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Obama effigy and free speech in Plains Georgia

By   /   January 5, 2010  /   Comments

By now most people in southwest Georgia have heard about the incident in Plains, where a doll depicting President Barack Obama was hanged in effigy. I first learned about it yesterday when checking the Drudge Report. By then, it had already made national news.

Similar displays were done to President Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush. However, this occurrence carries an emotional sting because it happened to our nation’s first black president. The fact that it also happened in the small Southern hometown of our nation’s 39th president was surprising.

A friend of mine lives in Plains. He spoke with one of the store owners in town who told him that the Sheriff’s department was first called on the scene. Although the shop where the doll was hanging had a ladder, neither officer would climb it.

The Americus Fire Department was then called. They sent a ladder truck. Following the fire truck were two more sheriff’s cars and an ambulance. When the doll was removed, it was placed in the back of the sheriff’s car.

The U.S. Secret Service is investigating the incident along with other government agencies. One of the investigators said that no law had been broken with the display.

This was without a doubt a distasteful display. I am proud that I live in the south, and I am fully aware of the race struggles that have occurred here. It is an image that we have been trying to outgrow for many years. This was a step back in that progress.

The Albany Herald led their piece on this issue with, “The U.S. Constitution guarantees free political speech, but it’s past time to get rid of one pointless form of it — hanging someone in effigy.”

Even though this should not have happened, things like this are exactly why the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. What is the point in protecting something that meets everyone’s eyes and ears with agreement? If we start cherry picking what kind of political free speech is acceptable, then we have no free speech at all.

I must admit that I was hesitant to cover this story. Hanging someone in effigy is a touchy subject to say the least. What did the person or people accomplish by doing this? They have not furthered any agenda, but they did get national press in the small town of Plains, Georgia over the stunt.

That coverage now includes us at Southwest Georgia Politics. However, it is a story worth covering if we can show that protecting repugnant displays like this guarantees that you and I are free in this country to have our political voices — no matter how misguided — heard.

Even with no law broken, I would be interested to learn the identity of the person or people that did this. You may remember the uproar that was heard over the Socialism picture that depicted President Obama as the Joker from Batman. That was done by someone on the political left.

To be honest, it would not surprise me in the least to learn that this was done by an Obama supporter that was trying to silence the good and decent people that have also exercised their political free speech rights with signs and tea bags. I suppose that it will take time, investigations, and score of government agencies to know for sure.

billwallerWritten by Bill Waller. Mr. Waller is a author and contributor local blog, Southwest Georgia Politics. He enjoys writing, traveling, and researching history. He currently resides in Albany, Georgia.

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