Monday, June 29, 2020

American anti-mask protests bemuse the rest of the world

As Texas, Florida, Arizona and some other largely Republican, southern states that have seen huge spikes in COVID-19 cases since relaxing lockdown conditions, start to re-impose some restrictions on restaurants and bars (as well as odd things like rafting and river tubing) and make masks mandatory in some indoor circumstances, anti-mask demonstrations have also, predictably, sprung up.
One example is yesterday's protest in Austin, Texas, led by Info Wars leader Alex Jones. Jones and fellow Info Wars contributor Owen Shroyer, speaking through a megaphone from his trademark armoured car, railed against the ordinance to wear masks, calling it "illegal" and "unconstitutional", and (incorrectly) claiming that masks have "scientifically" been shown to be ineffective against the virus.
It's fascinating, if depressing, to observe these events from the outside. The mask is seen in some quarters as representing an infringement on individual liberty, as being just plain "un-American". I wondered for a while whether some of it comes down to a feeling of inadequacy or denial as they see how effective masks have been in places like South Korea and Singapore, "foreign" places that demonstrate a very un-American willingness to submit to authority. But, on reflection, these are not people who spend much time looking outside of their own back yard, and are not prone to deep contemplation or analysis.
The world is watching in disbelief and sadness - and not a littele schadenfreude - as America embarrasses itself on the international stage again. The obsession with "liberty" and "freedom" of many Americans is all well and dandy until it starts to agitate against the common good (or common sense). The average European or Asian watches these overweight, bearded, American stereotypes yelling for death rather than masks with with absolute incredulity. And where it will all end? Well, we are starting to get a sense of that now.

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