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.”




In my world, a person is either an adult or someone who has not reached adulthood; if the latter, that person is either a boy or a girl. Adults are serious beings – they address matters seriously and they take responsibility for their own failings, rather than blaming someone else or lying about their shortcomings. In view of this President's actions of campaigning, golfing, partying, vacationing, and doing television shows rather than governing; his lying about what happened in Libya, about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, about what is in Obamacare; his broken promises like reducing the deficit by half, and making the world respect us, and his thin skin and petulance, I consider him not an adult. He is a male so I identified him as a boy, even if he bowls and throws a baseball like a girl. In addition, I expected I would pull some liberal chains. Thanks for proving that I did.


Do you live in a different world than the rest of us? I was thinking that we (all humans) shared the same world. However, I also understand the definition of adulthood to be in line with the written definition ( Therefore, as you're using your own homemade version to justify your use of the word boy, in relation to The President being one and not a man, you now see how I was confused. Perhaps you can help me understand how you're able to overlook the science behind the reality (mainly Biology, Chemistry) which clearly say you're incorrect in calling The President a boy? Maybe you do live in a different world now that I think more about it. You see where me and everyone else live we have politicians that lie, cheat and in some cases steal, in one or many differing ways. These politicians I speak about are found in every country and have differing political agendas. I can't speak for everyone however I think some of us realize that "to err is Human, to forgive divine". In other words, we are not all perfect. We all mess up and make mistakes and lie to cover them up. I remember spilling juice on the brand new carpet when I was a child and covering it up with a pillow. I think I was 5. I guess it was ok using your logic because I hadn't reached adulthood because once we reach adulthood we become saint-like? I don't need to talk about former President Bush's mistakes, lies, cover-ups or any and every other former President to compare their likenesses and similarities they are ALL well documented. All in all at least I now have some clarification, thanks. I choose not to talk about how all girls must throw bad per your derogatory statement or your false claims that I am a liberal.


You are right - Obama is chronologically an adult but that does not make him a man. Substitute "man" for "adult" in my original post and I stand by my characterization of him as a boy rather than a man. Also, I will change my earlier post to read "even though his baseball delivery is feminine." Thank you for your post that led me to discover the error of my ways.


Chronologically as well as anatomically, I'm sure. I think you're still off but hey, at least like I said before, I understand you. I think that even if you change girl for feminine you're missing the point; your remarks are sexist. I'm not saying you are sexist but your remarks are. I stay away from making claims about what a person "is", like racist, sexist, liberal; people who have to resort to using these labels usually do so because there arguments are weak at best.


A poem by Langston Hughes titled, "I, Too":

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
when company comes,
but I laugh,
and eat well,
and grow strong.

I'll be at the table
when company comes.
Nobody'll dare
say to me,
"eat in the kitchen,"

they'll see how beautiful I am
and be ashamed--

I, too, am America.


its not 1925 anymore....let me spell it out for you....not applicable.


Clearly literature\poetry\art is applicable throughout time not only during the time or era it was written in. Do I need to give examples? Do you have a point yet or must I continue to educate you.


Let's all just take a break - and savor these words from Billy Collns......You see them on porches and on lawns
down by the lakeside,
usually arranged in pairs implying a couple

who might sit there and look out
at the water or the big shade trees.
The trouble is you never see anyone

sitting in these forlorn chairs
though at one time it must have seemed
a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.

Sometimes there is a little table
between the chairs where no one
is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.

It might be none of my business,
but it might be a good idea one day
for everyone who placed those vacant chairs

on a veranda or a dock to sit down in them
for the sake of remembering
whatever it was they thought deserved

to be viewed from two chairs
side by side with a table in between.
The clouds are high and massive that day.

The woman looks up from her book.
The man takes a sip of his drink.
Then there is nothing but the sound of their looking,

the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird
then another, cries of joy or warning—
it passes the time to wonder which.


I recently moved here from the other side of Michigan and my child goes to Peach Plains. I have wondered how long it was going to take before the racism charges would commence. I find it laughable that an organization called "Diversity Alliance" wants to have a community conversation about someone's expression of free speech on private property. Who funds this organization?

Now this gentleman must know that this hanging chair thing is in poor taste and clearly craves attention and he got it. I personally disagree with his expression of "art" as some call it. I find the flame wars amusing with liberal usage of what is racism and what isn't. To make a clear point. If you disagree with the current President's management of the economy, foriegn policy, governerment controlled heathcare, energy policy etc., well then, you must be a racist. It's a tired arguement that started four years ago.

Mr. David is going to have to answer to the thought police aka "Diversity Alliance". Good luck with that!


Again, how does this situation have anything to do with how you feel about any given president's policies? I didn't like one bit that Bush took a budget surplus, a booming economy and no wars and squandered the surplus, drove up the debt trillions of dollars through tax cuts plus 2 major wars paid for with borrowed money, and deregulating everything, thus driving the country over the cliff. But as much as I hated his policies, I never questioned his faith, his birth, his family, the color of his skin, nor was I ever called racist because I disapproved of him. (I was called "unpatriotic" a few times because I thought the Iraq war was a bad idea....imagine that!) But I never, ever chose to hang an effigy from a tree to represent lynching our then-white president.


I'm new here, but I think you might be talking to me.

I recall a time prior to Obama's election when Howard Dean as head of the DNC stated in full view of America on live television that if people disagreed with Obama's policies he would consider them a racist. When he was challenged he stated he didn't care. If you's racism! I wish I could find the video. Even Bill Clinton claimed the race card was used against him during the primaries in SC.

At the time you could have knocked me over with a feather and I knew this position would cause ill will. And here we are, in 2012 and racism is being batted around for political advantage. Special thanks for Howard Dean.

Disagreements can and should be argued through debate but calling someone a racist because they happen to disagree is a bridge too far for me.

Tri-cities realist

Good for you! However you did neglect to mention a little incident that occurred on 9/11 in 2001. I am sure that was an innocent oversight on you part. Or perhaps the events on that day were the cause of the 2 wars, nah that couldnt be the case. Bush is a cowboy and was itching to start wars anywhere he could. I do however blame Bush and the republicans in congress for not restraining our federal spending, that is the cause of the increased debt. (and while I also blame the democrats in congress for overspending, that is all they know how to do, so I never expect fiscal responsibility from them. I guess I hold the republicans to a higher standard because I thought they were the party of fiscal sanity, sadly there aren't many in congress who seem to care anymore.) And the debt is one area that Obama has succeeded more than Bush. It took Obama less than 4 years to accumulate the amount of debt it took Bush 8 years to rack up. Congratulations Obama, way to "out-do" your predecessor.


and per Havendude's link, he may also get a knock on the door from The Secret Service


I believe Mr.David has the right to express himself. However, I believe his expression is hurtful and not helping others or his cause. Mr.David pointed out that the chair is a decoration, but someone with his political involvement would clearly know that the empty chair represents President Obama. So the logic goes: Empty Chair = symbolic of Pres.Obama. Pres.Obama is black. Blacks were lynched in our country (the last official one taking place in 1968). Hanging an empty chair from a tree seems less like a decoration and more like a symbol of hanging the President.

I understand that some people may say people are reading into this too much and that is not Mr.David's intent. However, the perception is there and it appears obvious to many. Therefore, if I was Mr.David and I wanted to make my point - why not take the chairs down, because the issues he are trying to raise are being swallowed up by these "decorations." Take the chairs down and set them on the ground and make your point. Mr.David is not helping his cause, instead he is providing ammunition for his opponents and not attractive to people who may feel fed up, like him. Grand Haven doesn't need more chairs in the trees...we need more respect and understanding.

But, I imagine he will dig his heels in and make this about the freedom of speech and keep the chairs on the trees. Instead, he could use this opportunity to clear up confusion and clearly articulate his position in a way that might actually attract others.

Maybe someone could provide some different decorations for the trees. It is too early for Christmas lights, but I think the public would accept that this time.


Apparently many people are just decorating their trees with chairs:


I guess if two others equals "many", you're right!


what a bunch of idiots. How do you go from hanging chairs to racism? Please get a life or at least a hobby. I guess I better be careful hanging my bird feeder this winter


Oh, so now those of us offended by this are "idiots". Now that is a good way to encourage us to agree with you or even want to read what you have to say. For those not in denial, your question "how do you go from hanging chairs to racism" is, frankly, almost funny. Please feel totally comfortable hanging your bird feeder this winter, nobody will be offended at your expression of freedom of speech and private property rights.....we know you aren't trying to lynch the black birds, only trying to feed them.


definately idiots. the liberals made the 'lynching' correlation, not this guy...didn't you read his statement? idiots. You need some diversity training!


Most definitely.


By the by, the word definitely is spelled d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y. If you choose to accuse people of idiocy perhaps you might spell correctly. Just saying.


tanks...i will right dat down you idiet....sorry..ideit


If your so bright please explain to me how an intelligent person goes from hanging chairs to racism. "Frankly, funny" is far from intelligent. I want a rational correlations going from point "A" to "Z". My black boss, yes I said black because he says, "I'm a person of color and damn proud of it," can't believe how "stupid" (in his words) people in west Michigan are relating hanging chairs to racism, lynching etc. From a black person, "If it has a noose around it then we got a problem


what a bunch of idiots. How do you go from hanging chairs to racism? Please get a life or at least a hobby. I guess I better be careful hanging my bird feeder this winter


Would you sink your bird feeder in your frozen pool this winter? When the use-value of a thing is changed or manipulated that thing becomes something else or represents something different. Why would anyone hang a chair? Kind of eliminates its value in the same way as sinking your bird feeder in your pool over the winter. Therefore when things as we know them change their form, from the outside, we have to ask what is this "new" thing trying to do or what is it's purpose.




Really? I suppose you missed the analogy. Perhaps if you stated a real question with a subject I might know what to respond to.


Ok, here's two: What FACTS do you have that proves Mr. David is using the hanging chair as a means to portray his racially charged views? What FACTS do you have to support the notion that this is not simply an effort on his part to demonstrate that the empty chair signifies the missing leadership of our President during these difficult times?


What facts do you have that suggest I said anything about what you're positing? I posted a poem. I asked questions, I didn't SAY anything. Pay attention!


I'm well aware of the fact that you didn't SAY anything.....that's exactly the're filling up space with words and SAYING nothing.



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