America has felt broken for a while now. Over the course of the last decade, our nation has become so unashamedly polarised – so starkly divided – that public discourse has come to a complete and utter standstill. Compromise has become a toxic and disgusting word, and people don’t want to talk about their problems anymore. They want immediate validation and swift action, no matter the cost.
That’s why this deplorable footage of a bloodied United Airlines passenger being ferociously manhandled off a plane in Chicago for refusing to give up his seat is anything but shocking.
If you’ve flown anywhere in the last 10 years, you’ve definitely been on an overbooked plane. You might have even been offered a few hundred quid to skip your flight in order to make room for travelling airline staff. But if you’ve ever wondered what happens when airlines can’t bribe a single paying customer off of a flight, now we know: they call in the brute squad.
This morning, newsfeeds across the globe were flooded with viral videos of some poor guy getting dragged kicking and screaming out of a seat he paid to sit in. It didn’t matter that he claimed to be a doctor who needed to get home to tend ailing patients, and it didn’t matter that his fellow passengers protested his removal. A profit-driven airline company wanted to make room for employees, and so private security staff were more or less given the green light to beat somebody up to make it happen.
And what was United’s stellar PR response? To claim its staff were all “following established procedures” and call the customer “disruptive and belligerent”. Translation: the shockingly violent treatment of our passengers isn’t that big a deal. Shares in the company are already starting to take a slide, and by day’s end, United Airlines very well may have become the most mocked company in the history of the Twitter. “Board as a doctor, leave as a patient,” said one contributor to the #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos hashtag. “We put the hospital in hospitality,” wrote another.
OK, so people are forcibly removed from planes all the time. United had to kick 3,765 paying customers off flights last year alone. But the scary thing is, this blood-soaked guy who simply wanted to go home and get to work the next day could have been any one of us. The newly emboldened security services have rendered our airports xenophobic battlegrounds, and emboldened those who might otherwise have stopped to think before resorting to violence or abuse.
Remember the 70-year-old Australian author Mem Fox, who said she “sobbed like a baby” while being detained by US border control at Los Angeles Airport in February? “I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with such gratuitous impoliteness,” she said in an interview afterwards.
Donald Trump has everything to do with this. This was a man who threatened to “beat the crap” out of protesters, encouraged his supporters to punch non-believers and seemingly suggested someone assassinate his Democratic opponent on the campaign trail.
Hell, he even promised to defend his conservative fanatics in court if they got into trouble for beating up dissidents. And in electing this aspiring silverback gorilla, America has inadvertently validated the backwards beliefs and violent tendencies of many.
After all, the President of the United States occupies the highest office in the land. He’s a role model to the entire world – and now our role model mocks disabled people and asks supporters to tackle anyone who disagrees with them. What did you think was going to happen?
Anti-fascist liberals are committing arson and beating one another, bigots are openly assaulting Muslims at work, schools are getting shot up and hate crimes have skyrocketed. This sort of stuff is becoming so commonplace that it’s difficult to feign surprise or disgust anymore. It’s become completely entangled in America’s psyche, and no one seems to care.
Like it or not, we’re living in Donald Trump’s America now – and if we want to live in a society where you don’t need to be worried about getting beaten to a pulp just for going on holiday, it looks like we’ve got a whole lot of work to do.
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