What is the state of U.S. society as described in the first paragraph of the story? How has “equality” been achieved?
The major effect of various additions to the constitution and laws passed to bring about "equality" have led to a state in which those who are talented or beautiful or athletically gifted are penalized in order to bring everyone down to the same level. If you were blessed with extraordinary beauty you would be forced to wear a mask. If you were particularly strong and graceful, you might be expected to drag weights around or wear a brace that would force you to limp, etc.
Even those who have intellectual talents are penalized for those talents, wearing bizarre helmets that sound horrible gongs in their ears in order to keep them confused or jangled, anything to be sure that others do not feel less "equal" because of the great talents of those around them.