Before I say what I believe needs to be said, I want you to know that this is coming from a place of truthful compassion and understanding, with self-reflective sadness, and not a place of aggression or judgment.
Passengers of the United Airlines Flight that were witnesses to the horrific removal of Dr. Dao from his seat: I condemn you. I condemn you just as much as the airline itself is being condemned. I condemn you, because instead of standing up for, and fighting for Dr. Dao, you simply stayed in your seats, recorded the scene, and made comments. I condemn you because you could have done so much more. I condemn you because you were bystanders who had the power to save, and you chose not to.
In all the articles I have read about this situation, from Dr. Dao’s troubled past, to the incident, and even the aftermath, no where are any names of any saviors mentioned. There are names of those who uploaded the videos. There are names of those who made comments. There are the three names of the other passengers forced to relinquish their seats. But no where are there written names, or provided evidence, of any person on that flight, trying to save Dr. Dao. And if there is no evidence, then I believe it is not a far stretch to assume there was no saving. And if that is the case, then truly, passengers, you are to be condemned.
In school, we are taught that there are bullies, victims, and bystanders. And we are taught that the bystanders are just as bad as the bully if they do not try to stop the abuse. In this situation, it seems the bystanders, the passengers, were just as bad as the bullies. In fact, I would even wager that they are worse than the bully, because they recorded it. They pulled out their phones, and recorded this man’s suffering, without trying to save him. And if, passengers, your excuse is that you were told to remain in your seats by the airline staff, than I would say this situation is a textbook example of Stanley Milgram’s shock experiment.
Please understand me, I believe you when you say you are good people. I believe you. Many of you may go to church, are parents, help the community, etc. But this “good” should be evident in all situations, not just in “good” ones. If you are truly good, staying in your seat must have upset your conscious. Of course, if I was in that situation, staying in my seat would have really upset me. But, I would have found it very hard to stand up as well. Passengers, true soul-deep “goodness” would inspire a person to leap out of their seat, and fight with a flaming sword to protect a man being abused.
I condemn United Airlines for overbooking the flight. (I know firsthand the effects of that.). I condemn them for giving priority to employees of a partner line. I condemn them for picking people at random, and forcing them to give up their seats. I condemn them for then forcibly removing Dr. Dao from his seat. And I condemn you, passengers of this United Airlines flight, because you did nothing,
What happened to respect? What happened to caring for every life? What happened to the responsibility of taking care of other people, especially in a situation where they can’t take care of themselves? What happened to standing up for other people, and addressing abuse in a horrible situation? What happened to the responsibility of a bystander to stand up for the victim? Has this responsibility truly changed to spectatorship, when the accepted behavior is to record a situation, instead of trying to fix it? And would Dr. Dao be in the hospital if someone had stood up for him? What would have happened if the entire plane stood up for him? This situation feels eerily similar to Kitty Genovese.
It seems this responsibility of bystanders has become completely ignored. People who were witness to a horrible interaction between people, are asked for any videos, instead of being asked if they did anything to stop it. As a psychology major, a young woman, and a gentle heart, this change terrifies, upsets, and disgusts me.
If I was in a similar situation, yes, I would find it very hard to stand between a bully and their victim. I would feel as if I was standing before a giant with only a small stone in my hand. I would wrestle hard inside myself to find the courage and strength to get out of my seat, and stand between the United Airlines men and Dr. Dao. But, I would be utterly disgusted with myself if I choose to record the situation instead. I would know that no amount of recording could save a man’s life.
Passengers, I condemn you. I am pointing an accusatory finger at you. You could have done so much, but instead, did so little. However, while pointing at you, four fingers are pointing back at me. Your lack of action has made me self-reflect, which I thank you for. Let’s see that as the silver lining; this horrible situation is causing self-reflection.
Passengers, I condemn you just as much as Untied Airlines. Every life deserves a savior, and you, you who watched and recorded and complained, you did nothing.