This morning I’m thinking about the video of Dr David Dao being dragged off a United plane in Chicago. There’s been worldwide press evaluating and condemning the actions of United Airlines and the Chicago police, but what strikes me is the action, or rather lack of action, of the other passengers on the aircraft. There are cries of anxiety, “oh my god, oh my god,” entreaties of “c’mon, c’mon” and “look at what you’re doing,” but in none of the footage do we see passengers saying “No! You may not bloody my fellow passenger. Stop!” or any version of that. The aisle of an aircraft is quite narrow, and it would only have taken a passenger or two to interfere with the police dragging Dao off but we see no one attempt to intervene. Numerous cellphones are held up; the phones’ owners remain seated. Do Americans see themselves as capable only of passively observing state violence?
Earlier this year I heard Norman Solomon here in San Francisco. In talking about resistance to the Trump administration Solomon commented on the naïvety of “speaking truth to power” with the goal of accomplishing anything. Telling Rex Tillerson that Exxon is polluting is absurd. He knows. When seeing a Chicago policeman dragging a bloodied doctor rather than saying “look at what you’re doing” we need to say “Stop!” and mean it.