I just watched the video of Dr. David Dao being beaten and dragged off a United Airlines flight—simply for refusing to give up his bought-and-paid-for seat.
After the shock and the anger, after the vows to never fly United again and to tell my frequent-flyer, super-platinum brother to boycott as well, I started to wonder: In the video, we see a woman defending the man and protesting his mistreatment… but what about the other passengers? What about the fat guy in the coral polo shirt who’s sitting directly in front of the doctor? Can we talk about him? And how about everyone else who sat there and shut up?
I heard only one voice on the video. If only one woman stood up for the bleeding man being dragged on the floor of a plane, how can the world keep being the same tomorrow? Then the thought is, What would I have done? Would I have stood for him? Would I have endangered myself for him?
As a Jew, I often think of the brave people who protected Jews during WWII, risking their lives and their children’s lives to protect strangers in the name of humanity. Yes, Sean Spicer, Jews were in great danger of being deported and then gassed with lethal chemicals. They were innocents and they were sometimes even German, you moron. Their only fault was being Jewish.
Four years ago, thanks to a beautiful documentary called Corse, Ile des Justes*, my mum found the Corsican family that hid my grandfather and his family during the German occupation and Jewish extermination in 1940s Europe. They had the courage to stand up and protect people they didn’t even know because no one else would. The Casanovas saved my family. Thanks to them, my mother was born, followed by me and my children. This family is responsible for saving the lives of more than 40 human beings and I will always be grateful to them.
There were many who hid Jews. They are not thanked nor thought of enough. As our world becomes more connected and information circulates so quickly, we tend to focus on the evil. We forget there has been and are still people standing between evil and its target. We have to choose if we become a protector or someone who closes his eyes and thinks only of his own life and wellbeing.
Martin Niemöller, a German priest, wrote about the cowardice of the German people during the rise of Nazism in his country. It’s the most beautiful and inspiring text:
When the Nazis came to look for the communists, I said nothing, I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats, I said nothing, I was not a social democrat.
When they came to look for the union activists, I said nothing, I was not in a union.
When they picked me up, there was nobody there to protest.
I ask myself again, Would I have hidden Jews if I had been in a position to help 70 years ago? Would I have gotten up to fight for Dr. Dao?
As populism grows, with powerful countries governed by bullies like Berlusconi in Italy, Putin in Russia, Trump in the US and soon one in France, I fear, we’ve got to ask ourselves what legacy we’re leaving our children. Do we want them to be okay with everything as long as it doesn’t affect them personally? Or do we want to teach them to stand united against inhumanity and barbarism?
In trying to constantly shield my children from being traumatized by the ugliness of the world, I’ve come to realize I’ve created a bubble around them. I want them to be allowed to be children and I want them to grow up to be adults in a safe, caring environment. At the same time, I want them to see how crazy the world can be and what they can do to fight injustice. To stand for themselves and for the values we’re trying to teach them.
So thank you, United, for being such arses. I will now raise my children differently and teach them how to do right thanks to your wrongdoings.
*By André & Clémentine Campana