Masks and In-Person Social Conflict

I mostly avoided mask controversy last year & early this year. By the time masking was a thing, I had mostly stopped leaving the house. The few times I did were short, one stop and it was mandatory to wear a mask due to a local rule. Some people agreed with the rule and some hated it, but except for a few openly defiant anti-maskers all mask wearers blended into the ‘rules is rules’ background. The most I got was a comment about the type of mask I wore one time, “That looks like a gas mask.” I got more shit from people I knew about isolating too much, but it was all remote because…I was isolating.

Right after vaccination when I started leaving the house again there seemed to be lots of tolerance for people figuring out how post-vaccination masking was going to go.

It’s gotten gradually worse and right now masking is a terrible mess where I live. The National CDC (Democrat admin) recommends masks for everyone indoors. The state Governor & Legislature (Republican run) banned mask mandates throughout the state a few months ago and has given, at best, mixed signals about whether masks are a good idea at all. They have at lest been clear and consistent that vaccines are good. The local government (Democrat run) has complained bitterly about the mask mandate ban and tried to thwart the ban in both legal loophole and extra-legal ways, particularly in regard to schools.

Federal government buildings typically follow the CDC guidelines. State buildings typically have no mask requirements. County and City government buildings typically say masks are required but then don’t enforce it because of the state level ban. But then some building administrators or other officials seem to go their own way and make up their own rules.

Private companies range from requiring masks for everyone, masks for employees but not customers, the old CDC guideline of masks only if unvaccinated or high risk, requesting but not requiring masks, recommending but not requiring masks, masks when standing but not when seated, making no statement at all, and some even discouraging masks in ‘clever’ ways like one store had a big sign out front “Please wear a smile in our store.”

Tons of people seem like they’re using masks as a political virtue-signalling mechanism. Republicans often defy the private requests or requirements and dare anyone to try to make them stick. Democrats wear masks even outdoors a lot and glare, tisk or otherwise show disapproval for non-maskers. And it seems like there’s more people wearing masks badly recently - not covering their nose and doing chin bras. It’s hard to tell how much of that is just dumb or lazy people and how much is a plausible deniability for any kind of shit they might get from either side: They can apologize and correct their mask if a lefty gives them shit about wearing it wrong, but they can also fit in some with the right wingers by doing below the actual minimum that it means to wear a mask. Otherwise it’s impossible to send no political signal at all.

I had a particularly bizarre experience today. I went into a doctor’s office wearing a KN-95. Nobody else was masked including the employees, and I got the out-group glare though no actual comments. I’ve been told that doctor is a Republican, but don’t know because he’s not my doctor. But still…doctor’s office, wth! My next stop was a trailer parts yard where most of the inventory is outside and work happens mostly outside. I expected it to be a kinda red-necky place and I expected no masking there. But when I arrived there was a big sign on the office door requiring masks for entry, everyone inside was masked and some people in the yard who I presumed were employees also masked. My guess is they’re Democrat owned but I don’t know that either.

It’s a damn chaotic situation. It doesn’t matter if you’re pro- mask or anti- mask, surprise and some level of social friction is likely. Even ‘fit in’ isn’t a foolproof policy because some places like big box stores commonly seem to have plenty of both types of people in the store so you’ll get negative social feedback no matter what you do.

The mask wars on social media and talk radio don’t bother me like in person stuff. Some of me being bothered is reasonable wariness of any source of in person social conflict. I have heard a few stories about conflicts over masks escalating to violence. I don’t think that’s actually likely as long as I don’t participate in escalating it, so a lot of my bother is irrational. Should I care if people just glare at me or make comments? No.

Nevertheless, I think isolating was easier to deal with. I’m thinking about trying to reduce the amount of time I spend outside the house again.

Oh man lol what a mess.