By Jeff Murray • email@example.com • October 14, 2008
Democratic backer sends message by showing McCain, in KKK robe, chasing Obama
CATHARINE -- Ron Havens has a reputation for provocative Halloween displays that reflect his strong political views.
But even Havens was pretty sure his latest effort was over the top. That didn't stop him from setting it up in plain sight anyway.
Havens, who lives on Schuyler County Route 15 (Ridge Road) just south of Odessa, this week set up a Halloween display featuring mannequins that look like Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican rival John McCain.
But the Obama figure looks like he is running, and the McCain likeness is dressed in the hooded robe of the Ku Klux Klan and is carrying a baseball bat.
Havens is quick to point out he is a liberal and a big supporter of Obama, and that the scene is meant to provoke thought about the way he believes Obama has been unfairly treated by the McCain campaign.
"I figured it would be equally offensive to everyone. It's just for shock value," Havens said. "McCain has been rabble-rousing, calling Obama a terrorist and a Muslim. The McCain campaign has gotten so ugly. That's what the message is. I can see how people could take this the wrong way. I'm not advocating anything. It's sarcasm."
The display is in Havens' front lawn, only a few yards from the highway.
Two years ago, Havens set up a display with a Wizard of Oz theme, with President Bush as the Scarecrow, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as Dorothy, Vice President Dick Cheney as the Tin Man and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld representing the Cowardly Lion.
During the 2004 presidential race between Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, Bush took on the persona of Dracula in Havens' front lawn, while Kerry appeared as Frankenstein's monster, complete with neck bolts.
Georgia Verdier, president of the Elmira-Corning Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she was concerned about the injection of race into the presidential campaign when someone called her to complain about the scene.
After viewing a photograph of Havens' display, Verdier said it seems innocuous enough, but she's still concerned it may send the wrong message.
"It looks friendly but I am concerned not so much about this display, but in general about the fear and hate that have entered the campaign," Verdier said. "This display appears friendly to me. But that's my take. A young lady passed by and had other feelings. We need to be concerned about that. I think we all need to be careful about what messages we send. The message we send is not always the message received."
Havens said he has no plans to take the display down at this time.