In a biting column for the Daily Beast, Erin Gloria Ryan makes a compelling case that four years of Donald Trump's bullying, petulance and shamelessness has been a major factor in the rise of so-called "Karens" -- Americans who lash out in ugly ways and expose their inner bigot when they don't get their way.
While "I'd like to speak to your manager" has always been a common consumer complaint, Ryan said she couldn't help but notice that the behavior of the former president -- who is still whining, lying and lashing out because he lost the election -- is mirrored in the many videos that now litter social media of people behaving horrifically when told "no."
"For every Karen or Kevin who gets their just desserts, there are untold numbers of abusive customers, passengers, patrons, and shoppers who do get away with it, and the problem seems to be getting worse. Restaurant workers who returned to understaffed restaurants report that customer shitheadery is at an all-time high" she wrote before adding, "Predictions that the summer of 2021 would be both horny and chill have turned out to be sorely mistaken. Instead, all across the country, some Americans decided to get their pandemic ya-yas out by abusing the wait staff, flight attendants, bartenders, receptionists, baristas, nail technicians, cashiers… any worker whose job is to deal with customers, reset expectations, enforce rules."
Which, in turn, led her to remark upon the remarkable similarities between employee bullying and how Donald Trump conducts himself.
"Donald Trump's presidency damaged our standing in the global community, our public health, our government, and our democracy, but he's also done irreparable harm to the American personality, attracting people who were already kind of shitheads in the first place and encouraging them to give into their worst impulses and then cry and break things when they don't get their way," she wrote before noting "When I watch a video where a man is dragged off an airplane after refusing to wear a mask, I see a COVID-riddled President Trump ripping off his mask as he gasps for air on the steps of the White House after being released from Walter Reed. When I watch a diner screaming anti-Asian racial slurs at restaurant staff, I hear President Trump telling CBS News' Weija Jiang to 'ask China' about COVID-19. When a patron threatens to call ICE on a Texas restaurant because of its mask mandate, I hear Trump calling Mexican immigrants 'rapists.'"
Ryan goes to on add that the January 6th insurrection that led to lawmakers from both sides of the aisle fleeing the Capitol to escape a violent crowd of Donald Trump supporters, angry because their man lost, was nothing less than "the ultimate Karen tantrum ....demanding to speak to the manager and then, when their demands were not placated, trying to destroy reality rather than live in it."
At the root of Karen and Trump behavior, she writes, is the inability to feel shame and belief that if you argue long enough you'll get your way.
"Trump demonstrated to this country that being an insufferable prick is a great way to get one's way," she wrote. "Once a person's sense of entitlement grows larger than their ability to feel empathy, they also inoculate themselves against shame. And shameless jerks have almost unlimited capacity to ruin everybody else's day. If you're a jerk for long enough and you don't care that everybody you're dealing with thinks you're a jerk, eventually the other party will get tired of dealing with you and give up. And you win."
Ryan concluded, "Trumpy tantrums, whether they take place in Washington or an Olive Garden in Mishawaka, Indiana, should not be tiptoed around, or given a respectful audience. Responding to these antics with anything but derision and denial teaches the fit-thrower that behaving badly gets good results. We can't let the worst customers at the restaurant dictate what's on the menu."
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