Opinion: Things turning ugly in East Long Beach as election nears

I walked the dogs on Sunday morning up one East Long Beach street lined with jacaranda trees and down the next, with a long stand of trees that bloom with yellow blossoms in early fall that are as striking and every bit as messy as the purple jacarandas, but a lot less heralded.

I was walking Annie while Jasper whined and howled at home. They’re strong dogs and you have to walk them one at a time or they’ll take off after a squirrel with the leash-holder flying in the air behind them like a kite.

Annie and I walked past a house I’ve always admired for the sign in its yard: “In this home we believe:

“Black Lives Matter

“Love is love

“No human is illegal

“Feminism is for everyone

“Science is real

“Kindness is everything.”

Controversial? Some would say no, not at all. And there are others who would take issue with almost every part of that signage.

Annie and I walked on to the end of the block, then wound around and walked down the next street, which eventually took us to the side of the house with the sign. On the garage door was a startling spray-painted message: “BLM Kill Whitey” and on the stucco nearby, “BLM Deth 2 Whitey.”

Later, with Jasper on the leash, I would learn from the couple who owns the home that the same message had been sprayed at a couple of other houses in the neighborhood as well as at Grace First Presbyterian Church. The couple didn’t see or hear anything and they said they planned on putting up cameras. “Just let people know this isn’t what we think,” said Valerie, the wife, as she looked at her defiled garage door.

The news of the spray-painted messages took off on social media, with hundreds of people in Facebook groups and on Nextdoor offered (for free!) their opinions on the matter. It was “board” kids, it was “Antifa” using reverse psychology to make people think it was Trumpers. Most commenters believed it certainly wasn’t BLM because the message was neither BLM’s philosophy, nor was “Whitey” a part of BLM’s vernacular.

Things eventually devolved into arguments about whether the painted message was or was not a Black person’s handwriting.

The Rev. Jonas Hayes, senior pastor at Grace First, said he was a bit hurt by the vandalism, but he said,  “People in the world are experiencing different types of trauma” these days. He attributes much of that trauma to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he wants to steer his church into a greater understanding of the trauma that’s being suffered by people in the community. “We as a church want to be present in the trauma; we’re not immune to people’s struggles.”

Hayes offered no opinion on who was responsible for the scrawled message. “I have no clue who it is,” he said. “We all have no idea who in the world did this.”

Back home, the dogs, exhausted, flopped on their beds in front of a fan while I sunk into despondency, which began as only a relatively light case of despondency, but it grew deeper to the point where I was going to need a political therapist or a handful of different colored drugs when I heard a lot of honking coming from Wardlow Road, which, not surprisingly, came from a long posse of Trumpers in their $80,000 fully-loaded Ford F-150s with their American flags, now co-opted by Trump followers as a glorious symbol of racism and white supremacy, flapping frantically in the the truck beds.

The honking caravan showed up on social media, too, with commenters battling in favor of one candidate or the other, with one person remarking, “Genuine unbridled enthusiasm for a candidate. It’s refreshing.”

It’s not refreshing; it’s depressing and disheartening and not just a little frightening. Things are going to get ugly in the coming days as Trump will attempt to wrest the election in his favor. And the honking I was hearing Sunday as his followers gunned their engines and brayed in bellicosity while waving their Trump flags just a couple of blocks from my house made me worry now just hours before Election Day, how big of an army our current president has at his disposal, and how eager they are to fight.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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