One of the most noble values of the American spirit is our drive to stand up for the rights of others.
It’s never not a messy battle. It’s driven us to some of the biggest conflicts the world has ever known, divided brother and brother on the battlefield barely a hundred years after our country was born, and even today the fight rages on for people of color, differing religions, sexual orientations, and others.
These fights are crucial to who we are as a people, dating back to our founding fathers who once declared:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Yet with every conflict, we have some that remain unswayed – either apathetic or downright complacent in their attitudes because they don’t deem the issues to be a priority or because they don’t necessarily see any impact to themselves personally…
On Sunday, April 9, 2017, a man was removed from a United Airlines flight between Chicago and Louisville after refusing to deboard voluntarily due to an overbooking situation created by the airline. As the airline had four employees needing to be shuttled to Kentucky for work the next day, United had first asked for volunteers to take a later flight and receive a travel voucher.
When nobody volunteered, United opted to choose four passengers at random to remove – three of which left without incident, however the fourth refused, citing that as a doctor he had patients to see the following morning.
What followed and was captured on video by the other passengers can only be described as horrific…
— Jayse D. Anspach (@JayseDavid) April 10, 2017
— Tyler Bridges (@Tyler_Bridges) April 9, 2017
After making several requests of the man to deboard, United called the Chicago airport police who proceeded to violently manhandle the individual, eventually slamming him to the floor and knocking him unconscious before finally dragging him off the plane. As you can hear plainly on the videos, some onlookers were quite disturbed by what was playing out before them – in fact, it drove several to pull out their cell phones and share the violent imagery around the world.
Many people looked on in horror, but the strange thing to see even in those videos was that some didn’t.
This indifferent perspective followed the videos online when certainly not all, but some people were quick to comment excuses such as:
- That’s what happens when you don’t follow orders on a plane.
- If they tell you to leave, you leave – it’s their plane, not yours.
- He was acting like a child and deserved to get dragged off.
Though these voices seem to be the minority in this particular case, we’ve seen far too many blatant abuses of power in our recent history that have failed to rile up enough Americans to actually make a difference to the status quo:
Take the invasive body scanners introduced by the TSA, which sparked quite the controversy back in 2010 that were coupled with new pat-down techniques that left men and women alike feeling violated. Though people were offended and videos circulated, these scanners are now the norm at every airport throughout the United States and opting out will only get you a pat-down where the TSA agent feels up your legs “until they meet resistance” … an action that in any other context would be deemed sexual assault.
Or consider the shootings that take place across the United States seemingly on a daily basis. In fact, one took place at a San Bernardino elementary school just yesterday that left a teacher and one of her students dead. America has grown so numb to gun violence that even when we see our children targeted, nothing seems to warrant a serious discussion about gun control or ways to make our country safer. Since the widely publicized Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012 that killed twenty first-graders and six teachers and administrators, America has seen 103 shootings at its schools and universities.
Protesters occupy Zuccotti Park and march in our streets and fill the National Mall, but for every person who raises their fists in solidarity there’s another who’s either too busy to consider another person’s troubles or all of the evidence in the world won’t shake their personal opinion that protesters are just lazy people who stand around complaining and demanding special treatment because they don’t have real jobs to go to like the rest of us.
How can we be so naive???
I understand that confrontation can be uncomfortable and if a problem doesn’t directly impact you, sometimes it seems easier to just shrug it off and focus on your own life … but that’s not who we’re supposed to be as Americans.
As Americans we’re united in our goals, and our struggles, and our ideals, and an injustice against one of us is an injustice against all of us.
To look at such horrific imagery and remain silent makes us a society that deems that kind of behavior to be acceptable, despite the reality that the next time it could just as easily be one of us.
Maybe instead of being a doctor trying to make a flight, you’re a father racing home from a business trip who gets involuntarily removed while your wife is at home going into labor early, or you’re a new freshman on a college campus crossing paths with a gunman looking to settle a score, or you’re nearing retirement and you just got conned out of your life savings by some scam artist on Wall Street who operates without any regulations.
These types of tragedies face our friends and neighbors here in America every single today, and alone they’re powerless to stand up to their aggressors … but together we’re not.
We owe it to each other – to our fellow Americans – to not allow ourselves to grow complacent in the face of injustice.