We, the people, are the passenger who was dragged and abused on United Express Flight 3411 (operated by Republic Airways) last Sunday in Chicago.
And the airline is the state, its institutions and its culture.
The 69-year-old passenger is helpless against those who dominate everything, beginning with the narrative.
If they want, they can force him out of the plane, where he was already seated. After he paid for the ticket.
If they want, they can sell more tickets than seats on the airplane. Like everyone else in this business, in this business only.
And when they want, they call the police – local, airport, or private armed force – knowing that the agents will do what they ask. Because we live in a militarized society, where violence is absolutely tolerated if it comes from the authorities.
The law is on their side, because they wrote it.
What now, and what is left to us?
For us, now, the right to protest. Mobile phones with video cameras that transmit the information immediately. Social media, which have not yet been controlled. These serve as tools of public democracy.
The airline, like the state, dominates the narrative. United’s CEO initially issued a cynical, impersonal, statement written or revised by an army of lawyers, where he washed his hands and blamed the victim. He also sent a message to its own employees, in charge of fulfilling their edicts, praising them and justifying what they did.
Because they did it in his name.
Their pride is nothing but their awareness of a reality, from their positions of power as executives of one of the largest companies in the world.
The attack, the infinite contempt, the disclaimer of responsibility, the cruelty to whoever pays, is offensive toward everyone. It is difficult to assume that the same degrading and violent treatment would be given to a white man.
It matters little that the CEO of the company, Oscar Muñoz, is Latino, a Mexican American from California. At this level, what matters is what the shareholders, the owners, expect from him, because it is due not to regret but to the fall of the company’s stock and the reaction of clients in mainland China, an important source of income for United.
Muñoz’ initial reaction, to blame the victim and lacking in compassion and humanity, only managed to exacerbate public outrage.
But there are attempts to blame the victim. Unfortunately, part of the media makes us accomplices. Some of them “unmasked” the attacker, saying that Dr. David Dao, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, has a turbulent past, because 13 years ago, in 2004, he was convicted of drug-related offenses. Oh, and he is a poker player and made a lot of money doing that.
No word about his wife Dr. Teresa Dao. Or his five children, four of them also doctors.
Someone made sure that Dr. Dao’s life became an important element, as if his past troubles somehow justify the abuse to which he was subjected, although it has no relation to the incident.
The incident is typical of a society where the customer is no longer right. Where the consumer is no longer the most important person in the world. For United, that makes sense. After all, 2016 was the best year of its existence.
And while they reduce service to “ordinary” passengers and improve it to those who can pay thousands of dollars instead of a couple of hundred, their executives congratulate each other on their good fortune.
Published first in La Opinión (in Spanish).