Letter to the Editor: 

On the water in Three Lakes, wherever your eye falls, it finds something beautiful. In one moment, it might be the diamond sunlight ricocheting over the waves of Big Lake or a flying flock of ducks landing in a great “whoosh.” 

At another, your gaze might settle on a patch of puffy clouds or the juxtaposition of blue and green where the line of trees in the distance meets the endless sky. The arrival of a dragonfly may only temporarily distract from the languid circling of a bald eagle directly overhead. 

The natural beauty of the North Woods is a living treasure which belongs to anyone who cares to see it. 

There is, however, one unsightly figure increasingly common on the Chain which mars the otherwise flawless view: a small statue of a smiling black child fishing. 

It is undoubtedly the case that the households displaying these figurines consider them harmless, even charming. And indeed, there is some evidence that statues similar to these played a role on the underground railroad as a hidden code to fleeing slaves. The far more recent and relevant history, however, is one of racism and exclusion. To display a lawn jockey, with its hideously stereotypical black features, was to send a message about who was and was not welcome in a given neighborhood. 

These statues have no place in the North Woods. While lawn ornaments are certainly ubiquitous, literally all others are inspired by nature: deer, bears and bald eagles to name a few. Why is it that the one common statue depicting a human being is black? In a town which the 2010 census found to be 0.17% African-American, it is grotesque to display a black child as ornamentation on par with animals. 

Beyond this ugly incongruity, there is a question of values. Nobody did anything to create the beauty of the North Woods. Therefore, it must be kept open and accessible to all people. In displaying the statues, residents impede this noble goal. In a small way, they create a barrier to this beauty. Unintentional though it may be, it sends a message. Should you personally not discern this message simply means you are not the intended recipient. 

It might be said that these homes are private property and anything the owners wish to display on such land is admissible. Other tiresome bores may complain of the “PC Police.” Perform a thought experiment and check if these criticisms still hold water. Would a golden sunset on your pier be marred by the sight of a neighbor’s Nazi flag? Would a summer cookout be ruined by an American flag being burned next door? Freedom of speech, in these cases, comes into opposition with the freedom to enjoy a lovely evening, and while the statues in question are less obviously inflammatory than a swastika, they too tap into historical violence and pain. 

The rule cannot be only those symbols which you personally find offensive or distasteful are outlawed. Rather, it should be the intention of every resident of Three Lakes to create as welcome, open and loving a community as possible. Anything short of this is to betray the gifts nature has bestowed. And truly, these statues do their part in spoiling this gift. 

Just as a family emptying their septic tank into the thoroughfare would contaminate the water, the lawn jockey statues poison the environment with hatred. Not a single person should have their day on the lake ruined by a glimpse of one.

Albert Bob

Three Lakes