Why is going into a grocery store in rural America now a politically fraught experience?
The political meaning of a mask is not attached to the mask, but to its presence of absence. Alarmingly, it imposes an absolute political dichotomy on Americans, which is utterly public.
The mask itself is devoid of political meaning. "I abide by the suggestions of public health experts." Of course that abiding has very real health implications. But politically it's almost impossible to give a shit about.
The mask is imbued with meaning by a culture war, which has taken it as a prop.
The culture war prevents the formation of solidarity based on economic interests, which would be dangerous to elites on both sides of the COVID crisis management conflict.
The mask-or-its-absence is taken to connote a whole constellation of beliefs and affinities. Despite its intrinsic boringness, its almost unbeleivably milquetoast denotation, by virtue of its signification every American now wears a gang flag in one of two colors, and the attendant violence ensues.
Be kind to your neighbors. Build solidarity that reaches farther than your weird woke clique. The personal... is just not that fucking political.