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What I learned from an unlikely friendship with an anti-masker | Life and style

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On 11 March 2021, I took a selfie at the Baltimore Convention Center and pressed send. I’d just received my first dose of a Covid vaccine. “Feels pretty momentous,” I texted an acquaintance. “It was exactly one year ago that our university shut down.” Frank wrote back immediately from his small town in southern Michigan. “Momentous, yes. But not for the reasons you subscribe to,” he wrote.

Frank and I met in 2017 when I began pursuing fieldwork, as an anthropologist, in American conservative circles. I’ve been to his town in Michigan, he’s visited me in Baltimore, we’ve exchanged hundreds of texts – both reflective and combative – over the years.

For me, the vaccine promised freedom from worry, a way to avoid endangering myself and everyone I encountered. For Frank, it meant something else: “compliance, control and capitulation”. He singled out the face mask in the photo I sent. “I truly detest pictures with face diapers on….

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