You are certainly aware that, at least in America, there’s a culture war between those who favor and promote the wearing of face masks during the pandemic, and those who resist them and, indeed, refuse to wear them. The Internet is full of videos of people going into stores like Wal-Mart and refusing to wear masks—even pulling guns when asked to do so—and there are also photos of demonstrations in which the yahoos flout their resistance to masks. Here are several examples. What’s more American than pulling a gun while defending your right to make others sick?
Even at Botany Pond, where there are University rules mandating the wearing of masks in that “social space”, people get testy when I ask them to put on a mask when I’m near them. Often people are polite and comply, but almost as often they get snarky or pissy or just laugh at me. One guy said “I’m wearing a mask” while pulling the mask down below his nose.
At least the campus cops will respond if there’s a group of people not social distancing and not wearing masks, though they don’t seem eager to enforce the rules. (I find that odd given that the University wants to desperately avoid getting coronavirus on campus.)
Florida Man Pulls Gun, Makes Death Threat In Mask Argument At Walmart
This man has already been identified but expect much more of this. Mandatory masks goes into effect Monday, July 20th.https://t.co/0Xq7L0WcDh
— LiA (@LibsInAmerica) July 17, 2020
Here’s a particularly snarky way to comply with mask mandates while making you susceptible to infection:
While there are Counties requiring masks in public;
NO law requires a specific type or particulate rating of mask.
The general public are making their own masks including open mesh. No fines have been issued while wearing them in public.
This is about compliance, not safety. pic.twitter.com/dZnmHwcTeF
— Futilz (@futilecauz) July 7, 2020
The anti-mask demonstrations often appear with American flags and signs, like the one just above, that forcing people to wear masks is tyranny—an abridgment of “freedom.” This of course is ridiculous. Yes, you have the “right” to get sick if you want, but you don’t have the right to make others sick, which is the outcome of people like these getting infected. You have no more right to abjure masks in the name of freedom than Typhoid Mary did to avoid being locked up so she wouldn’t endanger others.
But this all puzzles me, and I can think of only two reasons why Americans would object so strenuously to wearing masks. The reasons are interconnected.
It’s a culture war between conservatives, who don’t like government interfering in their lives, and liberals, who have a greater concern for society. After all, it’s mostly Republicans, and Republican governors, who resist mask mandates, despite the demonstrated efficacy of masks in slowing viral transmission.
Alternatively, people might distrust the scientific evidence that masks slow viral transmission by stopping or slowing the expulsion of respiratory droplets. This is connected with the political divide above, as Republicans are more likely to deny evolution, the efficacy of vaccines, and in general are less likely to trust “elitist” scientists. There are plenty of data on that; here’s some from a 2019 Pew Poll:
So yes, I do get where the opposition is coming from, but it seems deeply irrational for both Republicans and Democrats. People don’t want to get sick, do they? Presumably if you asked an anti-masker if Typhoid Mary should have been left free to ply her trade as a cook, or whether a kid infected with chicken pox should be allowed to go to school, they’d say “No.” Yet they demand the “right” to get infected and spread the virus to others, though they never mention the latter bit. And yes, some demand the “right” to have their kids unvaccinated, which can also spread infectious disease.
Maybe I’m missing something, but when it comes to public health, it seems profoundly democratic and yes, patriotic, to try to protect your fellow citizens. I never would have predicted mask wars when the pandemic began, but they’re on in full force, egged on by Trump, who generally refuses to wear masks or even to say that states should mandate them, much less issue a federal mandate.