For the past few months, the coronavirus has unfortunately pit some Americans against each other, the government, and common sense. Itching to go outside and visit friends and family, many are growing increasingly irritated with the seemingly endless search for a vaccine as well as the either too-hot-or-too-cold orders of their governors. The constant push for facial coverings by public health officials has led many Americans to assign the coronavirus with a recognizable symbol: the mask.
Among those who have refused to wear masks, the most notable is the President himself. Trump has been seen without the CDC-recommended facial covering at various locations, including at a Ford plant back in May, where he was comically surrounded by a large group, each of whom donned a mask. When asked why he was one of the few that was not wearing one, he stated, “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” suggesting that this was simply another battle in his ongoing war with the “fake news media.”
However, his statement holds much more drastic implications than simply showing a petty struggle with news networks; with his words, and obviously his actions, Trump has effectively politicized masks, playing a very dangerous game in the midst of a global pandemic. Our lives are quite literally on the line, but it appears that we are simply pawns in the endless game of chess Trump is playing against the Democrats, the news, and anyone else he has antagonized.
The ‘Karens,’ a generalized term for middle-aged white women who often exemplify ignorance and entitlement, have not been blind to their President’s blatant stance against masks, and have taken it upon themselves to fight for their choice to not wear a mask, going viral in various videos.
Many of these Karens have cited the Constitution as justification for not wearing facial coverings, claiming that they are not required to do so under law. An elderly woman at Costco sat down in the middle of the store after repeatedly being told that she would not be permitted to shop if she refused to comply with the chain’s guidelines. As niche as it may seem, the trend of Karens throwing tantrums when confronted at public places seems to be growing exponentially, as more and more recordings of similar incidents are compiled.
Mirroring the demographics of our government, a significant amount of those recorded not wearing masks are right-wing, with one woman screaming that people who wear masks are “Democratic pigs” and another claiming that she believed in “white power” and therefore believed she was exempt from wearing one. There’s no doubt that the President’s complacency with the virus is fueling this dangerous rhetoric against masks, and against the credibility of the virus’ existence itself. This merely serves to threaten public health and the safety of Americans.
Karens aside, the growing disregard for facial coverings is only worsening the nation’s grip, as loose as it was, on proper management of the coronavirus as governors struggle to compromise on reopening with their citizens. As the United States passes four million cases, it seems like the worst possible time to consider relaxing coronavirus measures, and yet, here we are.
Although we’d like to think that the worst of the virus is over, the truth is anything but. It will take national cooperation to emerge victorious from Coronavirus, making wearing a mask the most American thing a citizen can do. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wear a mask!
Inica Kotasthane is a fifteen year-old writer who attends Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren, New Jersey. Kotasthane is the Politics and World News Editor in her school newspaper, The Arrowhead; Secretary of her school’s Future Business Leaders of America, and remains active in speech and debate. Inica plans on pursuing her interests in Political Science and Writing through journalism or policy making, and hopes to continue to raise awareness and change for social issues affecting the world today.