The Pro-Maskers versus the Anti-Maskers: The Future of America?

For most of our history, we have been divided. During the revolutionary war, the colony was split between those that supported the Crown and those that sought independence. In the early days of the Republic, there were the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist. Decades laters, we went to war with each other to end slavery. There were plenty of Americans leading up to World War II that preferred strict isolationism. The cultural revolution of the late 1960’s exposed deep, cultural and ideological rifts within our country. Those perilous divisions never disappeared, but instead hid for decades in the confines of academia. Since the 1990’s, we’ve been in an incessant culture war over a myriad of issues, such as abortion, gay marriage, and gun rights. The result of the culture wars and excessive political correctness has spawned ‘identity politics’ or what could also be called ‘woke politics’, which really began to creep into the mainstream during the 2012 election. Consequently, the backlash to such an insidious ideology led to the election of Trump in 2016. It was at that point in which the political Left absolutely lost their minds.

For the past four years, we repeatedly witnessed the insanity of the hard political left, their disturbing willingness to discard free speech and a festering manifestation of groupthink. Trump, if anything, served as the head troll against not only against the far left, but the entrenched political establishment. For all the pitfalls of Trumpism, it at the very least incited a disturbing reaction from the Left that exposed the authoritative nature of the Progressive agenda. Trumpism, however, is unsustainable and ultimately harmful for the well-being of the republic. For all of the bizarreness of the far Left, the hard Right has equally been suckered into a frenzy of egregious nationalism. When Covid first arrived last spring, as a nation, we were already at each other’s throats and as polarized as we’ve ever been in the modern era. Covid-19 is going to prove to be the black swan event in history that ultimately creates two parallel Americas by plunging us further into the abyss of hyper-partisanship, hysteria and ideology. In just one year, the Coronavirus pandemic has drastically splintered American society. Barring an unlikely reversal, there appears to be nothing to impede the gaping rift in American life.

There are palpable correlations between Americans who hold conservative views and oppose lockdowns and progressive-minded Americans who are more inclined to favor at least partial lockdowns and mandatory social distancing and masking for the forseeable future. However, reality is much more nuanced and pegging this as strictly a political issue would be inaccurate and irresponsible. Not surprisingly though, the media has attempted to paint a false narrative. The narrative is that those who have opposed the lockdowns and indefinite social distancing are politically right-wing. Of course, this is a fallacy being pushed by the establishment media. In reality, there are plenty of liberals and progressives who are also small business owners. Many of them also have school-aged children. There are also a fair amount of independents and apolitical individuals that have opposed the lockdowns and many of the recommendations by a CDC. It should be noted that the Democratic party has more or less adopted the recommendations of the CDC and the Republican party has been much more inclined to question or even oppose them.

Morever, the media has falsely claimed repeatedly that there have been large groups of Americans that have simply refuse to wear mask or socially distance. Again, this simply is not true. With the exception of sporadic enclaves throughout the country, Americans for the most part have done an adequate job of masking and social distancing. The mainstream media, which at this point is the communications wing of the Democratic Party, has also excluded vital information about Covid or downplayed success stories, such as Florida and Tennessee. Without rational explanation, there has been a constant stream of negative coverage of Florida and it’s Republican governor for going against the grain and refusing to follow the CDC guidelines. Except for a few modifications, Florida has for the most part remained open throughout this pandemic. It has allowed for limited-seating sporting events and concerts and its schools nor hotels have closed. Florida ranks around 27th in Covid-related deaths and 26th in daily cases, which are better numbers compared to California or New York. It also has the largest population of senior citizens after Maine. The state of Florida has essentially displayed that even states with large populations can simultaneously and effectively takes measures to combat Covid while keeping the economy open and kids in school. My critique of the media should not be conflated with a partisan attack nor an endorsement of right-wing identitarianism. However and objectively speaking, there is a clear alliance between the media, the Democratic party and mainstream Progressivism in terms of Covid-related policy. So you could easily refute my argument as right-wing rhetoric, but what is objectively true is objectively true and it is up to us to decipher what is occurring. Ultimately, truth has no party or ideological affiliation.

The real conundrum of Covid is whether we just return to pre-Covid life whiling mitigating the virus to some extent, or a life of fear, semi-isolation and adherence to strict social distancing for the next decade and possibly longer. Don’t get me wrong. There is a virus and we should be taking precautions to temper it. However, the latter approach would utterly transform society in just a few years and could have devastating consequences for millions of working class and lower income Americans in addition to the psychological ramifications such measures would inflict on all Americans regardless of one’s socioeconomic status. We’ve already seen significant change in states with the strictest lockdown measures, such as California, and imagine what these same types of states or large urban areas will be like by 2022? The reality is that Covid is not going away anytime soon. It is after all, a virus. Even if we get 80 percent of the population vaccinated, it will take at least a year to reach that point. By that time, new variations of the virus will likely emerge just as we see new strains of the flu arrive on an annual basis. However, the larger issue at this point is not the virus itself, but the fact that it has precariously become a divisive political issue. When an issue becomes overly politicized, ideology and partisanship usually interferes with rationalism.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently implied that Americans should continue to wear mask and practice social distancing even after the population is fully vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci around the same time stated that Americans would likely have to continue wearing mask well into 2022. But how long are Americans actually going to go a long with this? Yes, there is a virus, but we have gone above and beyond in taking steps to mitigate its impact. At some point, a large swath of people will refuse to wear mask and socially distance. We are likely to begin witnessing this behavior when vaccination levels reach over 70 percent. You can convince the vast majority of the population to wear mask and socially distance for some period of time, but a silent majority of Americans are yearning for pre-covid life. When we reach that threshold in the near future, it is possible that up to half of the population simultaneously realizes that the long-term consequences of semi-lockdowns, school closures, mask mandates and social distancing just aren’t worth it. It is true that people are going to die from Covid, but the reality is that there are hundreds of diseases, conditions and bugs that can kill us. The other reality is that we are social creatures. Children from a very young age need to be around other children. A mountain of research suggest that if a child is not adequately socialized between the ages of two to five, then that same child is likely to grow up to be a troubled adult. While the national discourse is focused on Covid-related deaths, suicide, drug overdoses, domestic abuse, crime, mental illness and teen depression have all seen significant upticks during the pandemic. When we reach the apex of frustration, which could come by the end of 2021, about half of Americans or a least a large plurality or going to simply refuse to follow the CDC guidelines and demand a return to normalcy. It is then that we will witness the hyper-acceleration of two parallel Americas. We can also expect to see this same phenomenon throughout the Western world.

It is hard to say what percentage of the population will continue to live under the spell of fear, hyper-partisanship and allow for an ever encroaching government to march further down the path of authoritarianism. Based on today’s conditions, it is reasonable to believe that at least a large plurality of American society will never return to normal. While strict lockdowns, such as those imposed in California and Hawaii, will not likely continue, masking, social distancing and erratic and sometimes irrational policies will be a permanent fixture for a large portion of the country. Life will return to resemble some level of normality in these parts of the country, but it will not be the same and the societal impact will be felt for generations to come. There are essentially four main reasons for this. However, they are not mutually exclusive as there is some overlap among them.

First, Western culture, or at least the affluent West, has engulfed itself in this frenzied state of paranoia and fear. It could be argued that this is a side effect of post-modernism. Because life has become so materially easy and comfortable in the developed West, we have not only lost touch with the natural world, but we’ve morphed into this overly cautious and protected society. If you are middle class or higher in the developed world, you are living in the most technologically advanced time in human history. The toilet always flushes, the lights never fail to turn on, a package from Amazon arrives on your front door steps within two days. We literally walk around with incredible mini-computers in our pockets. However, it could be that too much information at our disposal and instantaneous access to news media and social media might be having devastating effects on our mental well-being and ability to decipher reality and gain a reasonable perspective of the world. Consequently, the comfort of the developed world in 2021 also makes us unnervingly susceptible to the constant barrage of fear-mongering emulating form the mainstream media and social media platforms. The result is a society increasingly drowning in fear and manipulation rather that one that is increasingly educated and informed.

Second, Covid is the perfect weapon for ‘closet authoritarians’ to curtail civil liberties. We have become so dependent on some external force to solve our problems, which also makes us susceptible to manipulation, control and subtle attacks of censorship. They are literally playing with us at this point. The past year has really been an opportunity for authoritarians, posing as progressive-minded politicians, to see how far they can push the envelope in a democratic society. Again, there is a virus and the purpose of this article isn’t to deny that there is one, but Covid lockdowns and restrictions are making tyrants out of individuals who had no business holding elected office in the first place. The lockdowns have also provided these same authoritarians with a lot of valuable information in terms of what is possible and how much control the population is willing to tolerate. If anything, the past year has revealed that a large percentage of Americans actually have a high threshold for lockdowns and restrictions. The implications for the future well-being of liberal democracy are unnerving to say the least.

Third, Covid is the perfect excuse for incompetent political leaders. As the country becomes more divided over how to live with Covid, there will be a strong correlation between attitudes towards masking and social distancing and political views. It is no coincidence that the Democratic party dominates in parts of the country that have taken the strictest measures in mitigating Covid. The obvious example is California, which has by far imposed the most severe restrictions and happens to be a large state, virtually governed by a one- party machine. Again, the purpose of this article is not to get caught up in a partisan smear of the other side nor deny the existence of a virus. The virus is real, but as it becomes clear that we are going to have to make a choice in the near future, the argument being made here is that Covid is going to further split us along political and policy lines. Moreover, in those blue states or blue urban areas, Covid already has and will continue to provide cover for incompetent political leaders. For many Democratic state and local politicians, lockdowns and restrictions can serve as a blessing and convenient tool to centralize power. As new variants and outbreaks emerge, “combating Covid” can serve as a much needed distraction against the incompetency of the same elected officials that impose restrictions on everyday life. In places like California, New York and Chicago, Covid provides the perfect excuse and cover for inept politicians. To make matters worse, the media, which is essentially a branch of the Democratic party, will likely continue to not do their job and instead continue to cover for Democratic politicians throughout the country.

Fourth, the Progressive Left has increasingly become more dogmatic in recent years and seems to be further slipping into the realm of irrationalism. As Progressivism or the new left continues to make this push to overtake liberalism and ultimately capture the Democratic Party, ideology threatens to replace pragmatism in relation to policy making decisions. This is and will continue to be most apparent in the bluest parts of the country, such as San Francisco, Chicago, Oregon, Washington State and New York and should continue to permeate throughout academia, the media and the healthcare industry. Moreover, the cult-like attributes and social pressure within progressive circles and enclaves throughout the country will likely implore individuals within those zones to willingly participate in this sort of Orwellian subculture within the larger culture for many years to come. Although a much smaller number, there is also a sect of the most radical Progressives who champion mask-wearing and social distancing because it is a way to fundamentally undermine American values and ultimately dismantle Western constitutionalism.

We will essentially evolve into divided societies of the pro-maskers versus the anti-maskers. In the very near future, red and blue states or possibly red and blue zones within large urban areas will be increasingly divided over the decision to require mandatory wearing of mask in public places. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is literally where we are headed as a society. It is too early to say whether or not if this policy divide will strictly be between states or within states or even large municipalities themselves. Although a strong correlation should persist in accordance with blue states being pro-mask and red states abandoning masks, there will also be pockets of anti-mask zones in strong blue states and pro-mask enclaves in strong red ones. Some might be surprised to find out that 40% of California leans Republican and Trump picked up about 37% of the vote there in 2020. There are parts of California that are culturally much more aligned with Texas or Oklahoma than they are with the rest of the state. Conversely, Austin, which is in Texas, is one of the most progressive cities in America. The greater Atlanta area is strongly Democratic while the rest of Georgia is predominately conservative. Again, this further rift in America cannot only be attributed to the political divide throughout the country, but there is also a strong correlation that cannot be ignored. We could also take this one step further and envision a future of pro-mask and ant-mask zones in within entire neighborhoods or institutions. When I take my two-year old to the playground, half of the parents are wearing mask and half aren’t. In other words, the concept of two parallel Americas will be much more nuanced and complicated than simply equating it to a division between red and blue states.

It could also be that the entire country and global society adopts the practice of wearing mask in pubic on a seasonal basis. This has already been a common practice in parts of Asia for decades and there are some practical reasons of wearing a mask in public when one has a cold or covid-like symptoms as a way to deter the spread of viruses. However, there is a stark difference between such a practice being voluntary versus it becoming a mandatory one imposed by governments and societal pressure. There is also a difference between schools that are open, but require plexiglass, enforced social distancing and masking versus opening schools and essentially returning to pre-covid conditions. While most schools in blue states and a large minority of schools in red states have remained closed throughout the pandemic, they will have to reopen at some point in the near future. But it very unlikely that such schools will return to pre-covid life. Consequently, children in these parts of the country will be socialized and grow up under a significantly different environment than their peers in anti-mask states and zones throughout the country. As a result, America will continue to evolve as two parallel Americas and this will likely be a common theme throughout the Western world. It is an unfathomable chore to accurately predict the future, but based on what is happening today, we can to some extent forecast where the country may be headed as the next several years unfold.

We should expect to see a rapid deepening in the wealth gap in the predominantly blue states and large urban areas, such as New York and California and Chicago. There is going to be a great irony to this considering that states with the most progressive policies should hypothetically do a better job of alleviating income disparity between the rich and poor. But lockdowns, school closings, draconian restrictions and government policies that prove to be hostile towards small businesses have and continue to negatively impact the lower and working class populations within blue states or large cities. For all the talk in recent years of racial inequality, the Covid restrictions are ravaging communities of color and all working-class Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity. We can expect that California continues down the path of growing income inequality, a lack of affordable housing and a shrinking middle class. However, there will remain affluent, upper-middle class enclaves throughout states like California and smaller middle-class pockets that withstand policies geared towards restrictions on all aspects of life. The middle and upper middle class in places like California and New York will benefit from the ability to work from home, continue to build wealth via 401k retirement accounts, advancements in Internet technologies and from services like Amazon and Door Dash that can accommodate this new class of home-bound, white-collar professionals.

Homelessness and sprawling tent cities will continue to plague places like California, Austin, Portland and other strongly blue zones throughout the country. Even before the pandemic, homelessness was already a dire issue in California and in just one year, the number of homeless in the state has almost doubled. While there will be pressure on government officials in places like California to curtail homelessness, it is going to be nearly insurmountable at this point to adequately address the issue. Homelessness in progressive zones throughout the country is and will continue to be strongly correlated with mental illness, drug usage, counterproductive progressive policies that encourages homelessness and increasing disparity in wealth. All of these issues and inane policy decisions, including continual restrictions on everyday life related to Covid, are all interrelated and really create the perfect storm. Consequently, the downtown areas many of Americas most influential and beautiful cities, such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Austin are morphing into wastelands littered with homeless encampments, open drug usage, boarded up businesses and crime. Even when Covid restrictions in such cities are lifted and there is an attempt to return to life that somewhat resembles pre-covid life, the damage occurring now will likely be irreversible.

Mental illness among adults and children has become an distressful issue in parts of the country that have imposed the most draconian restrictions on everyday life. This really might be the most devastating consequence of misguided Covid policies aimed at saving lives, but actually turn out to be quite detrimental to the mental well-being of millions of American. Depression in all ages and suicide have spiked significantly in the past year and this trend will likely continue throughout blue states and zones in the years ahead. Yes, there is a virus and precautions should be taken to mitigate its effect. However, we are social creatures and young Americans require large doses of social interaction on a daily basis in order to become properly socialized and mentally matured. But this is also an issue that is and will continue to devastate people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds as we move beyond 2021. Even individuals in the most affluent neighborhoods of blue states are going to suffer from higher rates of mental illness when compared to the national average. There is no amount of money and material comfort that can substitute for the need of human interaction.

As we move into 2022 and beyond, the majority of Americans in Red states and zones are likely to be become even more wary and untrusting of the federal government and the media. Conversely, the majority of individuals in blue parts of the country are likely to push even harder for expanding the size of the federal government and voting for policies that exert more control over the everyday lives of Americans. Policies to mitigate and control the spread of Covid will continue to play a central role in this philosophical struggle between those who support a massive, centralized government and those who wish to diffuse the power of the federal government and disperse political power among the states. The mainstream media will play a pivotal role in this tug of war between two parallel Americas. As we are seeing now, states that decide to drop mask mandates, social distancing and return to normal life will continuously be chastised by the media. The media will keep pushing a narrative that political leaders of red states are acting recklessly and simply do not care about saving lives. In reality, the number of covid-related deaths per capita is likely to remain similar throughout the country regardless if a state decides to completely open or permanently imposes some restrictions of everyday life. Consequently, if we are not already close to that point, about half the country is going to completely lose faith in the federal government and the mainstream media. It is at that point when we will truly become a divided nation. Unfortunately, we may also cross a certain threshold and do irreversible damage to the fabric of American society.

The culture will greatly diverge between red and blue zones in regards to how we regard freedom of speech and individual liberties. This is really where the divide in American life began before Covid and life with Covid has severely accelerated this division over the fundamental values of American democracy and Western society as a whole. In red states or red zones throughout the country, we can expect galvanized movements to protect, promote and cherish free speech and individual liberties. This includes championing market-oriented solutions and ensuring that businesses and schools remain open and operate at full capacity. In the blue states and strongly blue zones throughout the country, a quite different culture will continue to develop. In this opposing culture, we can expect less emphasis on the importance of free speech and individual liberties. Instead, traditional American values or an adherence to the principles of classical liberalism will continue to be replaced by a culture of groupthink and censorship. This gravitation towards a culture of censorship in strongly blue parts of America will be two-fold. On one hand, individuals will be directly coerced into censorship by state and local governments, institutions within those states and through the workplace. On the other hand, much of this will be self-imposed censorship imposed by an ideological adherence to Progressivism. Some individuals within these strongly blue zones might not whole heartedly agree, but voluntarily conform out of fear of being either ostracized from social circles or missing out on career opportunities.

Progressivism, which discourages free speech, dissent and open political discussion, has coalesced with Covid restrictions during the past year and this is likely to continue well into the future. Again, Blue states and zones will return to some level of normalcy in the near future, but some restrictions will remain permanent. These restrictions on everyday life are conducive with the Progressive thought-process that implores censorship and conformity and crushes dissent. Intertwined with Progressivism is also a sort of excessive political correctness that has encroached on the many facets of American life, including the workplace and corporate America. We can imagine a future where it is politically incorrect not to wear a mask or socially distance in certain situations. Moreover, as ideology becomes more entrenched in blue America, one who ‘questions the science’ will be considered rather ‘unscientific’ if such questioning is in opposition to the values and beliefs of the Progressive class. As mentioned before, the purpose of this article is not intended to be a right-wing critique of the political left. It is rather to extrapolate what is unfolding in the present and project where we are headed as a nation in the coming years.

Consequently, art, comedy, music, literature and cinema are going to suffer gravely. The arts flourish when individual expression is sanctioned and even encouraged. The true artist needs an audience that permits brutal honesty. We are certainly not living in such an environment in 2021 and as the country continues to split apart over politics and Covid policies, it is going to be increasingly difficult for artists of all types to get their work published or receive the full recognition they deserve. This is largely due to the fact that the institutions of art are located in the bluest parts of America. We can imagine a near future where it is politically incorrect and highly offensive to poke fun at mask wearing and social distancing. Humor should be a tool to alleviate the stresses of life, but censorship makes it cumbersome for it to exist in its natural state. However, we could also witness a renaissance of the arts in certain red states and zones throughout the country. Just as there was a revolution for music, literature and comedy in the 1950s and 1960s to combat the rigidity of conservative America, the same could occur again in the 2020s to confront the tyrannical nature of Progressivism and Covid-related restrictions on life.

We are likely to a see a continual battle between governors of red states and the federal government in the next few years. This will especially hold true if the Democrats are able to control the White House until 2028. If this is the case, then the federal government is likely in many ways to mimic the policies of blue states and follow lockstep with the CDC guidelines. This should entail an increased antagonism between red states, seeking to protect individual liberties, and an increasingly hostile federal government. Most importantly, there has been and will continue to be a collective effort by the political left to drastically expand the size and role of the federal government in the everyday life of Americans. Covid has provided and will continue the perfect opportunity to double or possibly even triple the size of the federal government and further centralize control. This includes reigning in red states that blatantly refute CDC guidelines and buck the system. This argument is not meant to be conspiratorial. In the game of politics, black swan events become opportunities for one group to impose their political agenda on another. Why would this time be any different? Consequently, American power in the world stage is likely to wane as we unravel internally. At that point, China could jockey for global hegemony, but it is unlikely since they are also hampered with their own endogenous issues. We could just see a redistribution of power throughout the global system. Consequently, global society is likely to drift away from democratic models of government and veer towards authoritarianism, a curtailment of individual rights and centralized government. Simultaneously, however, we could expect pockets of resistance and movements favoring the decentralization of power. Bitcoin comes to mind.

A web manager by day and inspiring writer at night. James raps about politics, web design, culture, sports and the many nuances of life.

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