The lynching tree?

The lynching tree?

Every few days a silhouette of a tree and the invitation to play Hangman appear on my iPad. It’s a real tree with limbs and branches with a kind of Halloween orange sky behind the black silhouette and the noose.

In America there are TWO hangman histories. One seems harmless enough: Hangman, the English word game of British origin some of us played as children. The other is deadly.

As one who’d never heard of the game until it appeared on my iPad, the image is grotesque. It called up America’s long history of the lynching tree when the people who played hangman hid their identity with white hoods over their heads, walking in the dark with torches ablaze, erecting and setting afire crosses on the properties of blacks and whites who hadn’t shown proper respect for their doctrine of white supremacy.

Advertisers are experts in cultural anthropology. They prey on a people’s cultural history and belief systems. Commercials like the one for Hangman are created as a result of research into the fears and hungers of a people. Their ads hold out the bait to attract the quick click to the ap.  I didn’t click, but, if I were a gambler, I’d wager that many who did weren’t thinking about an innocuous word game when they clicked. They may have been seeing what the advertisers meant them to see: a symbol of “the good old days” when white men were in control.  In 2015  America the old racist hanging tree and its hangman are still soliciting successfully, especially when we choose not to remember.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 29, 2015.

4 thoughts on “Hangman

  1. I started a comment, and it may have come to you incomplete. If this duplicates in part something you already received, I apologize.
    This again leaves me feelin the need of a “Seen, this is terrible” button. I think you are correct; there are too many people who clearly think that things were much better before the emancipation, before the 14th Amendment. (I think that’s the number.) Tragic that people still feel that way; tragic how that makes the victims of their hate feel.
    As I said before, back in the 60s I really thought things were improving. It seems we have regressed so far! On the other hand, there are now many people fighting for good things like drawing fairer districting plans and expanding voting, so I try not to mope.😕


    • Carolyn, It really is a faith issue, don’t you think? White Supremacy is an idol around which a culture and individuals center their lives. Supremacy of every sort – including species superiority – is a renunciation of the created order and cursing of God – often, ironically, in the very name of God. It’s difficult to compare 2015 with the ’60s. I think MLK and the Civil Rights Act, etc. moved the country a far piece forward, but it was also very bloody, and the Great Society program, though laudable and in many ways effective in reducing poverty, did not succeed in doing what the Kerner Commission reported: two America’s. The ghettos of Detroit, Chicago, and Watts remained largely unaffected. Cuts to education in the urban cores, staggering unemployment rates, the emasculation of African-American men, and soaring high school drop our rates left places like South Chicago with gangs, drugs on the street (send in from the suburbs), and addiction as the means of survival while “the war on drugs” sent men from the community off to privately-owned and operated prisons. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly. And as real, or, perhaps, more primary, than the god of race is the god of class. Race, as I see it, is a subset of class – the drive to be at the top. Genesis’s stories of the human beings wanting to be “like God” and he Tower of Babel are the Biblical stories for all time. The mistake in both stories is that if we could just in some way or another, as individuals or as a society, become God – at the top of the heap, our problems would vanish. We would be secure. Anxiety is the ongoing human state. Faith in something greater than our small selves puts it all in perspective.


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