Decoration or racism?

Ken David said it's no secret he is a Mitt Romney supporter. But that doesn't mean the lawn chairs hanging in his frontyard are an attack on President Barack Obama, or anyone else for that matter.
Becky Vargo
Sep 27, 2012

Area residents are calling the display racist and an attack on the Democratic president. They say the hanging chair is symbolic of lynching Obama.

David said it’s “absolutely not” an attack — it’s a decoration.

“People decorate their trees all the time,” he said. “We’re no different than anyone else.”

David and his wife, Judy, live at 15896 Comstock St., across the street from Peach Plains Elementary School. He strung metal lawn chairs from trees on their property on Monday. One of them is next to the driveway. The other one hangs next to the road, not far from a sign that says, “Take Back Our Country in November.”

David said he saw a police car with an officer shining a spotlight at the chairs on Monday night.

On Wednesday morning, Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies stopped and talked to David about the chairs. A complaint had apparently been made by someone at the school, David said.

The homeowner said he has done nothing wrong.

“This is my property. I have the right to freedom of expression,” David said.

Some members of the Tri-Cities area think David has taken that expression too far.

“There are all sorts of incidences of this (chair hanging) happening across the country,” said Grand Haven Township resident Ed Ketterer, who has a child attending Peach Plains. “... I don’t buy it that the chair doesn’t have the racial connotation."

Just sitting on the ground, the chair would not be a problem, Ketterer said.

“It’s kind of funny — it’s mocking what (Clint) Eastwood did at the convention," Ketterer said, referring to a speech the actor made at the Republican National Convention in August, next to an empty chair representing President Obama. “When you hang it from a tree, you take it to a new level."

Ketterer said there is no way David would not know what the empty chair represents.

“To me, it’s not about rights, it’s about decency,” Ketterer said. “I wouldn’t condone it anywhere.”

In an e-mail to the Tribune, another area resident said she was also disturbed by the hanging chair.

“I’m all for freedom of speech," Donna Timmer wrote, "but when my granddaughter asked what it meant, it was hard to explain.”

Ketterer said he had the same problem with his third-grade son.

“We talked around the issue,” he said. “We said it was a political sign and that it was against President Obama.”

 

Comments

Lanivan

Mr. David is the worst kind of coward - he knows full well that hanging empty lawn chairs from a tree on his property in full public view is directly linked to Clint Eastwood's imaginary (and bizarre) conversation with an empty chair representing President Obama at the RNC convention. Of course he knows that the hanging of the chairs versus, say, simply putting an empty chair out by his "Take Back Our Country" sign, for example, is a symbol of extreme racism. But when confronted, he hides behind free speech. "I have the freedom of expression - I've done nothing wrong". Mr. David - why don't you proudly come right out and say you not only disrespect our African-American president, but hate him enough to promote the idea of lynching him via your "freedom of expression" hanging lawn chairs? Don't hide in semantics - "it's not an attack, just a decoration"?? Come on, Mr David, man up and say what you really mean. Either that or quit this shameful tomfoolery - right across from an elementary school! If you do want to "decorate" your yard, set the empty chairs by your sign and call it good.

Tri-cities realist

If Alec Baldwin or some other democrat actor did to Bush what Eastwood did to Obama, I can virtually guarantee you would have called it brilliant rather than bizarre. But that's ok, double standards are acceptable to those on the left.

Tri-cities realist

Lanivan, you must also be a racist for your use of the word "tomfoolery". I will explain my reasoning. The name tom obviously refers to an "Uncle Tom", and we all know that a fool is someone who is ignorant or stupid. So by using that word you must think that all black people are ignorant. I'm just illustrating obsurdity, by being obsurd.

Hope4GH

This is not a decoration. No one ever decorates their trees with hanging lawn chairs. Ever. But decades ago in this country people hung African-Americans from trees. What a gutless act and lie! A few weeks ago I saw a bumper sticker here in GH: "Romney 2012: Don't re-nig." That isn't even how you spell renege! It is blatant hate, fear, and ignorance.

Look, Romney has strong support in this community. That's great. Put up signs, wear buttons, even throw an empty chair on your driveway showing support for Mr. Eastwood's speech. But using this election to wear your racism as some sort of patriotic symbol is the worse kind of low.

I don't want Ken to be forced to take this down. I want him to see the common denominator of human decency and cut it down himself. Then just put the empty chairs on his driveway.

Ken, why are you so full of hate?

truthhurts

You deem this racist...others deem it as a symbol of dissatisfaction with the president's performance and direction...how to explain that one to a kid...not sure. Do you tell an artist what their work means?...no, it means what you want it to mean. Everything now days is racism, get over it. If the president were white...i mean caucasian (don't want to be racist), and the same chair thing happened at the convention, would this still be racist? Many caucasian people have been hung throughout history as well. This is America and you have the right and freedom to not look at it and even ignore it, please use it.

sobe

This IS America, and there exists a symbolism specific to America because of its history. This display would not be interpreted the same way if the President was caucasian. See the youtube video of the song "Strange Fruit" sung by Nina Simone to further your understanding of the symbolism of "hanging from trees" in America. Tell me if how easy it is for you to "get over it". It is deeply disturbing. I will chose to think that Mr. David was unaware of the underlying meaning of his action, lest I feel completely disenchanted about West Michigan.

Tri-cities realist

I can see how you would be disenchanted about west Michigan. Feel free to move to a more "enlightened" area.

sobe

Ah, yes, that good old fallback. I was waiting for that one.

Tri-cities realist

Well you are free to do as you see fit.

HueJastle

Just makes it easier to know who the morons are

HueJastle

Only a moron would think voting for Mitt Romney is "taking the country back"

Tri-cities realist

Way to further the conversation. Next time resist the urge to exercise your fingers and twittle your fingers instead, it will be just as productive.

Highlander

Maybe the sign means, "Take the Country Back," from corporations, special interests, and full-time legislators who do half-time time work, and who have responsibility for the global economy crisis.

LessThanAmused

Nice sentiment Highlander.....I'd certainly support the "Take It Back" mandate if that's what it really meant, but I fear, as you might also, that it's more likely it means to take us backward to a time when there were no child labor laws, no industrial safety regulations and no labor unions to give the working man a voice in the workplace...so that he's treated as something more than an indentured slave. These are all things that the coporations would certainly like to do away with to increase their profits and decrease their accountability to humanity.

Tri-cities realist

The fact that you think corporations want to go back to the days of child labor is laughable. Think about it. If a corporation were to do anything like that, their customers would dry up and they would go out of business. Do you really think the people running the corporations are that stupid? If you answer yes, I hope you are self employed or own your own business. Beacause if you work for people that you think are stupid, what does that make you?

ghk13

I agree that Mr. David has a right to express his opinion BUT when you buy a house across from an elementary school you have an obligation to keep your expressions tasteful and what he has done is wrong. People are complaining, and I am sure he is loving the attention of all of it, but it is wrong to do this in front of the children who can't escape it looking out of their classroom windows.

Thankfully, I know that the staff at Peach Plains will address any questions the students may have with compassion and help the children understand that adults in their community make bad decisions sometimes.

.

Tri-cities realist

He "has a right" but "what he has done is wrong." Which is it? Please make up your mind.

Michael Johnson

My son asked me what it meant the other night as I was driving him home from his Karate class at Peach Plains. I then used Mr. David's freedom of expression as an opportunity to explain to my son exactly what people like Mr. David represent for this country, as well as what this country would look like if more people like Mr. David were in charge. I've also told everyone I know about Mr. David's demonstration of the freedom of expression; perhaps they will drive past Peach Plains Elementary School and all the classroom windows that have an unobstructed view of Mr. David's self-expression and see it for themselves, hopefully while thinking hard about how we exercise our freedoms and in what public contexts we do so. So I for one would like to thank Mr. David for using his freedom of expression to make it absolutely clear to the community what he really believes in - since once you freely express yourself, it is everyone's right to interpret your expression the way he or she sees fit. Thanks to Mr. David's demonstration, my son now knows exactly what people like him believe in and stand for. He will have to work hard to understand how anyone could ever think or believe such things, but that is just one of those harsh lessons kids sometimes are exposed to while growing up. Hopefully Mr. David's demonstration is the kind of lesson my son will not forget when he considers what values he wishes to further in our community as he grows more educated and experiences a wider, diverse world - and how those values can shape the world in which he will one day live and in which he will educate his own children. Thank you, Mr. David - your demonstration of freedom of expression has taught my son a valuable lesson in issues of tolerance and intolerance, and in ways to recognize the responsible and irresponsible use of our freedom of expression.

teach27

Michael Johnson....Thank you for being a great parent, teaching great values. We need your contributions to our community; Mr. David should take his contributions to.... well, there is no place for him. His decisions are bad for all of humanity.

Tri-cities realist

Other than your multi-cultural mumbo jumbo, I agree, it was in poor taste. But that is the price we pay for freedom of expression. We don't have a constitutional right to not be offended. While I disagree with Mr. David's form of expression, I fully support his right to do it. Instead of trying to take away someone else's rights, we should try to change their minds through the power of persuasion, which is what you did. Nice work.

hodog999

Chairs hanging from a tree? Really? Tell me the significance of that? Why isn’t a Romney sign enough to express yourself? Why do you have to degrade our sitting president? This whole GOP campaign is the worst I have seen in decades. So many untruths that can be so easily looked up and verified. Turn your TV channel to something other than Fox News and see how things really are. It is a disgrace how racist and disrespectful people are towards our president. There is no honor anymore with people. America will never get better with this type of expression, so leave your chairs up and be proud of yourself, bravo to you sir. Ignorance breeds ignorance.

Tri-cities realist

Both sides stretch the truth, and you know it, if you examine things critically. However just because someone disagrees with the policies of someone who happens to look different from them, does NOT make them racist. I am so sick of the race card being played every time someone disagrees with Obama. I thought our country had supposedly moved past that. And I don't like supposed "art" which depicts a crucifix sitting in urine, but I support the artist's right to display it, just not when tax dollars were used.

AtomicRooster

Decoration or racism, that's beside the point here. I think it's obvious that this man is mentally disturbed and should seek professional help asap. That has got to be the dumbest effigy I have ever seen. Ok we got it, you don't like Obama. And it's common knowledge that Grand Haven will more than likely go for Romney because Grand Haven is predominately Republican. Always has been and always will be. Like who cares? You made your point. but in the most dumbest display I have ever seen. What are the voices in your head going to tell you to do next? Now that's the scary part of your psyche. How long have you been off of your meds?

dgmarvin

I find your "diagnosis" if Mr. David to be misplaced. Have you spoken to him regarding his mental condition? I doubt it, but since you've written statements regarding his psyche it smacks of practicing medicine/psychiatry without a license. Restrain yourself in the future. Until the Antichrist takes over the world we still do have the freedom of expression. Go get a different life.

AtomicRooster

I think it is you that is misplaced. Your bud, huh? Forget to take your meds too?

dgmarvin

Hilarious that it took you several replies to get it out of your system. Try this: collect your thoughts and ideas BEFORE engaging digits to the keyboard to expound with your limited intellect.

AtomicRooster

Like you've never had a computer errror? Yea right. No fault of my own here Richard. I didn't catch your last name. Cranium wasn't it? Suits you well. Talking to you would be the same as talking to a sock puppet. Keep your pie hole shut until you have something more substantial and intelligent to say which in your case will be never. Have a nice day.....somewhere else.

dgmarvin

*yawn*!! You're not worth the time to engage...too simple. When one can only resort to character assassination and name calling, it reveals frustration and unoriginality. Get in yer pick-up truck sans seat belt after you've downed a six-pack and find the nearest mud bog to go play; and please try to flip it w/windows open.

AtomicRooster

I think it is you that is misplaced. Your bud, huh? Forget to take your meds too?

AtomicRooster

I think it is you that is misplaced. Your bud, huh? Forget to take your meds too?

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