I know, the title of this blog post seems strangely unrelated–and actually, it probably is. The only common link between job hunting, the controversial United incident of this week and the Girl Who Escaped ISIS is my mental state of being.
So let’s delve right into that:
The United Incident
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know about the United incident. A United flight from Chicago O’Hare to Louisville was overbooked and, despite offering an $800 voucher, no one volunteered to leave the plane and make room for four crew members who needed to staff a connecting flight. United felt that the only remaining option was to “randomly” select four people to forcibly vacate the plane.
I imagine most people who have watched the video are horrified. I could barely stomach one view of it. It’s really inhumane.
What I wasn’t expecting was half of my friends on Facebook running to defend United.
I spent almost all day yesterday arguing with Facebook “friends” about the inhumane actions of United and how the situation was grossly mishandled. They told me that it was the passenger’s fault for his inability to comply with United regulation and the law enforcement officer. Others said this 69-year-old man shouldn’t have ‘lashed out’ against the police.
I say bullshit.
Basically, I think anyone that supports United in this particular situation condones violence. Period.
I understand that the passenger was at fault for not complying with United’s supposed regulation. I can also see how some people might be upset with this passenger’s refusal to vacate the plane when the other three passengers begrudgingly did so.
What I don’t understand is what happened next. The passenger hit his head on an armrest and begins to bleed profusely from a head injury. Instead of call for immediate medical attention, the law enforcement officers humiliatingly drag him off the plane. Oh, and they also let him back on the plane (with blood running down his face) in a final attempt to plea for passage.
Ok. I truly believe that no human being deserves this kind of treatment–especially an elderly customer who has rightly paid for his seat. And in the world’s wealthiest country to boot.
I understand the argument made from the side of the United supporters; but let’s be real: It was United’s fault for overbooking the flight in the first place (and for not offering more money). Ultimately it was United’s duty to bring PAYING CUSTOMERS to their final destination instead of drag them off a flight bloody, beaten, and humiliated.
In the end, I feel like United did not exhaust all of its available options to solve the situation–instead, they escalated the situation by calling law enforcement to forcibly remove an elderly man. Jesus Christ.
I feel like this incident has brought out a side of people I never even knew. Friends I thought who were sympathetic and open-minded were condoning violence against an elderly, Asian man on a flight he paid to be on. It’s mind blowing. It’s offensive.
It makes me jaded. Tired. Exhausted.
The Girl Who Escaped ISIS
I’m in a humanitarian intervention class this quarter. The professor is making us read a novel per week to get a ‘first-hand account’ of violence on the ground and the role of intervention. Our first read was “The Girl Who Escaped ISIS,” a first-person narrative of Farida and her heart-wrenching story of how she was kidnapped by ISIS, sold into slavery and was repeatedly beaten and raped. Her entire village was ethnically cleansed and she was so full of grief and shame she tried to kill herself multiple times throughout the book.
I read the book in one sitting. I was nearly in tears after finishing the book. Mostly because the book had a “happy” ending thanks to countries like Germany.
“How did you like the book?” I ask Kris, a fellow classmate.
“Honestly,” she rolled her eyes at me. “I didn’t see the point. Yeah, I get it. It’s sad. I feel bad for this girl who is raped and beaten and it’s tragic–but what’s the point? I didn’t really get anything out of the book and I don’t think it teaches us anything.”
First thought: You ice-cold bitch.
Second thought: You are a very smart, intellectual woman. I respect you. You just presented a student project to a panel of diplomats. Am I a sucker? Did I drink the kool aid? Was I not analytical enough about this narrative? Is this some kind of ploy by the journalist who interviewed this particular survivor? Was I a sucker sold by the story?
In international relations we study grandiose theories about war, state-building, negotiated settlements and ethnic violence. The research papers and data collected on the subject are fascinating; and honestly, there are times all of this data and research makes me feel like Varys or Littlefinger in Game of Thrones. Learning the tools and methods to gain political power, win the upper hand of war, politicize the ethnic minority to your cause, control the flow of information and appeasing warlords to support your coalition is a power trip. Honestly, studying all of this stuff is a trip for the ego Can you imagine how it feels to think that you–yes, you–can stop wars with data and technology? Isn’t that a boost to your intellect?
Yet sometimes I can’t help but think all of these academics studying theory and computing data in their ivory tower still feel grossly disconnected from the real world. Can data analysis and generalized theory really improve security and help people suffering on the ground? To Kris, perhaps the world is like a giant chess board and the ISIS girl is a useless pawn who can easily be cast aside.
Where do we draw the line between humanity and strategy? Is this one woman’s story so trivial that it’s not worth putting on a syllabus in graduate school? Is she just a necessary sacrifice for the greater good?
In my honest opinion, I think the more we forget the human side of international relations, the closer we get to extremist ideology and start convincing ourselves that we have some god-given righteous cause (like Hitler). Everything becomes collateral damage. Everything is for “the greater good.” Some situations, like with this young woman, just “don’t matter.”
Thinking about the above topic made me feel very conflicted. Am I a liberal, humanitarian sucker? I don’t want to think so. I know I can’t save everyone, and I know that I can’t spend a year in every war torn country on this Earth to get “the real story” for a fair assessment. However, I do know that I can’t continue to numb myself with news of terrorist attacks and the spread of violence while ignoring the human story of these victims and while also simultaneously studying conflict resolution. It’s stories like The Girl Who Escaped ISIS who help us dive deeper–and really, just give a shit–about what’s going on in the-middle-of-nowhere Middle East.
I don’t know who is right or wrong, but I know one thing for sure:
I don’t want to lose my humanitarian side.
I have been eating an unhealthy amount of sweets and drinking alcohol profusely. I am extremely stressed about finding a job. It’s nerve wracking.
The amalgamation of the above events really triggered my stress. I’m just a walking body of irritation this week. Hopefully next week will see some improvement–or even better–I get a job.