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Apr 30, 2021

A City Cancels Part of Its Own Culture: Bravo, Placerville!

A noose won’t be hanging around in ol’ Hangtown

By Ed Goldman
It’s official: No noose is good news. The city council of the Sierra foothills town of Placerville decided a couple of weeks ago to remove a longstanding graphic from its logo: a hangman’s knotted, lethal loop.

A ruling on whether this could extend to the municipality’s nickname of Hangtown is no longer dangling, however. Just yesterday, the council allowed the designation to remain. This won’t make it into the next edition of “Profiles in Courage.”

Edgy Cartoon

Directors’ Cut

Some people were opposed to the initial decision, insisting this is another example of “cancel culture”—which, as you know, has nothing to do with banning yogurt products. It’s this whole overblown issue about obliterating the past in the name of being “woke.”

Like pretending Robert E. Lee didn’t exist, for example. Look, you know as well as I do that the Civil War was fought mostly to uphold the “right” to enslave Blacks. By extension, while nooses have been used to lynch people of “all races and religions/that’s America to me”—these are lyrics from a wonderfully optimistic song of 1943, “The House I Live In” by Lewis Allan and Earl Robinson—you can understand why nooses aren’t welcome reminders of the people we once were. Especially because there are still plenty of those people’s descendants deciding daily that God meant us all to have complexions requiring sun lotion with an SPF of 380.

I think the Placerville City Council’s first move was a good if long overdue gesture. I liked the fact that it didn’t overstep the First Amendment and mandate the removal of noose imagery from whatever businesses in the town find it quaint. This was a good example of government minding its own business.

As someone who loves western movies and literature, I have to admit that jokes about hangings still never worked for me. As soon as I heard a variant of “String up the varmint!”, I’d get a queasy feeling.

Even as a kid who loved outings at Southern California’s Knott’s Berry Farm, with its staged train robberies and shootouts, I always cringed at anything that cut off someone’s air supply.

I’m sure it caused flashbacks to the tonsillectomy I endured when I was about three-and-a-half years old. Back then, anesthesiologists knocked you out, regardless of age, by smothering you with an ether-soaked face covering. Yes, I still remember that sensation, 66.5 years later: the fish-eye view of a masked adult looming over then zooming down to my face.

Predictably, I joined the millions who found it unbearable to watch the video footage of the deranged police detective who placed a knee on the neck of George Floyd’s neck, choking the life from someone whose personal flaws simply didn’t warrant the lethal action of a one-man cop/jury/judge/executioner.

If you’re thinking my feelings about this are liberal-schmiberal claptrap, you’re partly correct—though I’m one of the few in that stereotypical cohort who favor the death penalty. To people who say it’s not an effective deterrent, I’d suggest only that it permanently deters the executed murderer from murdering again. And that’s a start.

So bravo to the Placerville electeds who opted to look through the windshield of the town’s future instead of in the rear-view mirror of an ugly past. I’m sure it took some courage to make their decision. Maybe, when all was said and done, they simply felt they were at the end of their rope.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).