Boorish, idiotic, and rude behavior didn’t begin with the election of the disgraced former 45th president. In my nearly six decades on this earth, I’ve run across several of these types — present company excluded. However, what we see these days when it comes to a lack of basic decency and etiquette, I will lay a considerable, if not primary, blame at the feet of the failed blogger/president. When historians take a look back at his failed presidency, surely this will stand near the top of his already disastrous legacy.
Ever since the infamous ride down the golden escalator, we’ve been subjected to his insults, lies, and politically incorrect behavior. His command of the daily narrative, usually starting early in the morning before most of us had started sipping our coffee, ruled the media throughout his four years in office. They, and many in public, couldn’t wait to hear what he’d say or do next.
And many of his most ardent supporters voted for him for that very reason. They loved the fact that he spoke his mind, regardless of who it may have offended. Most of the subjects of his derisive comments were aimed at those he liked to call the radical left. “Owning the libs” became his administration’s chief policy goal.
And then came 2020, a year most of us would like to forget ever happened. A raging pandemic infected the world, and Donald Trump was the wrong guy at the wrong time to be president of the United States. Instead of setting an example of how to behave, he flaunted not wearing a mask, held massive rallies railing against ‘Democrat’ governors from states who took the virus seriously and insulted prominent scientists who warned of the danger that confronted us.
Meanwhile, out in the American public, we started to see his followers take on the characteristics of their dear leader. Not a day went by, it seemed, where we didn’t observe an idiot here or an idiot there, behaving like six-year-olds at grocery stores, restaurants, and other public places. Of course, Tik Tok and Twitter were the landing spots for many of these performances, and those who use those platforms were more than happy to invite us in to see the spectacle playing out in real-time.
How dare these places tell me what to do? I’m an American, and you’re denying me my freedom, damn it! Unfortunately, many of these anti-maskers even resorted to violent and physical acts directed at employees who were simply there doing their jobs. Some extremists of the extreme even managed to launch a plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, who had the nerve to try and quell a pandemic that was killing people by the thousands.
That said, though, perhaps no other industry on the planet saw this ignorant and rude behavior than did the airlines. Time and again, people refused to put masks on; they resorted to cussing out flight attendants and, in some cases, resorted to violence. Recently, Southwest Airlines removed a female passenger from a flight for allegedly punching one of the employees, who lost some teeth in the process.
In another example, on a JetBlue flight from Miami to Los Angeles, a woman was fined $15,000 after allegedly yelling obscenities at a flight attendant and hitting him with her body. The captain subsequently diverted the plane to Austin and removed the passenger.
This year alone, according to Travel and Leisure Magazine, the airline industry has logged more than 2500 incidents of rude and sometimes unlawful behavior, the majority of which are related to passengers who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate.
These incidents are becoming far too familiar, which has resulted in the FAA enacting a zero-tolerance policy, which can result in thousands in fines and jail time. The mask mandate ends in September, but we can only imagine what might or could happen in the coming months.
Can we place all the blame on Trump for this kind of horrific behavior? Not all, but the evidence is compelling nonetheless. If we’d had a president who showed concern, wore his mask in public at all times, and took the virus seriously from the beginning, perhaps the example itself would have prevented a substantial amount of the kinds of behavior we see in America daily.
Of course, these incidents of pathetic and rude behavior are not all pandemic related. We see it popping up in other areas of society as well. The former president, who stoked racial divisions throughout his term, seemingly gave his followers carte blanche to unleash all of their pent-up racial animus. Cell phone cameras? Not a worry in the world. Some of these folks are more than proud for the world to see their hatred. If their president is ok with it, why the hell shouldn’t it be alright for them?
We owe much to the disgraced former president — an epically failed response to the pandemic, economic ruin, and incitement of an insurrection to overturn an election, to name but a few.
But I’d be hard-pressed to find anything more endearing to his failed legacy as was his complete ruination of the public discourse: his lies and deceit; his pathetic and childish demeanor; his insulting disregard of anyone who had the nerve to say a negative word about him. All of these traits define who he was as president — and as a man.
During the pandemic, his actions, or lack thereof, merely gave his devout followers more than enough ammunition to behave in public in a way they may have not before. And, it’s continuing to this very day. How long it lasts is anyone’s best guess. Knowing that so many of our fellow Americans gravitated towards this behavior, and that president, should alarm us all.
Luckily, in Joe Biden, we have a president now who exhibits none of the behaviors practiced by his predecessor. We can only hope that some of his characteristics and traits — like being a nice guy and showing empathy towards others — will rub off on some of our fellow citizens. Leading by example used to be a trait we commonly expected from our political leaders.
That all went away in 2016, unfortunately. The only example by which we will remember Donald Trump is that he brought out the worst in many of our fellow Americans. When the books are written, the right to be a first-class jerk will be one of his most dubious and long-lasting legacy achievements.