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Donald Trump Thinks People Wear Masks to “Signal Disapproval” of Him

Donald Trump sits with his arms crossed.

In a lengthy interview with the Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump was given room to express a lot of opinions about the coronavirus. Each one is more inflammatory and self-serving than the last.

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He accused China of potentially “intentionally” underreporting its coronavirus cases while at the same time calling testing “overrated.” As he’s said before, he thinks that the U.S.’ increase in testing is the reason why we now have more confirmed cases. (Which, yes, is how testing works, in addition to the spreading itself.)

He repeated another oft-stated claim that the U.S. has better testing capabilities than any other country, saying “I created the greatest testing machine in history.” (I would love to see it!)

He said he doesn’t like masks because people fidget with them too much. “They put their finger on the mask, and they take them off, and then they start touching their eyes and touching their nose and their mouth,” the president said. “And then they don’t know how they caught it?”

It’s true that a lot of people don’t know how to properly wear a mask. If only our leadership encouraged viewing masks as a practical health precaution that necessitated adhering to basic usage instructions instead of constantly framing them as a stigmatized political statement! Wouldn’t that be great??

Trump does realize that many people see masks as being political, but he and I disagree on the specifics. Whereas I believe most people who wear masks do so for the health and safety of themselves and others, Trump thinks a lot of us are wearing masks to send a message. To him.

According to the WSJ, Trump “allowed for the possibility that some Americans wore facial coverings not as a preventative measure but as a way to signal disapproval of him.”

I’ll admit that I strongly disagree with Trump about basically everything, but my decision to wear a mask is not my way of demonstrating that via accessory.

What’s so infuriating about this is Trump is repeating a pervasive narrative that he himself created. Speaking anecdotally, no one I know or know of who wears masks in public sees it as a political statement. However, they are often treated as if they are by those not wearing masks. I’ve seen grocery store clerks and restaurant workers berated for their “stupid” masks and other precautions firsthand and I know a ton of others who have, too.

That didn’t happen naturally. Trump has framed science and public safety as being antithetical to himself whenever possible. So that’s how his followers see those things. They didn’t become political issues on their own, Trump told his base that’s what was happening, thereby making it happen.

Trump simply cannot stand that something might actually not be about him, so he makes it about him. It’s just upsetting how many people fall for it.

(via CNBC, image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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