This isn’t the first time I’ve gone off topic, but I feel that I should warn you, the following is an angry rant and a call to action. Please read knowing that this subject has truly upset me and I am sharing my opinion with my readers.
I’m an insomniac. I have a really hard time getting to sleep most nights, so I spend a lot of time reading in bed. Tonight, while I was checking my twitter feed, I noticed that Kevin Smith posted an update regarding the Southwest Airlines issue. As a fan of Mr. Smith and already sympathetic to his plight, I clicked the link. About 15 minutes in and I was ready to kill.
Here is the story: Kevin Smith, a director/writer/actor/geek whom I greatly admire, was ejected from an airplane for being too large. Now without going any further into the story, let’s all agree that situation really sucks and must be mortifying. But wait, it gets better!
Kevin, who is admittedly a large man is also a regular traveler and has NEVER been too large to accomplish the following: 1) fit in the seat 2) attach the seat belt 3) lower the armrest 4) fit within the space of his seat so to not discomfort the nearby passengers. This flight was no different, but it was made clear to him that the airline made their decision, based on a vague policy that they refused to explain, but firm to enforce. Southwest’s staff made efforts to resolve the situation by offering a meager amount of compensation, but continued to refuse Kevin’s request for a clear explanation or a genuine apology. A twitter storm followed, Kevin vented his frustrations and Southwest’s PR caught wind and have struggled to save face. I have listened to both sides and have decided this is truly unfair.
My decision is based not on Kevin’s unique instance, but for the countless number of people who do not have a voice. While on the flight home Kevin sat next to a woman of size who was also singled out and made to feel ashamed about her weight. Her story would have ended there if she wasn’t sitting next to a celebrity who already had an axe to grind. In his podcast regarding the incident, he mentions that he probably would have let the issue go once he got home if it wasn’t for the girl sitting next to him. He saw the tears welling in her eyes and saw his daughter, saw every other fat kid who got bullied because of their size and wasn’t going to take it.
Here is where Rachel gets upset. My sister has Downs Syndrome, I’ve spent my whole life ready to knock the crap out of anyone who dares tease my baby sister because she is different. I see a person with disabilities on the street and I instantly become protective of them. Hoping maybe if I protect them from the evils of the world, karma will protect my sis.
As my sister has gotten older, she has also gained weight. The way I see it, she now has two targets painted on her chest. My sister, who has a hard enough time getting through life with the limitations of her body, does not deserve to be picked out and humiliated because of her size. Not only is it out of her control, most people with Down’s carry extra weight, but she doesn’t have the capacity to understand Southwest’s political bullshit. You can not tell her that it is not personal, it’s just policy. She won’t understand. She will understand that someone is telling her she is bad, she is being punished and no one will tell her why. I can only imagine how hard it would be for her and would never wish that upon anyone.
The situation stinks, it was handled poorly and it is one more reason why I think the whole airline system needs a remodel. The humanity in flying has slowly drained away and our rights and respect have gone with it. We are nothing but cattle and dollar signs. I truly believe that this sort of thing happens regularly and next time it could be someone you care about, someone who doesn’t have a public forum to share his story and get a response. Next time it will go unanswered, unless we do something. Boycott Southwest Airlines, write them a letter, speak up for injustices, stand up for the kid getting bullied – someone loves that kid, it could be someone you love.