Recently, United Airlines had federal agents beat a man into submission in order to get him off their plane, despite the fact that he was a paying customer who had lawfully purchased a ticket and had done nothing wrong.
And this wasn’t just legal, they said; their business model depends on it. At which point you have to wonder what exactly separates airlines from organized crime.
Also of interest was President Donald Trump saying that if House Democrats didn’t come to the negotiating table over the Affordable Health Care Act, he would wreck the health care of millions of Americans until the Democratic Party does what he tells them.
At which point you have to wonder what exactly separates the Trump White House from organized crime.
In March, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a police officer who had let his patrol dog attack and maul a man who he knew wasn’t a suspect could not be sued by the victim, who was placed in critical condition in the hospital.
Here’s part of the ruling from Judge Pamela Harris:
“Maney was not himself suspected of any crime, armed or not, and he did not attempt to flee or to resist. Nevertheless, Officer Garrison deliberately subjected him to a canine attack in order to rule out any possibility that he might pose a threat.”
Get that? A police officer has a right to subject a citizen who has not been accused of any crime to pre-emptive physical violence in order to “rule out the possibility that he might pose a threat.”
At which point you have to wonder what exactly separates … well, you get the idea.
What we’re seeing is a mass disregard, at every level, for the rights of people who have done nothing wrong — the man who was beaten on United Airlines had bought and paid for his ticket fairly. No matter what’s in the fine print, surely we have to agree that United Airlines had more responsibility for the flight being overbooked than he did. Trump is threatening the health care of ordinary Americans who have done nothing wrong. And when police officers abuse their power to such an extent that they let an animal in their control mangle a man who they know isn’t a suspect, the courts have their backs.
The ordinary citizen has no ability — or even right — to fight back.
This is what many Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter activists are enraged about. Though they are angry about different aspects of the problem, they both want to live in a society where individual people have a right to dignity and fair treatment, even if the person punching them in the face works for a major corporation or wears a badge.
The idea that we do not have this right becomes harder and harder to deny. Corporations now have the right to sell your internet history without your permission; state governments are passing laws restricting the right to protest; the federal government has unprecedented ability to spy on any citizen; the nation’s most corrupt police departments use asset forfeiture to seize the private property of citizens who they cannot demonstrate are part of a crime; Wells Fargo effectively stole the identities of its customers to create thousands of bank accounts they didn’t authorize; Bank of America, like many banks, foreclosed on homes they couldn’t actually prove they owned; and the ability of ordinary people to seek redress for our grievances becomes weaker and weaker.
Let’s be clear about this. If you can legally be beaten or harmed by an agent of the law when you have done nothing wrong, if the details of your private life can be sold without your permission, if big corporations can foreclose on your home when they don’t own it, then we are not citizens but cogs in a machine.
The major protest movements of our time are less driven by ideology than by the demand, the fundamental human need, to be able to live in basic dignity. Ideological solutions will not address this demand — supporting their autonomy and the right not to be beaten or stolen from when they’ve just been obeying the rules will.
Benjamin Wachs archives his work at www.TheWachsGallery.com. Email him at Benjamin@Fiction365.com.