Translating the Hate of an Antisemitic Anti-Obama Effigy

“Is that a kippah on that anti-Obama effigy?” I couldn’t help but wonder while reading this article and watching this story that local Cincinnati station WKRC (Channel 12) aired yesterday about Fairfield, Ohio’s Mike Lunsford as reported on by Shawn Ley. (For those from out of town, Fairfield is a northern exurb of Cincinnati just north of the Hamilton County line.)

Lunsford adorned the tree in front of his house with an effigy of a ghost hung with a noose, (a presumably stolen) Obama sign hung upside down pinned to its chest with “Hussain” [sic] incorrectly spelled above, and a Star of David drawn on its head. Close observers will also note that the two “S”s in “Hussain” are written out in the style of the Schutzstaffel Nazi paramilitary force insignia popular among today’s suburban neo-Nazis. Considering this, I’m kind of surprised that nowhere in the report is this display described as anti-Jewish.

That unapologetic self-described racists like Mike Lunsford are now seeping out of the woodwork doesn’t surprise me. After all, there are consequences to McCain’s campaign stirring fears of Obama as a secret Muslim, pedophile, and terrorist abettor. McCain’s surrogate Rep. Michelle Bachmann call for an investigation of her fellow congressmen’s “pro-Americanism”, Palin’s careless (or calculated) reference to rural America as “real America,” and John McCain’s brother Joe’s description of North Virginia as a Communist Country: these are all statements that cast their opponents as a demonized Other, and embolden the right wing to further explore their most paranoid and primitive instincts under the guise of patriotism.

That Lunsford’s effigy has sparked outrage and is reported on with an air of concern is good, but I am still disappointed to read it described merely as an “anti-Obama display.” According to the report, neighbors describe it as “racist and offensive” and Vicki Crowe now knows that her neighbor is “anti-black.” Lunsford and his ilk might be disappointed that no one reported that his effigy is also antisemitic. I guess that’s where I step in to translate the hate.<groan>

Besides revealing Obama’s hidden secret Muslim identity with his scrawl of “Hussain,” the Star of David on the ghost’s head broadcasts the common trope of antisemitic white supremacist conspiracy theorists. Not familiar with it? Variations of it have circulated among hate groups for decades. The conspiracy has it that Jews will use blacks to overthrow white America in order to install their one world communist government. For these racists, Obama’s presidency is thus the realization of their long held fantasy. And by choosing a ghost to caricature Obama, Lunsford might also be trying to demean him with the racist epithet of “Spook.” By smearing Obama as Muslim AND Jewish AND black, Lunsford’s effigy of Obama scores something of a trifecta of hate.

From Shawn Ley’s article, “Racist Anti-Obama Display Hung From Tree in Fairfield”:

Mike Lunsford hung the ghost in his yard. He spoke to us off-camera, saying his views could hurt his employers business … but he says make no mistake: He doesn’t want an African American running the country.

Lunsford says he believes Barack Obama is not a “full blooded American.” And he says the United States is a white, Christian nation – and only with white Christians should be in power. With Lunsford not willing to share his views on-camera:

“It’s like whoa. He’s definitely anti-black.”

Vickie Crowe lives next door. She’s an Obama supporter.

“What did you think when you first saw that?” Vickie Crowe/neighbor: “Well actually my 5 year old son says Obama’s hanging upside down. He’s what? He’s hanging upside down. It’s the neighbor’s ghost. I took it as a little bit of a racist statement because my grandson’s mixed and it hurt a little bit.”

Mike Lunsford says he got the idea after an Obama supporter in New York put up this display of a Obama mannequin being chased by a figure of John McCain wearing Ku Klux Klan robes.

Another neighbor, Megan Sory says this symbol makes her more than uneasy it scares her. Megan Story/neighbor: “He’s been a really nice neighbor but it’s one of those you question and wonder, you know, if he’s that forward about something will he be forward enough to do something else, too. it is scary at times but we live in a scary world.”

About Aharon N. Varady

Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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