IF A chair hangs in a tree, does it symbolise murder?
The debate on whether lawn chairs with the US President's name on them and hanging from trees are innocent references to Clint Eastwood's famous ''empty chair'' rant at the Republican National Convention, or symbolic lynchings of America's first African-American President, now spans the US.
A plastic chair suspended above a yard in Camas, Washington, is the latest exhibit. Like the others before it, including in Austin, Texas, and Centreville, Virginia, the chair is marked ''No-Bama''.
Next to it, a large chalkboard says: ''Are you better off now than 4 years ago? The king is a joke.''
Critics have said the so-called chair lynchings are an obvious reference to the nation's ugly history of mob executions of African-Americans; the chair-stringers tend to say they're innocent and humorous replays of the countless jokes spinning off Eastwood's address to President Barack Obama, represented by an empty chair.
In the case of the chair in the yard of George and Kathryn Maxwell in Camas, the couple told their local paper: ''The reason we hung it up was because people kept stealing it … We just have to take extra precautions.''
Kathryn Maxwell told the paper she didn't like Republican nominee Mitt Romney much - she would have liked to have seen Michele Bachmann as president - but in any case she was free to express her views via a chair if she so chose. ''There's a constitution,'' she said. ''Some people forget that.''
But Katherine Haenschen, writing in the progressive/Democratic political blog Burnt Orange Report, wrote that the sentiment was unmistakable. She was one of the first to report on the chair-hangings, after a folding chair was found hanging in north-west Austin. ''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!'' Haenschen wrote.
In Camas, Republican Party chairwoman Stephanie McClintock issued a statement condemning the act.
''Clint Eastwood used an empty chair during his speech to represent the emptiness of Obama and his policies, but hanging a chair in a tree is bad taste and something the Republican Party does not support or condone,'' she wrote. LA TIMES