United Airlines as test case: Their rules, our consequences

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Why am I posting this article, as distant as its subject seems from Trumpian politics?

Even though most readers may think United is getting beaten up aplenty in the press, in fact it is getting a virtual free pass as far as its rights to remove a paying passenger with a confirmed seat who has been seated. This seems to reflect the deep internalization in America of deference to authority in the post 9/11 world, as well as reporters who appear to be insufficiently inquisitive. And there also seems to be a widespread perception that because it’s United’s plane, it can do what it sees fit.

pub. 04/2017

The dominant American culture today is strikingly insistent that we all submit to authority, including corporate and contractual authority, no matter how convoluted, impossible, or unjust that authority.

That completely innocent black driver should’ve done what the cops said; getting shot to death was just the price of resisting. Those undocumented workers should’ve come in legally; their children being deported 30 years later was just the price of sneaking them in as babies. That person should’ve bought better health insurance; death or bankruptcy was just the price of buying the wrong plan.

It doesn’t matter whether the black driver really resisted, it doesn’t matter whether legal immigration was timely or even offered, it doesn’t matter whether other health insurance was affordable or even available. The people in power get to create the rules, we need to follow them–and if something goes wrong, it’s probably our own fault.

The casualties of xenophobia

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The President’s nationalistic rhetoric and scapegoating of racial others, not to mention his habitual reliance on unverified information, have sown panic among immigrants. I’ve often asked myself lately whether I’ve been right to suspect that people were looking at me differently on the street, at airports, or in elevators. Whenever a stranger has been kind to me, I have almost wanted to weep in gratitude. Unlike when I first arrived here, distance no longer offers any reprieve from these feelings. The Internet delivers ugly fragments of report and rumor throughout the day, and with them a sense of nearly constant intimacy with violence.

pub. 03/2017