I must admit, at the beginning of all this I was a bit baffled at the controversy over the wearing of protective face masks. I suppose I just chalked it up to typical red state jackassery and didn’t think too much more about it.
But, while walking Ollie this afternoon, it hit me: it’s not about ignorance. Not just the simple kind of ignorance about the effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of disease, anyway. It’s about symbolism, and what the act of wearing a mask means.
For one thing, it’s an overt, physical admission of vulnerability. That doesn’t sit well with macho types. It also flies in the face of the “survival of the fittest” mentality, which is extremely American.
But it was when I thought more deeply about the association of a face-mask-wearing public with Asian societies that I felt like I clued in. Yes, there are those who will argue about the numbers, the scientific consensus, those who will rightly claim that the authorities can’t get their stories straight, those who believe in conspiracy theories and make grandiose claims about threats to their freedom. But what if we accept that a certain percentage of these people actually have been paying attention to what’s going on in other parts of the world, and actually do believe, even if only on a subconscious level, that countries with majority mask-wearing populations have handled this virus much better?
Well then, that would make the act of wearing a mask a sort of collusion with these societies, wouldn’t it? These inferior, yellow-skinned societies. It would be a direct threat to the narratives of white supremacy and American exceptionalism. And that, as always, is what it comes down to in this country. That is why you get this sort of frothing-mouthed reaction over the simple act of putting on this most trivial of accessories.
Having realized this, I now expect people to fight to the last man over what is actually an identity issue. And when they inevitably lose and have to face reality, they will bury their rage and resentment deep inside, waiting for the next opportunity to release it on everyone else.