I was the last one or two passengers to board the flight from Denver to San Diego. I was seated in the last row, next to the window. As the attendants were checking every one and preparing to lock down for takeoff, a huge man came down the aisle. The middle seat next to me was the last vacancy, so I knew he was headed for my row. The guy was a mountain man, at least 6’4” and easily 275 pounds or more. He was dishevleled and bearded, looking like he was just returning from a hunting trip or a WWF convention.
As he tried to wedge himself into the middle seat, I had to lean into the window. He was told by the attendant that he should have bought a second seat, and that he would require an extended seatbelt.
Once he got into the seat it was apparent I would not be able to sit in my seat in an upright position, I was going to have to twist sideways and tilt towards the window side. But what really made me uncomfortable was the body odor! OMG, he hadn’t had a shower in days! It was overwhelming!
When the pilot turned off the seatbelt light, the man waved down the attendant and requested a double Wild Turkey! He was slurring his words, and had obviously over indulged before boarding the plane. The thought crossed my mind that she probably could deny him another drink, but how? If we were in a bar, she would be obligated to withhold another drink, but in this circumstance, she had few options.
I won’t go into the details of what happened next because I have a point to make: When I get into a metal tube to fly, I recognize I have to conform to certain rules of conduct; the airplane is a private business, and combined with the rules imposed by the FAA, airlines have strict rules that all of us must abide by. It is not a right to fly, it is a privilege. In order to make mass air transportation affordable and safe, we all have to submit to some restrictions on our freedoms.
It is a small price to pay.
The airliner is a metaphor for America. We are so privileged to live in the freest country on the planet. And though we are all protected by the United States Constitution, there are certain circumstances when all out, unlimited and irresponsible freedom does not, and cannot, exist.
In order for us to continue to live in freedom, we sometimes must subjugate our personal interests and freedoms to make the whole thing work. We cannot yell “fire” in a theatre, we cannot slander people, we cannot enslave people. We live in a civilized society, so we must accept that certain rules have be followed to protect us all.
Just like inside a flying metal tube, we all must submit to authority. When an injustice occurs, there are methods in place for mitigation, but travelers, and American citizens, cannot choose which rules to follow and which we will ignore. It has become all too easy to take our ability to travel (or to protest, or to party, or…?) for granted.
In our modern, liberal and self-entitled culture, we are now confronted with a class of people who simply ignore rules and laws. They have decided that because they are so much smarter than the rest of us, and because they are “free,” they can act as they wish, and do whatever suits their immediate needs. They feel entitled to create social chaos, to destroy private property, to disrupt public discourse, to challenge and sometimes attack authority, and to dismiss laws, decisions, elections, and convention whenever they perceive it conflicts with their template for social justice, for rights that have never been delineated by the courts or the constitution, or for special causes they deem important. The guy sitting next to me illustrates that self-absorbed, pompous and unconcerned citizen who acts as though he lives in a vacuum.
The airliner, the United States of America, is flying along after 240 years of unprecedented success, and there are a few disgruntled passengers that have decided their personal needs are more important than the safety of the flight, than the rule of law, than the desires of the other passengers. Deluded by a false sense of righteousness, they scream about fairness and repression, or they attribute their difficulties to hate or racism. Like a neurotic, it never occurs to them that maybe they are the problem.
At what point will the remaining, peaceful and compliant passengers decide that they cannot afford to risk their lives just to accommodate the selfish and delusional demands of some hijackers of our constitutional democratic republic?
It is the dilemma we all face today as our country confronts a wave of cultural conflict. The people who understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship are facing a flood of unruly “passengers” who will not accept authority or the rule of law. The “plane” is in flight, and now we all have to wonder, will we be able to reach our destination? Will the pilot be able to maintain control of the plane and land it safely before the narcissists storm the cockpit?
America is, compared to other societies, flying high in the Wild Blue Yonder. But the truth is we Americans are on our own. Up here in the clouds, there is no cavalry coming to the rescue.
Should we “passengers” just sit by quietly and hope for the best?
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Rick Elkin is a local blogger and author. You can follow him at www.rickelkin.com/