The divisions of ending the mask mandate

Gracie Cox, Opinions Editor

After it was first announced that the Oregon mask mandate would be lifted on March 12, I was shocked. I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in the months to come, and I was split between my desire to keep the community safe and my eagerness to take the mask off and breathe free once again. Based on my conversations with other students and teachers, this dilemma is not one that I face alone.

My anxiety rose not just from the pressure of making my own personal choice, but also the choices of others and how they would view me as a result. Masks, ever since their introduction in the early days of the pandemic, have been truly divisive. Archetypally, diehard Republicans view wearing them as an infringement on their rights and Democrats wear them to prove just how much they care about the people around them and just how left-leaning they are. But, when infection rates are slowing down and life seems to be going back to normal, are these divisions going to melt away?

As a deeply pessimistic person, I can’t help but think not. In fact, I think that eliminating the mask mandate only further divides our community and our families alike. Dedicated “maskers” continue to judge those who decided to take them off for their reckless and careless behavior while the non-maskers meet their counterparts’ decision with disapproval, wondering when they will finally “get over” the pandemic and move on with their lives.

We already saw this problem within LO when we were first sent back to school. While masks were always required, a great number of students wore them incorrectly, therefore eliminating any benefit that the mask may have had and showing their true colors as “antimaskers.” But, this time around, it isn’t just students who are judged by their peers. Now, staff join in on the public scrutiny. Their political views are guessed, their mouths filled with unsaid words and their character judged by whether or not a thin layer of cloth covers their face.

I’ll admit it, it’s entertaining to analyze our teachers and our peers when it comes to face coverings. I’ve chuckled at the bets about which teacher will rip off their mask and what these people we see for seven hours a day truly look like after having the area underneath their eyes hidden from us for months. I hope that we, in the remaining months of the school year to come, can loosen up with our hatred for the other side of the argument and see the humor and light in our current situation. Things will be different and potentially entertaining. We should at least be grateful for the fact that our world is safe enough for these mandates to be lifted, no matter if you decide to continue masking up once they’ve ended or not. Remember to be kind and be grateful for the little things, and to look at how far we have come. Almost two years ago, we were all shut in our rooms listening to lectures drone on through Zoom, and look at us now. We’re #thriving.