“The idea that we have a president whose policies, attitude and declarations could end up killing people instead of saving their lives is frankly crazy. It is impossible to understand how reprehensible it is. ”
It is only in America, or perhaps only in America where Trump is president, that wearing face masks – an effective measure to stop the spread of the virus – can become a political declaration, the last battleground. of the country’s seemingly endless cultural wars. .
Commander-in-chief was photographed with a mask once – in May behind the scenes of a factory visit – but refuses to put one on in public and criticized his electoral opponent, Joe Biden, and journalists “Politically correct” for doing this.
When the president organized “Make America Great Again” (Maga) campaign events last month in Oklahoma and Arizona, face covers were scarce. In Black Lives Matter protests across the country, however, they were ubiquitous.
Wearing or not wearing has been fought in bars, cafes and supermarkets. Online videos show maskless customers throwing items from their cart after being asked to leave.
A Starbucks barista in San Diego who was publicly humiliated by a customer after asking him to wear a mask received more than $ 100,000 in virtual tricks after a Facebook post that attacked him went viral.
But the struggle has never been more evident than at a meeting of the Palm Beach County Commissioners in Florida. Lecturer after lecturer against mandatory masks, making comparisons with Nazi Germany and pushing the conspiracy theories linking the virus to Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, 5G mobile networks and pedophiles. One said, “It is not Cuba, we are not in a communist nation.” Another said, “I don’t wear a mask for the same reason that I don’t wear underwear: things have to breathe.” ”
Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, told the Washington Post: “Wearing a mask has become a totem, a secular religious symbol. Christians wear crosses, Muslims wear hijab and members of the Church of Secular Sciences bow to the data gods wearing a mask as a symbol, demonstrating that they are the elite; smarter, more rational and morally superior to everyone. ”
But the divide no longer breaks along the usual partisan lines. An ABC News-Ipsos poll last week found that 89% of adults who left their home the previous week said they wore a mask, a jump of 55% in early April. And as the virus is now ravaging so-called republican-style states, even Trump’s allies in the Republican Party have bowed to reality.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who banned local governments a month ago from imposing fines on people who don’t wear masks in public, turned around on Thursday demanding that all Texans wear headwear face in public in counties with at least 20 cases of coronavirus positive. .
Vice President Mike Pence, who deserved contempt for avoiding a mask two months ago while visiting the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, is now on board and wearing one. Mitch McConnell, Trump’s chief law enforcement officer in the Senate, brandished a Washington Nationals baseball brand mask (as did federal public health expert Anthony Fauci, who has long advocated for wearing a mask) and said, “We shouldn’t have any stigma about wearing masks when we leave our homes and get close to other people. ”
Republican MP Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted a photo of his father, the former vice president, wearing a disposable mask and a cowboy hat, with the message, “Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK #realmenwearmasks. ”
And Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate committee on health, education, work and pensions, made a sincere appeal: “Unfortunately, this simple life-saving practice is now part of a political debate that says: if you are for Trump, you’re not wearing a mask; if you’re against Trump, you do.
“This is why I have suggested that the president should wear a mask from time to time even if there are not many occasions when it is necessary to do so. The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his example. This would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for this to continue. ”
On Wednesday, there were signs that even Trump had understood the message. “I’m all for masks. I think the masks are good, “he told Fox Business. “People have seen me wear one. If I was in a difficult situation with people, I would absolutely do it. ”
Recalling a rare occasion when he wore a mask, Trump sought a typically archaic cultural reference: “It looked like the Lone Ranger. I have no problem with that, and if people feel good about it, they should do it. “
Thursday, during two public appearances at the White House, the president remained without mask. Allies note that it is regularly tested for coronavirus, as are its assistants. His press secretary called him “the most tested man in America”. But his aversion to face covers remains an enigma.
Tanden, a prominent Clinton supporter in 2016 against Trump, speculated: “I think they may have thought it was a virus that only hit blue [Democrat leaning] says they don’t really care, or it’s machismo, or maybe his makeup will wear off if he’s wearing a mask.
“I don’t know what the real answer is to explain why he is not wearing a mask, but this has the effect of sending his constituents back to the disease. The spikes are now in Arizona and Texas and Florida and California, and a lot of California is because of Arizona. ”
Frenchman Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Justin Trudeau are among the world leaders who have set an example by wearing masks in public. Tanden added: “All European leaders wear masks. In Asia, they wear masks. It’s just him and [Brazilian president Jair] Bolsonaro. It is anti-science and anti-knowledge. The problem with a pandemic is to disprove science and disprove the evidence and disprove the facts means people are dying. ”
A recent survey of 2,459 people in the United States found that men are less likely to wear masks because they think it is “shameful,” “a sign of weakness,” and “not cool.” Critics accuse Trump of a toxic masculinity that holds masks for wimps. He transferred his coronation as a Republican presidential candidate next month to Jacksonville, Florida, so that a large and noisy rally could take place after the place of origin, North Carolina, refused to promise to relax the directives of social distancing. But Jacksonville announced this week a mask requirement for indoor public spaces.
At least 14 states have mask mandates, says the National Governors Association. And a Goldman Sachs report found that a national mask warrant could increase the number of carriers by 15 percentage points, thereby protecting the economy from a 5% reduction in GDP. Biden said he would pursue a federal mask mandate if elected, he would win the White House in November. “Wear a mask,” the Democratic candidate tweeted Thursday with a video of him.
But underlying the resistance are American notions of civil liberties and lack of government interference, characterized by Trump’s absolute support for the second constitutional amendment that protects the right to bear arms. There are also echoes of the anti-vaccination movement.
Some observers have compared the required cultural change to seat belts, which ultimately required law enforcement. Patton Oswalt, comedian and comedian, tweeted: “When seat belts were first introduced in 1968, idiots insisted that they were” violating their liberties “and physically cutting them off from their cars. We are making fun of these people now. Can you guess who we will be laughing at in 2072? ”
The July 4 fireworks, celebrating America’s independence from the British Empire, will be the next major test.
Bill Whalen, a think tank member of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said, “I don’t know if we’re going to be at the point where people are going to throw masks in the harbor like crates of tea, but will see us.
“The right is really having problems with the mask but, on the other hand, you would think that an enterprising person like Donald Trump would find a Maga mask.”