Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Hallowed Art of Hanging in Effigy is Back

The Lost Art of Hanging in Effigy is Back in Vogue

Hanging in effigy is undergoing a resurrection. The lost visual art of hanging in effigy was seemingly lost to modern culture, especially with the unrestrained use of anonymous vicious, caustic blogs.

Bloggers can viciously slander anyone at any time for any reason with a few clicks of the keyboard.

A definition of an “effigy’ is “A crude figure or dummy representing a hated person or group.”

In ancient days, the days of telegraphs, manual typewriters, and still cameras, one of the most effective ways to communicate one’s displeasure with a failing coach or disfavored politician was to hang him in effigy. Sportswriters could skewer a coach or player with the pen. Others used the effigy, bags of straw strung together with the victim’s name on them with the effigy hanging from a rope. Today, lifesize cardboard cutouts are readily available.

On November 7, 2008 LSU fans in Baton Rouge burned an effigy of former coach Nick Saban. A sophisticated variation a few years ago, when the Florida State football team was underperforming, was a for sale sign placed on Coach Bowden’s lawn.

Always in bad taste, but constitutionally protected, the symbolic act of hanging one in effigy sometimes crossed the line into racism, even in the North. For example, the top ranked Michigan State and Notre Dame football teams played to the famous/infamous 10-10 tie in 1966. A pep rally was held on the Notre Dame campus a few days before the game. MSU’s star defensive player was Charles “Bubba” Smith. A popular cry at the time was “Kill Bubba, Kill” so physical strong was Bubba.

Notre Dame fans at the pep rally hung Bubba in effigy next to a sign which said: “Lynch ‘em.” Bubba and 10 other players were black, unusual at that time in college football.

Then the popularity of effigies waned.

Suddenly effigies became contagious in the 2008 election. Whether intended as a harmless prank, a racist or sexist statement, or simply a matter of protest, both Senator Obama and Governor Palin were effigized.

First, a cardboard effigy was found hanging from a tree at George Fox University if Oregon. An effigy of the Senator was then found hanging from a tree at the University of Kentucky. A noose was strung around the effigy’s neck, bringing back memories of the lynching of African Americans.

The effigy was removed with Lexington’s mayor apologizing to Senator Obama.

The two culprits said they did it in retaliation for an effigy of the Governor in California. They were arrested and charged with burglary, disorderly conduct, and theft. A grand jury refused to indict the two.

The Hollywood effigy involved ChadMichael Morrisette, a resident of West Hollywood, who had an effigy of Governor Palin hanging from a noose at the side of his house. For three weeks. He added to the Halloween display a John McCain doll sitting on a chimney surrounded by paper flames.

He resisted all requests to remove the Palin effigy until a counter protestor drove a pickup truck in front of the house with a dummy in the truck with a noose and t-shirt, which read “Chad, how does it feel?”

The West Hollywood Palin effigy was nothing compared to Battle, England where townpeople in Battle stuffed the Governor’s effigy with dynamite and blew it up.

Back home in the states an effigy in Redondo Beach of Senator Obama lasted only a few days. The effigy had a meat cleaver slashing through his neck and blood on the jacket. The effigy was hanging from a post with a sign that said “Nobama.”

The election is over. Senator Obama is now President Obama and in the current health care debates is treated with the respect the office of the President deserves.

That is not always the case with several Democratic Senators and Representatives. One, freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil of Maryland, was hung in effigy.

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