Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Furious Flight Attendant

What do the travails of Mr. Slater, the flight attendant who found instant celebrity with his dramatic exit from his job have to do with the Interfaith Alliance? Well, a lot actually. Because Mr. Slater's temper tantrum and the response to it by so many people is one more indicator of one of our nation's most pressing problems: the loss of civility (and maturity) in our public discourse. Lauded as some kind of folks hero, what this man did was throw a public hissy fit for reasons that remain unclear, curse out the people he had contracted to serve, then endanger public safety as he released an emergency slide, slid down it and ran away. Far from being heroic behavior, his was a selfish and hostile act. The fact that he has been applauded reminds us of the sad reality that we have lost the ability or even the understanding of why we need to exercise self-control and restraint in our public discourse. We see that reflected in the mud-slinging and hate speech that has come to dominate cable TV "news" shows, and, ultimately in the polarization of our society. As we seek to live together in this increasingly complex and multi-cultural society, it becomes more and more important that we be able to disagree civilly, that we are sensitive to one another and that we learn restraint and self-control. Mr. Slater's behavior was the opposite of that. It was infantile and inappropriate, that it is seen as otherwise is not only a shame for all of us, it bodes ill for our society.