United Airlines Incident is a Symptom of a Larger Societal Issue

By now, most of the world has either heard the story or seen video of the nightmare that unfolded yesterday on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville. United’s behavior is abhorrent and cannot be justified, condoned, or minimized in any civilized manner. This piece is not about United’s behavior, but how American society has defined acceptable behavior to include acts of violence.

A physician seated peacefully in his rightful seat is forcibly and violently removed by law enforcement officers. His offense — none. In the USA, it is not a crime to speak one’s mind. It is not a crime to challenge authority. It is not a crime to verbally resist what one perceives to be wrong. Whether or not the good doctor did any of these things is irrelevant to my point.

American society and civilian policing have defined the acceptable use of violence so low that violence in response to verbal non-compliance has become commonplace. Any society with such a low standard for the acceptable use of violence cannot sustain itself and cannot prosper. The entire position of United Airlines and law enforcement was one of power and forced submission. United claims to have picked this passenger at random and when he did not comply with their less than transparent reasoning or process they called law enforcement.

From what I can determine, law enforcement did not conduct any investigation at the scene. They simply adopted a power broker mentality and determined that if an airline representative needed assistance then they were the force to provide that assistance.

It is worth noting that law enforcement over the past two decades has increasingly been trained to believe that non-compliance with any request from an officer is to be addressed as a threat and must be controlled at any cost. This leads to violence and the dismissal of other civil means of addressing the situation.

The United Airlines incident is truly sad for the good doctor that was forcibly removed. However, it is merely a microcosm of the larger issue in American society, which is the acceptance of violence as a normal law enforcement tool to one’s verbal expression of defiance or challenge to authority.