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Too ready to fight

A Southwest Airlines flight attendant loses two teeth after allegedly getting punched out by a woman who became verbally and physically abusive while refusing to obey standard in-flight instructions. Other passengers say it started over mask-wearing.

On Maui, a Lahaina man who reportedly reminded a father and son from Florida to wear their masks as they stood in line at Panda Express was left bleeding from a cut over his eye when things suddenly turned physical.

Both recent incidents underscore a disturbing trend of aggression that appears to be rising in America. The Federal Aviation Administration says incidents of in-flight passenger disruptions have skyrocketed, with more than 2,500 reported so far this year. About 1,900 of those have been over masks.

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA president Sara Nelson says the level of hostility is “unprecedented.”

“We’ve never seen aggression and violence on our planes like we have in the past five months,” Nelson said last week on NPR. “The constant combative attitude over wearing masks is exhausting and sometimes horrific for the people who have been on the front lines of this pandemic for over a year.”

For America’s sake, let’s hope this might-makes-right mentality is merely the frustration of the pandemic boiling over, a temporary phase some of our countrymen and women are going through. It will be a dreadful shame if lashing out becomes the new normal.

What would the Greatest Generation think of such self-centered antics during a global pandemic? The men and women who pulled together to win World War II, rebuild Europe and Japan, win the Cold War and lift America from the Great Depression into an economic superpower would not tolerate privileged egotists who dump popcorn on injured basketball players or go off the rails when asked to do a simple duty for the safety of others.

Somehow masks became political. The current president supported their use. The previous one mocked it. He mocked a lot of things. Will the legacy of President Donald Trump be that he made Americans meaner and less tolerant of each other? Are we to follow his example and continually punch back harder?

Boorish behavior and attitudes existed in America before Trump and will be around long after he is gone. What he did was bring them out into the light for all to see. The most startling example was provided by the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on Jan. 6.

That violent, misguided attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election must not become America’s new standard for dealing with unwelcome news. Disagreeing with a person’s politics or stance on mask usage does not bestow the right to knock out their teeth.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher

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