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Yard Sign Project

Red, white and blue signs, approximately 1.5' x 2', are to be placed in front yards and other public locations. They are designed to resemble the ubiquitous yard signs* printed commercially and posted in front of homes and businesses throughout the southern USA. The "Ten Commandments" yard sign includes text from the Geneva Convention as it relates specifically to treatment of prisoners. "Support Our Troops" includes officially suppressed imagery of the remains of US servicemen and servicewomen. "Re-Elect" makes explicit the merging of secular and religious iconography implied by the rhetoric of our political leaders. "Home For Sale" includes an image of the American flag, violently out of focus.

If you would like to display these signs in your yard or elsewhere, click here to download a "10 Commandments" pdf file, here to download "Support Our Troops," here to download "Home For Sale," or here to download "Re-Elect," all suitable for printing. You will either need a large format printer, or you can resize the image for your printer. The ribbon magnets are formatted for 8.5 x 11" printer paper. I ask that you send E-mail confirmation of your participation, and if possible, digital documentation of your sign in place to wwfisher@charter.net or william.fisher@gcsu.edu, or photographs may be mailed to Bill Fisher, CBX 094, GC&SU, Milledgeville, Georgia 31061. Please feel free to encourage others to participate.

Project Rationale

As our political leaders and media now focus on the outrage felt over the recent release of images of torture and humiliation of Iraqi Prisoners of War, it appears the "illegal" release of such images may be as repugnant as the actual abuses or their underlying causes.

This may be inferred from the following excerpted testimony by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Friday, May 7, 2004:

"It's my failure for not understanding and knowing there were hundreds or however many there are of these (pictures) that could eventually end up in the public and do the damage they've done."

"The photographic depictions of U.S. military personnel that the public has seen have unquestionably offended and outraged everyone in the Department of Defense. If you could have seen the anguished expressions on the faces of those of us in the Department upon seeing the photos, you would know how we feel today."

"We're functioning in a -- with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a war-time situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon."

"If these (pictures) are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact. I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe. And if they're sent to some news organization, and taken out of the criminal prosecution channels that they're in, that's where we'll be. And it's not a pretty picture."

"It is the photographs that gives one the vivid realization of what actually took place. Words don't do it. The words that there were abuses, that it was cruel, that it was inhumane -- all of which is true -- that it was blatant, you read that and it's one thing. You see the photographs and you get a sense of it and you cannot help but be outraged."

Secretary Rumsfeld was one of the first to object when pictures of American hostages taken by the former Saddam regime were aired on television. He said this was harmful to their dignity and contravened Geneva conventions.

However, according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, it is the US government's position that even if it was torturing and executing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, no court could intercede. The WP editorial page charged Secretary Rumsfeld was to blame for the lack of accountability in prisons: "[Rumsfeld's] Pentagon ruled that the United States would no longer be bound by the Geneva Conventions (in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay); that Army regulations on the interrogation of prisoners would not be observed; and that many detainees would be held incommunicado and without any independent mechanism of review."

According to Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker, there are as yet unaddressed allegations of a separate unit at Abu Ghraib prison reserved for women and children.

As our cause in Iraq is seen by many as morally superior to the cause of those Iraqis opposed to our presence there, the Judeo-Christian influence on our leadership and wartime policies can not be overlooked. The purpose of referencing the Ten Commandments in the Yard Sign Project is not to denigrate this ethical document which includes admonitions against killing, but rather to comment on the hypocrisy of displaying such a document or publicly espousing its content while supporting behavior which it specifically prohibits. The substituted text from the Geneva Conventions is used to remind ourselves of both our claim to be civilized even in the event of war and our responsibility to the world community and to humanity, and to educate those unfamiliar with these universally accepted proscriptions on the maltreatment of prisoners.

Bill Fisher, May 14, 2004

*In 2003, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the removal of a 5,280-pound granite representation of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court rotunda, installed by Chief Justice Roy Moore. The resulting debate over the removal of the monument lead to private citizens displaying the Commandments on front yard signs throughout the Southern USA, perhaps in solidarity with the former Justice (Moore was removed from office for defying a federal judge's order to move his monument), or in support of the First Amendment, or perhaps in support of the values expressed within the Commandments. The recent and aggressive invoking of the church (or the Christian God) by the state, and the resultant narrowing of their separation (as also seen through federal funding for "faith-based initiatives") may be to Justice Moore's benefit as he pursues his case. Moore also hopes to place a similar monument in the US Capitol, as a gift to Congress.

According to The Washington Times, August 31, 2003, "The Alabama chief justice's constitutional interpretation on the Ten Commandments may find support from three of the Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who has taken stands on church-state issues several times since 1980. 'The Establishment Clause does not require that the public sector be insulated from all things which may have a religious significance or origin. ... The Ten Commandments have had a significant impact on the development of secular legal codes of the Western world,' Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote in objecting to the court's unsigned opinion on the First Amendment church-state issue in a 1980 case, Stone v. Graham. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in 2001 joined his opinion and said the Supreme Court 'never determined ... that the Commandments lack a secular application,' despite their religious guidance to Christians and Jews."

Artist's Note:

I've seen the Biblical 10 Commandments yard signs throughout Georgia and the Carolinas. I'm assuming they're popular in Alabama as well , and I've heard they're in Texas and Louisiana. They are sold in my town at several locations (looking like little Christmas tree lots), about $4.00 each, and seem to be breeding throughout neighborhoods across a wide social and economic spectrum. This grassroots, private citizens' public act of collective expression is exciting. To openly document your beliefs with a public display, at your home, perhaps without support from your neighbors (I've seen lonely signs posted as well as those displayed in 9 out of 10 front yards on a neighborhood street), to protest what you regard as unfair laws or misguided leadership...all this amazes me, and I think it's admirable. I wonder though if the majority of these folks, probably rather fundamentalist in their religious beliefs, support the current US administration's arrogant, heartless military rampage towards Empire. President Bush has been shameless in the public invoking of his personal "Born Again" religious beliefs to guide his hand during these difficult times, knowing full well the psychological power these associations have over the will of the people. His claim that he is "called by God" to be president is especially manipulative. In a climate of fear and uncertainty (an ongoing War on Terror is very convenient for maintaining this climate), the people will turn to those who promise them safety and security, law and order, at almost any cost to personal liberty or human values. Having God, "our" God, on his side...how can we lose with such leadership? How can we question him, and still be good Christians, or good Americans?

The Biblical 10 Commandments are in direct conflict with our current administration's actions and attitudes. That's where this project began, as a response to this contradiction, this twisted quest for money and dominance at the cost of thousands of lives, with millions more dehumanized. Yard Sign Project is a reminder of the finest values and obligations we, as a nation, share with the rest of the world. The project encourages everyone to openly express their support of these values, just as they might publicly display their belief in the Ten Commandments.

Click here to download a "10 Commandments" yard sign.

Click here to download a "Support Our Troops" yard sign.

Click here to download a "Home For Sale" yard sign.

Click here to download a "Re-Elect" yard sign.

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