Losing the Mask Debate Was Hard, Living With It Will Be Even Harder

The trick is to avoid feeling persecuted about it

Tony Russo


Photo by Baudouin Wisselmann on Unsplash

I had my first mask confrontation recently, which was too bad because I had hoped to never have one. Mask-wearing has become such a tribal thing, we have let it become such a tribal thing, that confronting people over it is pointless.

If I learned anything from interviewing conspiracy-theory believers over the last couple of years, it is that the line between belief and identity has merged for so many people. Too many people.

I had the privilege(?) of growing up in a “mixed” household. My mother supported the Republican Party and my father supported the Democrats. We can make fun of the Boomers all we want, but name another generation since where it’s common for the husband and wife to be polar political opposites.

There certainly wasn’t less at stake, but my generation was likely among the last to see a world where how you voted wasn’t reducible to who you were.

My father was for the working class, my mother was for personal responsibility. Imagine growing up thinking that was the fundamental political difference we had as a country. Better, imagine two people you loved and trusted demonstrating that political affiliation was just a badge some people wore during election season, that a person’s political party didn’t reflect on their intellect or moral standing.

It is something that I haven’t completely unlearned so sometimes the current political landscape is difficult for me to navigate. Even when I don’t want to reduce people to their political beliefs, it feels as if a lot of my fellow citizens demand it.

Persecution politics

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spoken with a lot of hardcore religious people and more than a few conspiracy theory enthusiasts. I’m comfortable in conversations with people whose beliefs are utterly incompatible with mine because I’ve learned to…



Tony Russo

Pencil-sharpening enthusiast, journalist, author of “Dragged Into the Light” https://amzn.to/3bLQ0Wi