Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Facial Coverings Save Lives — What Do Red Hats Do? A Rant On The "Anti-Mask" Movement

The president's most devoted followers are insisting masks are an infringement of their rights — proving their ignorance on the subject, and that their allegiance to Trump isn't technically political.

One thing that I have noticed in the "era of Trump" is that political arguments are seldom political anymore. Take, for instance, the recent insistence by some on the right that wearing masks is an infringement of their liberties.

Places like Menards are insisting that customers, with few exceptions for health reasons, wear masks inside their premises.

The argument goes that, businesses wishing to encourage social distancing standards, even in places that are "reopened," are somehow impeding on a person's personal rights.

The right to get sick, I guess, or the right to infect others.

The argument is a flawed and inconsistent one, of course, because political conservatives would ordinarily argue in favor of businesses having the right to enforce whatever rules they want. Liberals, on the other hand, would agree with this principle to some extent, but not if businesses discriminated against customers on the basis of their identities (racist, homophobic, etc. "rationales").

And to be clear, wearing a face covering or not is not a trait, choice, or identity — just as wearing shoes or a shirt may be required, a business can enforce rules on mask-wearing (again, so long as it doesn't cause harm to someone for health reasons).

That's what the debate should center upon, if it's indeed a "political" one. Instead, ardent supporters of the president are going on some strange crusade against these businesses, and my guess is it's entirely because they want to show support for the president.

(One quick disclaimer before we go on: note that I say "ardent supporters of the president." This doesn't apply to all Trump supporters or Republicans. There are certainly conservatives out there who know that coronavirus is still a threat, and understand that, even if we reopen parts of the state or nation, we need to do so carefully.)

Trump in the past has said he personally would never wear a mask for vanity reasons, stating he didn't want to appear awkward or weak in front of foreign dignitaries (not realizing at the time, I guess, that he wouldn't be speaking to any in-person during this crisis).

Now, Trump isn't outright saying that he's against people wearing masks or businesses enforcing rules on mask-wearing. But the very idea of businesses enforcing such rules goes against the messaging that Trump is putting out there — namely, that we're safe enough to reopen the country at this time (newsflash: um, no, we're not).

Wearing a mask implies that we're NOT safe right now. And to suggest that is to show disagreement with Trump — which, to his die-hards, implies that you're an enemy of this country.

There's no politics involved in this convoluted argument whatsoever. It's sheer, unyielding support for the president, even in the face of a global pandemic, even when his advice or actions as president causes actual harm to others. And I have no doubts in my mind that, were it the other way around — were Trump insisting that everyone wore a mask at all times — his supporters would call anyone who didn't un-American.

Before this week, I've resisted for the most part the urge to describe Trump and his supporters as similar to a cult leader and his followers. It doesn't do much good anyway, I mused to myself, to describe him as much, as it makes people uncomfortable to refer to the president, any president, in such a way.

But how else do you describe this behavior? People are literally risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones to make some point, in vain, about their support for this person.

One last point: my social media lately is rife with examples from people I personally know describing situations where they, out of their own choices to do so, wore a mask somewhere out in public in the state, and received harassment from others for doing so.

This pretty much confirms what I'm saying above: it's not about personal freedoms, or rights, or anything like that. The anti-mask crowd (and those verbally attacking others for wearing a facial covering) is a symptom of a greater problem — the cult of Trump taking things too far. To them, the mask is viewed as the equivalent-opposite of their red MAGA hats.

Only, in the real world, facial coverings are going to help save lives. MAGA hats, or rather, the people wearing them, may do the opposite, albeit unwillingly, through their actions during this crisis...all to pay lip service to a president they think cares about them.

Featured image via: Olgierd Rudak/Flickr; Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

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