described how good he was in bed. I wouldn’t regret it, he said. It would be “our little secret” and “worth my while.”
I was afraid that declining this man’s offer would insult one of my organization’s largest donors. So I told him I needed “to think about it.” A few days later, he told me he’d made a mistake.
I should have told him to go to hell. Instead, I told my boyfriend (now husband) about it and buried the secret. I was silenced, until now.
This kind of silence appears to be a concept that a lot of Trump supporters can’t understand. But these are the kinds of compromises women are put into by men who abuse power. This is the source of my rage against Donald Trump. It’s why I committed a crime. Yes, I was acting out, and I will face, with some humility, my day in court. But at the time, my act felt strangely liberating. I wanted to punish Trump and anyone who could support him. Especially now, knowing what we know about his treatment of women.
Trump’s name is his power. I can’t strip him — or that board member — of his power, but I thought I could strip the median of that emblem of power.
As I prepare for a mid-December appearance before a judge in the Cumberland County Courthouse, I am realizing that I’m not the only one going to extremes this fall. There have been Trump sign thefts in Maine and Massachusetts. Trump supporters’ cars were actually vandalized recently in Bangor. Violence at campaign events is now commonplace, and worse, a bomb went off in a North Carolina Republican Party office. The level of agitation — and fear — is rising daily, on both sides.
As someone who stooped to the level of stealing from a local businessman, I have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do. I also have advice for anyone who might be on the verge of doing something stupid. It’s not worth it. Find a healthy way to express your outrage.
And for God’s sake, please vote.