Debate Forum Left 08/25/10

Debate Forum Left 08/25/10

Out Of The Clear Jet Blue

By J.T. Ryder

J.T. Ryder

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater’s obscenity laden rant (just before grabbing a couple of Blue Moon beers for the road and deploying the friendly sky slip and slide) has become a rallying cry for those feeling that they are among the oppressed, harried and abused working class. The straw that broke the camel’s back came in the form of a piece of carry-on luggage that broke the skin of Slater’s cranium…as well as the unapologetic nature of the Samsonite slinger. Slater had had enough of the rudeness and outright abuses that he had to endure in his tenure as a flight attendant. Who among us cannot sympathize (or at least empathize) with someone who has just “had enough?” Many are calling Steven Slater a “working class hero,” and that is my only real point of contention here.

After all, hero is a word that gets thrown around a bit too loosely. My son is a Marine. My friend is a volunteer firefighter. I’ve worked closely with police officers over the years. A person throwing a snit over real or imagined workplace abuses has not earned the moniker of “hero,” but then again, human history is dotted with those individuals of questionable integrity that have the mantle of “folk hero” place upon their shoulders. Within the confines of American history, the words “folk hero” have been used to describe such notable individuals as D.B. Cooper, Jesse James and John Dillinger, among other dubious choices. It can be said that we tend to lionize those who do things that we secretly dream of doing, which usually entails “sticking it to the man.” Conversely, if we are “the man” and someone is “sticking it to us,” our view radically changes and the “folk hero” suddenly becomes a miscreant…a deviant scofflaw that needs to be punished. It’s all about perspective.

We all wish for the day that we hit the lottery so that we will have the often dreamed of opportunity to tell our bosses and co-employees where they can place their pursed lips. If, all of a sudden, gainful employment were not a requirement for sustaining a measurably adequate standard of living, many (if not all) businesses would become abandoned rather quickly. If we had the added bonus of having a Slip n’ Slide in every office building, many a metropolis would look like a Wall Street Wallyworld with well dressed business people and common working folk alike careening down from every floor with a collective “Whee!” resonating through the crowded streets where we will all gather together, dancing and singing to the tune of Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It.”

I don’t condone Slater’s behavior, given
the position of authority that he was in nor would I deign to call him a hero. However, I feel his actions and the reactions of the public has been an acknowledgment of the public’s disdain for the pervasive rudeness that has enveloped our society. Slater’s act and immediate genuflecting response of the media and the public has been a glimpse at the changing barometric changes within our society.

Every day, we contend with maniacs armed with automobiles who are either driving as if they have a large jalapeno pepper lodged in their sphincter or are so inattentive that they drift into our lane, oblivious that there happens to be a two ton metal machine already occupying that space. We wait patiently as we try to purchase our morning coffee as the clerk feels that this is the opportune time to call her BFF instead of ringing you up. You hold the door open for a customer who walks past you with a look on their face as if something foul-smelling had been smeared onto their upper lip. There is no “thank you” or even acknowledgment of your existence. It’s not really surprising that Slater snapped. In fact, it’s surprising that we don’t hear of a Howard Beale/Network/“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” outburst every single day.

Did Slater do the right thing? No. Did he handle the situation correctly? No. Did he, inversely, perform an act of rudeness that inconvenienced hundreds of other individuals over this incident? Yes. The bigger question is, “Was there an alternate way of handling this?” The answer, sadly, is no. In years past (waaay past), you could speak reasonably and logically to an individual who was behaving poorly. If that didn’t work, there were others that you could count on to back you up, shaming the wrongdoer into acting properly. There was an inherent civility and the lines of what was considered socially rude were unspoken yet clearly defined. Now, we celebrate the rudeness. We make celebrities out of those who behave badly, as is the case with Slater at this very moment. If he was right or wrong is really inconsequential to me and, at the end of the day, is a circular argument that would never end. The important thing is that the momentum that has been created by this event should not be squandered worrying about “What is Slater going to do next?” or “Will Slater get his own reality show?” The time, heat and energy should be spent on a reevaluation of the circumstances that allowed us to arrive at this moment and a large-scale dialogue about what can be done to stem this tide of rudeness and incivility. Maybe you should think about it the next time someone opens the door for you…

DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder
covers a wide range of topics including local news, music and comedy. He can be reached at
contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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