Too rough on Diamond

Tonight, Thursday night, is a special time for my brother and me. We’re going to see our favorite band U2 perform live in front of a hoard of other rabid fans at the Fleet Center in Boston. It should be quite a good time, and I’m looking forward to losing my voice as well as my hearing (hopefully only temporarily).

The thing I like about U2 is their lyrics. They are cryptic and sometimes subliminal, just like Bill Darling thinks his gun shop signs are in Raymond. But unlike Darling’s signs, especially the latest one depicting State Sen. Bill Diamond as a sex offender, U2’s lyrics are never hurtful and always illuminating. The recent gun shop’s sign is just mean and distasteful.

As a member of the press, I write headlines so I know what it’s like to try and catch readers’ attention. But sometimes headlines, like readerboard signs, can go too far and cross the decency line. Darling is particularly incensed by such misleading media tactics, as he should be. Knowing Darling to be an interesting character in Raymond who shows his political passions for all to see, I respect Darling’s ability to convey his thoughts and celebrate his First Amendment rights while trying to impact his community. But his sign depicting Diamond as a sex offender, the vilest human act next to child abuser and murderer, is despicable and I’m shocked Darling chose to sink to these depths.

The beauty of U2’s meaningful lyrics is that they flow from a man who has the heart of a poet and the purpose of a warrior. Bono, the lead singer, hardly ever sings about love between man and woman, instead choosing to sing about politics, the environment, and world and personal peace. But mostly, Bono’s songs seek to rout out injustice.

This should be the way a good community works. At the heart of good community should be ridding the community of injustice. In Darling’s efforts to defend gun ownership, which is a noble goal, he has deliberately and clearly stepped over the bounds of decency and has committed an injustice against Sen. Diamond.

But Darling likes making waves at his Gulf of Maine Gunsmithing shop. He is an ultra conservative and will do anything to protect gun owner rights. While many Mainers share his passion for gun advocacy, many who travel by this sign probably bristle with horror at the depths this man has gone in defending his cause as well as the source of his income.

A dispassionate bystander looking at the situation can understand when Darling says Diamond unfairly titled a Roadrunner column “Sexual Offenders and Guns.” It’s not a stretch understanding Darling’s annoyance with that headline. It was an unfortunate title to an article. But to put Diamond’s name on a sign coupled with “Demarats” and “Sexual Offenders” is poor judgment and cruel. It’s definitely not a good-humored tit for tat. Imagine the people who will think Diamond is indeed a sex offender. If 5 percent of motorists fall for Darling’s damning word association, that’s significant damage to Diamond’s cultivated reputation.

Diamond’s a respectable member and leader in the Lakes Region community. He has the respect of many, even those who don’t agree with some of his political positions. As my former boss at The Suburban News, he had all his employees’ respect. So to see his name associated with “Sexual Offender” was a shock and an obvious low blow and, if I know the people of the Lakes Region, a bad business move for the sign’s owner.

John Balentine