Signs of the Times 

The Moneybox staff is currently away from home on a long-planned driving trip that, among other things, has removed me, somewhat, from the all-consuming news cycle that began Sept. 11. Still, it’s not as if you can be anywhere in America right now without seeing signs of what is on the country’s collective mind.

Speaking of signs, we began to notice the other day, as we drove from Oxford, Miss., into Tennessee, how many merchants had turned over their signage to messages related to the recent attacks—far more, it seemed, than back home in New Orleans, although maybe we’re just more conscious of them now. Often the message is a simple “God Bless America” or a Bible quotation, an exhortation to pray.

Sometimes it’s difficult to find a place of lodging that will accept all members of the Moneybox traveling party, which includes a 50-pound dog. Because of this we ended up shopping for a motel room the other night on an unglamorous stretch of road in Nashville, in an area where adult bookstores and no-tell motels are prominent. As we drove up and down this road, we saw a very large number of signs given over to patriotic messages. And we saw others that stuck to more directly commercial themes. Most interesting, though, were a few that split the difference.

I liked these the best because in their mix of a bold proclamation of pride and hope and defiance, with the quiet murmur of commerce, they tell the story of this moment rather perfectly. “White Castles 44 Cents Daily, United We Stand.” “God Bless America, Welcome, Free Continental Breakfast.” “God Bless America, Sun-Thu, $28.88 & Up.” When we left, we saw another good one a half-hour outside of town at some fast food place: “God Bless America, Kids Eat Free.”

But it was back in Nashville that my fellow traveler E noticed the one that’s become our favorite: “In God We Trust, United We Stand, Flags Are Here, $2.99.”