It is upsetting, the rate with which I find myself squinting at my computer screen and muttering, Is this real life? It’s just very hard to tell these days given the sheer volume of current events that feel like they should not, could not conceivably be happening — the Arctic Ocean having chlamydia, for example — and yet absolutely are.
And then there’s this recently surfaced news clip of hundreds of irate anti-mask protesters gathered outside a school.
The rally took place in St. George, Utah, on August 21 but recently went viral for reasons that will become obvious if you hit “play.” At one point, a white woman earnestly attempts to explain the alleged injustice of her situation by drawing a comparison to the killing of George Floyd.
“[He] was saying, ‘I can’t breathe,’ and then he died,” the woman observes, as if she makes any sense at all. “And now we’re wearing a mask, and we say ‘I can’t breathe,’ but we’re being forced to wear them anyway.”
According to ABC News 4, as many as 1,000 people showed up to join the protest, organized by a group called the Liberty Action Coalition, against the mask mandate the local school district had enacted as classes resumed. The available evidence suggests masks are effective in mitigating coronavirus transmission and would help the U.S. rein in the pandemic if only we would all agree to wear them. But this being big-freedom country, that ask clearly isn’t sitting well with everyone.
“This has to be an SNL skit,” one reporter who tweeted the clip on Monday wrote. “It just has to be.”
Given the impressive number of exaggerated right-wing tropes contained in this minute and a half, I could see why someone might think that. Denial of the fact that new coronavirus infection and death rates spiked sharply over the summer, such that nearly 200,000 people nationwide have now died from COVID-19 complications? Check. Participants attempting to turn progressive rhetoric back on the left — for example, by wearing shirts that argue, “I identify as an air breather”? Check. Gadsden flags? Check. An elderly attendee shouting, like a conspiracy theorist, that she hates masks because “most child molesters love ’em”? Sigh, check. Unfortunately, though, you simply cannot make this stuff up.