One could not help but be horrified by the images last week of Dr. David Dao being violently dragged off United Airlines overbooked flight to make way for a crew member. His forcible abuse and maltreatment by the three policemen ended up with him suffering a concussion, broken nose and the loss of two front teeth. Dr. Dao only wanted to go home to see his patients the next morning.
Since the release of the videos made by fellow passengers, responsibility for this incident has been placed on a number of different people.
- Initially, the blame fell on Dr. Dao. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said that he was “irate, disruptive and belligerent.” (He wasn’t.)
- The security guards were blamed as the obvious perpetrators, but then they had only been told to remove Dr. Dao from the plane because of his “irate, disruptive and belligerent” behavior. (They have since been suspended.)
- The airline employees said that they were not to blame because they were “just following the rules and regulations.” (The rules have since been changed.)
- Along with public outrage over the viral videos, CEO Munoz has received harsh criticism and accused of being ultimately responsible. He is also (mainly) responsible for United Airline profits, and, after the incident, close to $1bn was wiped off the company’s stock value.
- White nationalism has been blamed. Initial reports said that Dao was Chinese and was selected to disembark because of his Chinese origins. This (alternative) fact triggered protests all over Asia. China’s state-run media seized on the episode as proof of the US’ hypocrisy over human rights. (Dao is actually Vietnamese American. His lawyer has said that this experience was more horrifying for Dao than when he left Vietnam during the fall of Saigon.)
- The current US president and political climate has been blamed for its permissive attitudes towards corporate immunity and police aggression.
Who’s Responsible for Our Neighbor?
Well, that’s a lot of blame going around, and only today did Munoz finally taken full responsibility. But I think someone has been forgotten. And they are Dr. Dao’s fellow passengers.
When I watched the video, what perhaps most impressed me were the passengers’ reactions. There were screams and gasps and vacant stares and phones pulled out to record the event, but no one stood up and said: “Stop. This is immoral. Stop this brutality. Let him go. Take me instead. I will walk off peacefully.”
Understandably, the passengers onboard could not have anticipated such violence. Their seatbelts were fastened and their bags loaded onto the plane. (Adding insult to injury, Dao’s luggage was lost by United Airlines.) They were waiting for take off. Some of them were waiting to go home.
But when I watched the video, I could not help but wonder where was the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37)? When Jesus explains that we are to “Love our neighbor as ourselves,” the very next question he is asked is: “Who is our neighbor?” He does not say that our neighbors are the persons living next door or the people in our own community. He answers the question with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
A man is brutalized and left for half-dead on the road to Jericho (…on the flight to Kentucky…). A priest happened to come down the same road (… sit down on the same flight …), and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side (… he looked out his airplane window …). Then another religious man saw him and passed to the other side (… checked his iPhone for messages …). But then a Samaritan, a tribal and religious enemy of the fallen man (… whose country once napalmed and destroyed the fallen man’s homeland in war …), saw him and took pity. The Samaritan bandaged his wound, put him on his own donkey, (… offered him his seat on the plane … ), and took care of him …
Our neighbors are those who are in need right in front of our eyes. Our neighbors are the ones sitting next to us on the airplane, on the bus, the ones standing in front of us in the supermarket who need our help, our mercy, our love. They are family, friends, colleagues and mere acquaintances. At times, they are strangers. At other times, our enemies.
A Samaritan Woman in the News
There was no Samaritan on board Flight 3411, however, during the same week a Samaritan did appear. A woman who was brave enough to step out and defend a complete stranger from angry, abusive, and racist protesters. Saffiyah Khan stepped in front of Saira Zafar, who was wearing a hijab. She stepped out to protect the Moslem woman from a group of English Defense League supporters at a demonstration in Birmingham, UK. Khan said: “When I realized that nothing was being done [by the police] and she was being surrounded 360, that’s when I came in.”
Goodwill: The Will to Do Good
In psychosynthesis terms, this is about is living a life full the active development and expression of goodwill. Goodwill is the will to do good. Roberto Assagioli said that the source of goodwill is understanding. We develop goodwill by considering the situation we are in from above, from a larger whole. It requires a partial sacrifice by everyone involved, a compromise. It is an act of love. He wrote:
“Goodwill must become itself an instinct, a passion, the ruling passion our life. We must arrive to the point of being hungry and thirsty for justice.”
He continues by saying that:
“Goodwill brings understanding, appreciation, interdependence, gratitude, sharing, and generosity.”
Assagioli encourages us to develop an active, dynamic, and creative goodwill by ‘meeting the other half way’ and then finding our courage to go even further!
The results of goodwill are “peace, right relations, and the elimination of the incalculable waste and suffering produced by conflicts, strife and war.” We also see from a note from his archives that Assagioli believed goodwill enabled the “reappearance of the Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.”
Great post, thanks Catherine.
Director of Training
Psychosynthesis Trust London