“You busted his lip!”
“Look at what you did to him!”
“Good work guys, good work! Way to go!”
“This is horrible.”
“Yeah, the police grabbed him. He’s an older doctor. He wouldn’t get off the plane, so they forced him off.”
These are direct quotes of some of the things that were said by other passengers as Dr. David Dao was literally dragged from his seat on an overbooked United Airlines flight this past Sunday.
According to reports, Dr. Dao “refused to be bumped from a plane” after being “asked several times, politely,” and was forcibly removed from the aircraft by law enforcement officers.
When it comes to the specifics of how and why United Airlines got into this kind of position, I fully admit that I do not have all of the facts. I am aware that the practice of intentionally overbooking flights is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed. However, I’m not necessarily concerned about that.
When it comes to the legal, moral, and ethical obligation of Dr. Dao to comply with what he was asked to do by the airline, I will also have to plead a degree of ignorance. Some reports have indicated that he had a very good reason for resisting, and that he had no legal obligation to leave the plane; and I have no idea what I would have done if I had been in his position. I do not judge him on any level for his decision.
I also have no clear idea – and therefore, no moral judgment to make - concerning why this incident escalated to something so disturbing and violent on the part of the officers who dragged Dr. Dao from the plane. I’m sure that many would claim that they were “just doing their job.” I don’t know.
In other words, there are a lot of things about this story that I do not know.
But here is one thing I do know:
If I had been on that plane, this would not have happened.
Before you accuse me of being some kind of arrogant, would-be “hero” (which I am not), allow me to explain…
If I had been on this plane, and these policemen were preparing to drag this screaming man from his seat, I would have volunteered to take his place. I would then call my wife, tell her that I was going to be a few hours late, and gladly wait for the next available flight (and NOT just because it would give me time to grab a Cinnabon).
I have NO doubt in my mind that this is what I would have done, and I have NO problem saying it publicly. Let me be clear, this does not make me a “good person,” and I certainly don’t think that it makes me morally superior to anyone else. This is simply what I would have done.
In fact, I would imagine that many of you probably feel the same way, and you would have done the exact same thing in this situation.
I’m not sure that this particular “angle” of this story is being analyzed at this point, but it probably should be. There are a lot of fingers being (justifiably) pointed at the airline, the officers, and perhaps others who think that Dr. Dao should have behaved differently; but is anyone really asking about the other passengers?
Why didn’t someone else DO something, besides making sure that this incident went viral on YouTube? Why is it that there are so many strong words being spoken, but so little action being taken? Allow me to get even more pointed: instead of making comments about how “horrible” this situation was, why didn’t that person volunteer to leave the plane?
Are you honestly telling me that not a single one of the other 70 passengers on this flight could have POSSIBLY taken the next flight? I refuse to believe that this was true.
If I’m being honest about what I see on these videos, it’s almost as if the other passengers were already watching this event on YouTube, and were content to be observers, commentators, and judges on the behavior they were seeing. As if it had no effect on their real lives, and they couldn’t be bothered to do anything to change it.
The behavior of the airline bothers me, the behavior of the police officers and of Dr. Dao confuses me; but the behavior of the passengers disappoints and disgusts me.
If I could be so bold, I’m going to make another statement that I believe to be true: if there had been any true followers of Jesus Christ on this plane (who were not in some kind of “emergency” situation that required them to stay on the plane), we would be watching a very different series of videos.
When are we, as a people, going to turn our attention away from what is happening around us, and turn it to ourselves? When are we going to stop observing, commentating, and judging, and start taking action?
I realize, as I write these words, that I am currently observing, commentating, and judging; but in this case, I hope my motives will be properly understood.
Is this article ironic? Yes. Is this article hypocritical? I don't believe so.
You might wonder, “Jeremy, how can you be so sure that you would have taken his place?” That’s a great question, and it has an equally great answer:
Because, 2,000 years ago, on a hill called Calvary, someone did that for me.
And He did that for you as well.
So let’s all stop watching life as if we were “passengers watching a video,” and start looking for ways that we can “volunteer” to be more like Jesus!
SCRIPTURES TO CONSIDER: James 1:22; 2:14-26; 4:17; Matthew 25:31-46