"Chair hanging" in Templeton is no harmless prank

San Luis Obispo - The TribuneOctober 30, 2012 

Much as we might like to believe that a “chair hanging” in rural Templeton was the work of kids playing an innocent prank, we aren’t buying it.

It’s just too much of a coincidence: At the Republican convention, Clint Eastwood famously delivers a rambling monologue to an empty chair that he uses as a stand-in for President Obama. Suddenly, there are reports of chairs being strung from trees at various locations around the country — including one such display across the street from a school in Michigan.    

Oh, and lest we fail to make the connection, some of the chairs have been marked “No-Bama.”

This is no harmless fad. When an empty chair has become linked in the public consciousness to President Obama, hanging a chair from a tree is a repugnant and shameful symbol that harks back to the lynchings of African Americans. 

And it’s not just us making the connection. Consider what a Republican Party chairwoman in Clark County, Ore. — the site of another chair-hanging incident — told the LA Times: “I understand that it comes from where Clint Eastwood used the chair at the Republican convention. So I know where they’re coming from, but hanging a chair in a tree is bad taste, and something the party here in Clark County does not support or condone.” 

We commend those who called attention to the ugly display in Templeton.    

While no one has taken responsibility for it — the owner of the vacant parcel believes it was teenagers, and she doesn’t think it was racially motivated — at least the chair has been removed.

Let’s hope that’s the last we see of this particular form of hateful behavior. This election has been polarizing enough; we don’t need any more “chair lynchings” to ratchet up the nastiness and divide us even further.

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