The stigma of the red MAGA hat has given way to the mask-free face as a way to recognize conservative citizens. And according to DCist, the last thing left-leaning Americans want to be mistaken for is being a person on the right.
DCist's latest "overhead of the week" was of two women walking down the street in DC shortly after the release of the new CDC guidelines. The women, in their twenties, debated the merits of the guidelines—not on health grounds, but on what people might think if they were to see their unmasked faces.
"I guess I'm vaccinated so I don't have to wear a mask outside but … I really don't want people to think I'm a Republican," a woman was overheard to say.
We've given the mask a significance that it hasn't earned, and that goes far beyond its usefulness.
Despite new CDC guidance that says the vaccinated can spend time outdoors unmasked, she was worried that her uncovered face would indicate that she subscribes to a political agenda that she does not. And she's not the only one who views the face mask as a simple of allegiance to an ideology, and wears it in part to signal that allegiance.
A woman I met recently told me the same thing, that though she's been fully vaccinated, she still wears a mask in public so that people don't think she's a Trump supporter. We spoke about the social pressure that she felt to wear a mask, that she didn't want people to look at her and make the wrong assumptions about her politics.
We've been told by government to follow the science, but instead, people are simply following the social guidance, bowing to pressure. How many others feel the same way?
The president sure does. Instead of speaking about the science of wearing masks, he said recently that masking is "a patriotic duty." The president has been vaccinated for months, those around him, too, have been fully vaccinated. But for him, mask-wearing has less to do with science, and more to do with letting people know that he's behaving properly and thinks the right things.
MSNBC's Joy Reid is fully vaccinated as well, but she has proclaimed that she wears two masks. "I am among the fully vaccinated, joined team Pfizer. I did go jogging today in the park. This was the mask that I wore with a doctor's mask under it," said Reid, showing off her face mask. She was happy to report that "most of the people that I saw that were in the park, the park was packed. I would say like 95 percent of the people still had masks on."
A June study from the Pew Research Center showed that 63 percent of Democrats and those who lean left believed that people would wear face masks in public at all times, while only 29 percent of Republicans and right-leaning people did.
An NBC Wall Street Journal poll from the same time period, found that "a person's mask-wearing habits could indicate how they'll vote in the 2020 presidential race." If you were masked, you were more likely to vote for Biden, while the unmasked were more likely to vote for Trump.
Those who don't mask have been equated with Trump supporters and conservatives. Trump supporters and conservatives have been defined by mainstream media simply as bad people, deplorables, racists, and so many other unpleasant things.
The nation has been violently split along partisan lines since the 2016 election season, and this finding shows that there could be a simple way to tell the difference between you and your ideological components. The women walking in DC wanted to make sure that their personal choices were not misinterpreted as political allegiance.
That divide has only continued. An NPR report in October read that the stand-off between those who would wear masks and those who won't "...plays out on city streets, in suburban grocery stores, in rural sheriff's offices and at the highest echelons of government—all the way to the presidential debate stage this week in Cleveland. There, most of Trump's contingent refused to wear required masks, and one of them tested positive soon afterward. Only time will tell if they spread the infection, but their behavior is mirrored across the nation."
So should you follow the science, and dispense with masks according to CDC guidance, or should you follow the herd, and wear masks so that you appear to be aligned with a specific political ideology? The choice might be up to you.