It’s summertime at Rehoboth beach, and people from all walks of life fill the streets, sit on the beaches with friends and family and walk the boardwalk. There is an exception to this idyllic image, the moment one passes a game display with a doll of Dr. Anthony Fauci hanging in full view from a surgical mask.
First, this particular doll is a symbol that supports non-compliance with public policy. Except for the brief period when no one yet understood that COVID-19’s form of contagion was particles from our mouths, Dr. Fauci has pleaded with the nation to wear masks. Immediately there arose the cry of individual rights. Yet mask wearing is really about every individual’s right to live. By wearing a mask, a person is taking care of people nearby. It is a highly effective means of controlling the spread of COVID-19, which has killed over 600,000 people so far. Dr. Fauci was the spokesperson for mask wearing. Putting this symbol in a toy display deliberately defies his pleas to do something that is for all public good.
Second, it is a symbol that threatens those who speak the truth, as Dr. Fauci did. In the case of COVID-19, the truth was and is unpleasant. COVID-19 infringed on all our lives, not just those who refused to abide by the health mandates, closing down our country and the world. And the new variant threatens to bring us to that brink again. Yet, we have a public symbol that makes a mockery of the hardship and suffering that COVID-19 brought that might have been seriously diminished had all people been willing to abide by the restrictions from early on. It also fans the flame for those who refuse to be vaccinated, despite the truth spoken by Dr. Fauci, the CDC and President Biden. If we do not get more of our country vaccinated, we will in fact face many more deaths and perhaps another shutdown!
Third, and most important, the symbol is a particularly violent one. One doesn’t have to go back to our country’s history to understand the violence of hanging. It is neither quick nor merciful.
Hanging creates extreme suffering at death. Imagine the desperation as that rope blocks one’s breath. Imagine dying listening to the screams of those watching, calling for your death, and relishing every jerk of your legs, your body.
Indeed, there is nothing innocent about a choice to place this hanging doll in a game display. There is nothing neutral about it. It is deliberate, aimed at making a point and stirring a reaction: an inner nod of approval, loud laughter and gleefully spoken words of agreement with the sentiment, conversation that gets louder as the group members stir one another up, becoming more physical in their expression. It is equally likely to create in others a deep sense of unease because of the violence inherent in it. And our children are seeing it!
It can be argued that few people may actually see this doll as they are strolling by or as they walk in the door. Why call attention to it? Because this particular symbol hanging in a public display in Rehoboth Beach is a symptom of a far greater crisis boiling in our country.
During the insurrection of January 6, which many now are downplaying, makeshift gallows were erected. “Hang Mike Pence” was screamed by some people in the crowd. In the scheme of things, one hanging doll may seem like nothing. But all the “nothings” add up to a big something. One individual’s choice not to wear a mask becomes another and another’s choice, and more and more people fall sick, more and more die. As the rate of COVID-19 cases rise, the number of those getting vaccinated goes down. The number of mass shootings is on the rise as well. Those who believe we must stand against violence, both in its seemingly negligible as well as in its larger expressions, must speak out at every turn. If we let one moment of calling out go, will we let the next one go?
The Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice believes that at the very least, this symbol should be removed from the storefront. It is emblematic of the violence that poses such a deep threat to our nation. It has no place in our community.
Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice