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Wednesday
Apr122017

United Airlines and the Doctor: Our Society in a Microcosm

United Airlines didn’t overbook their flight from Chicago to Louisville, KY. The flight was full, but the airlines needed to transport a flight crew to Louisville for another flight, so they asked for volunteers to give up their seats. When no one volunteered, the airline offered $400 for anyone to give up his or her seat. When that got no volunteers, the airline offered $800. Still no one volunteered. The airline designated four passengers as needing to “involuntarily” give up their seats. Three complied, one refused. When he remained in his seat the airline called airport security to remove him. The result was recorded on other passengers’ cell phones. The man, a Chinese-American doctor from Kentucky, was dragged from his seat, down the aisle and escorted from the plane. He returned, his face bloodied from the encounter and again refused to leave and again was forcibly removed.

At the same time that Dr. Dao, the passenger on United flight 3411, was being forcibly removed (and injured in the process) from the plane, President Trump had just bombed a Syrian airbase in order to deter Bashar al Assad from using any more chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war and was also sending the USS Vinson, an aircraft carrier, as well as several accompanying ships to a location near North Korea in order to “send a message” to Kim Jong Un that the U.S. would not tolerate its further testing of nuclear armed missiles.

The response of United Airlines to the resistance of one of its passengers to give up his seat when requested to do so, was to rapidly escalate to the use of force to remove him. The result appears to be that their stock dropped precipitously and the doctor is now suing them. Their CEO has issued an apology and the security personnel involved in the episode have been suspended. With regard to President Trump’s ordering of an airstrike on the Syrian airbase, the result has been a deterioration in U.S. –Russian relations and in U.S. Russian cooperation in Syria. U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets have declined as American forces wait to see if they have anything to fear from the Russians. We have no idea, at the time of this writing, what will be the effect of sending more U.S. naval forces to the area surrounding Korea.

The U.S. options for responding to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria appeared to be confined to military ones. Our response to Kim Jong Un’s display of nuclear power seems to be confined to military options, despite the fact that all experts agree that using diplomatic means to secure China to pressure North Korea is the only way to deal with the situation that avoids a catastrophic outcome. United Airlines’ response to a recalcitrant passenger reflected a mindset that limited its options to the use of force.

We live in a confrontational world in which the conventional view of how to convince an opponent to change his mind is to use or threaten to use violence. The outcomes, when this viewpoint is employed, are routinely negative. The purveyor of violence suffers as much, or more, than the object of his violence. In international military situations, the result is usually that both sides suffer.

Isn’t it time that we changed our way of thinking about how to resolve conflicts?

Reader Comments (1)

April 30, 2017


Thank you Casey Dorman. My own poems reflect my agreement with your view of violence as a solution to human problems.

Make babies to slaughter them?
Offspring as cannon fodder?
Children are expendable
but how we love our wars.
“Give Peace a Chance” in Wind on Water (2015)

Violence is not the answer.
Violence is a bankrupt strategy
and a worse ideology.
Violence in the service of God
will be the downfall of the human race.
“A Bankrupt Strategy” in Poems from the Left Coast (2016)

If men carried their offspring beneath their hearts
for three quarters of a year
would there be so many pointless wars,
would we let our children live in fear?
“Another Way” (unpublished)

I’d also like to thank Jason Barber, editor of the online journal Brickplight (Issue 6), for publishing a revised and much expanded version of “Monster Mash.” This poem traces my initial denial of the symptoms, gradual acceptance of my diagnosis, and eventual personal growth as a result of early onset Parkinson’s disease.

Lucy Wilson

April 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLucy Wilson

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