A Chair Hangs in Austin

The symbolism is clear.  A chair hanging from a rope, dangling from a tree in a white man’s front yard was not intended to send a subtle message.  Is this a signal from someone becoming disconnected from reality, much like the mass killers whose unstable mental condition led to those atrocities?


One’s initial thought of this chair pictured above hanging in the yard of a north Austin neighborhood might be that someone’s white trash kid was air drying the new paint on it.  It turns out however to be a political statement by a white trash resident about the President, as Katherine Haenschen in her Burnt Orange Report blog discovered

The chair of course represents the symbolic personification of the President that Clint Eastwood has now made famous from his rambling speech at the Republican National Convention late last month in Tampa Bay, Florida.

After Ms. Haenschen discovered the homeowner’s identity she called to ask him about the chair and it appears that their conversation soon ended after the homeowner responded to her concern about it’s symbolism and how it reflected on Austin.

“I don’t really give a damn whether it disturbs you or not” he told her.  “You can take [your concerns] and go straight to hell and take Obama with you. I don’t give a shit. If you don’t like it, don’t come down my street.”

To be sure that this hanging chair wasn’t misunderstood for anything other that what it represents, the homeowner stuck an American flag on the chair the next day.

To Ms. Haenschen the photo raised the ugly specter of a lynching; that practice in another era in the South where bigoted whites would eliminate any “niggers” that forgot their place in Southern society.

The image of the chair is associated with the President. Now, lynch that chair from a tree, and you’ve got a pretty awful racist sentiment calling for lynching the first African-American President    SOURCE  

I don’t know that I would have taken it any further than one ignorant man’s show of his dislike for the president.  The chair is secured by a regular knot, not the ugly noose of a hanging rope.  And it’s hard to project a message connoted by Clint Eastwood with a chair simply sitting in the lawn.  But then I’m a white male and such thoughts don’t come automatically to me, even though I was raised in the South and am familiar with this ugly racial symbol.

But now I’m not sure that the lynching symbolism isn’t there.  It was reported in The Burnt Orange Report the next day that another chair with a sign attached that read “Nobama”, a day earlier than the Austin “hanging”, was lynched with the noose style knot, adjacent to the Bull Run Park in Centerville, Virginia, as seen in the picture below.

photo from the Blue Virginia blog

The Virginia “lynching” was a story reported by a writer for the Blue Virginia blog and in the picture you can not only clearly see the noose-style knot in the rope but a nearby George Allen campaign sign.  Allen is running to regain his Senate seat he lost to Jim Webb in 2006, a seat he lost in some measure by his racist comment caught on this video taken by S.R. Sidarth, a Fairfax, Virginia student at the time who is of Indian descent.   

S.R. Sidarth

When I reflect back on the senseless mass killings in Tucson, Fort Hood, Texas and most recently in Aurora, Colorado, it pains me to realize that all of the shooters involved  – Jared Loughner, Nidal Malik Hasan and James Holmes – had sent out signals to those around them that they were in the throes of physically hurting people.  Could these “lynched” chairs be a similar type signal of people who are becoming detached from the real world?

Such signals doesn’t always mean that a ticking time bomb is fixing to explode.  The reluctance by authority figures to investigate such people and bring them in for questioning  is often a factor of how the gun industry in this country has created the perceived legitimacy to purchase weapons and ammo that a military unit or police force would consider threatening.  It all becomes viewed merely as person’s constitutional right to bear arms.  

Heavily armed wing-nuts are afforded by some the status of patriots in the vein often cited by colonial insurrectionists like Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and even Thomas Jefferson.  And to be sure, there are those within certain militia groups that adhere to notions of second amendment rights that parrot the views of those colonists after winning their independence from the British monarchy but who don’t necessarily pose a threat to those around them.

But that was then when a monarchy ruled this  country, often with a heavy hand and the people had little recourse to change not only the policies they didn’t like but the ultimate policymaker himself – the King of Great Britain.  Today we have elected officials and a system of law that allows ordinary citizens to effect change in our political system, although it is often weighted in favor of people who have large sums of money.

The sense that the “spirit of resistance to government” occasionally requires a revolution, as Thomas Jefferson suggested, “where from time to time, … the blood of patriots and tyrants” must flow, is a sentiment too often heard within the white male culture in this country today.  It is not a cry where all people not borne of the manor and whose skin is darker would share in these times.  For such people, freedom means less about some perceived government tyranny and more about equality of opportunity that more and more seems a surety only for the wealthiest.

The people who strung up the chairs in Virginia and Austin, Texas, could well be part of the “unwashed masses” but they are also most likely white and male whose ignorance of facts and what true socialism is prevent them from accepting certain realities.  Instead they live in a world where extremists who have access to the airwaves generate a fantasy world that reflects a lifestyle that no longer exists or are unwilling to acknowledge that because times and people change, it does not mean that a better world is not still within reach for all people, not just for those who resemble the 18th century generation that founded and fought for a democratic republic.

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9 responses to “A Chair Hangs in Austin

  1. Yeah, people are definitely scary with this stuff, and I find it seriously dangerous not to investigate it. I do think the police should be talking to these people. This kind of crap is inciteful at best, and indicative of someone who is ready for violence. There are simple ways to state your beliefs–a Romney sign in the front yard signifies your position just fine.

    • “There are simple ways to state your beliefs–a Romney sign in the front yard signifies your position just fine.”

      With many voters who will vote for Romney, it is a more a case of not wanting Obama to be re-elected than it is liking Romney. I think that pretty much explains what these two guys in Virginia and Texas were demonstrating – in the ugliest possible way.

  2. well, there is no accounting for some folks. It is like my Buddy, Jesus W. Christ says, ” Blessed are the ignorant for surely they are goddam stupid.

    • yes, I’ve heard God almighty himself saying “What went wrong that allowed these twits to contaminate the human gene pool. Sure wish I hadn’t promised to send another flood because I would do it in New York minute. Starting with Oklahoma and working my way in a southeasterly direction.” ;-)

  3. Unbelievable, But that’s freedom of speech for ya. My first thought was; Shazam, that good ol’ boy sure don’t like that chair, maybe cause he’s got a brand new Lazy Boy in his double-wide :)

  4. Stupid, dangerous, white men. It frightens me to live in a country with them. We think we’ve come so far since the days of MLKing, but we haven’t. The Tea Party and this new Republican party have given voice to the crazy in this country. Shame on them.

    • It’s true Jean. There will always be a troglodyte contingent amongst us but if the theory of evolution holds true, their species will eventually become extinct. On the other hand, political partisanship will be honed to a fine skill by those who have their eyes set on the prizes of power and wealth and THEY are the ones we should be concerned about and focus our attention towards.

      The man in Austin, the one in Virginia and those mental deficients that made the anti-Muslim video are merely little side bets made by people like the Koch brothers, Karl Rove and billionaire GOP funder, Sheldon Adelson. The “little people” get played as pawns in a bigger game that wants to reduce our form of government to a true plutocracy.

      I’m not easily prone to buying into conspiracy theories and paranoia but I have become convinced, everyday, that this is the direction that people like Romney want to take us. And they are doing so with the aid of some of the 47% they criticize, who are not even aware they are being used.

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