Waiting at the gate

airline gate
image courtesy of Unsplash

I have long maintained that the middle gates at the airport are purely for decoration. I believe their waiting areas are filled with paid extras placed to make an airport seem more profitable than it actually is. I say this because no matter where my work sends me across the globe, my gate is always one of the furthest from the security checkpoint. I guess it is also the airline’s way of protecting passengers from blood clots by ensuring they have plenty of exercise prior to boarding. My travel arrangements on this latest business trip proved to be no exception.

After weaving out of what felt like miles of pedestrian traffic, I finally made it to my departing gate. Looking at a nearby monitor, I was delighted to see that my flight was on schedule, which is a phenomena almost as rare for me as getting a flight out of a middle gate. I glanced at my watch. Shew.  I’d made it with only a few minutes until boarding time. I began jockeying for position in line as an attendant stepped up to the microphone. Let’s get this trip over with.

“Umm… ladies and gentlemen… er… I have been told your aircraft is on the ground, but… um… we just don’t know exactly where it is on the tarmac. But we’ll get it turned around and send you on your way just as soon as it gets here.”

A collective groan swelled through the waiting area, mine included. How can you lose a plane? Especially today? Ugh. Whatever happened to the glamour of air travel? I looked at my fellow passengers. They looked as frazzled and travel weary as I was. A woman across from me dressed in sweats and hair astray slouched in her chair as she passed along the update to someone on the other end of a phone call. “This has been the longest day ever…I just want to get home.” Another turned around and made his way to the closest bar. As I looked around the waiting area the words of the poem, The New Colossus, came to mind. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The words that so aptly described those of us stuck in airport purgatory that evening are the same that adorn the Statue of Liberty. They are the same words that for years have greeted family after family as they made their way into America. But now they no longer ring true. The borders are closing. We are more selective with who we let in.

My plane eventually arrived at the gate. I made it to my destination and back home again, but for so many, their dreams for a better life might now seem like my plane – lost somewhere out on the tarmac. Without hope, what options will they have? I recognize that we have our own problems. We don’t have resources in place for those who are already here. We can’t prevent those who wish us harm from intermingling with those possessing more honorable intentions, but I worry that desperate people will do desperate things and we will only be trading one problem for another.

Humanity learned to fly and even touched the moon. Surely we can find an answer to another impossible problem.

 

Good is no longer good enough

It’s tough living in the new Golden Age of television. Just when I think I’ve gotten away, another show draws me back in. After watching the character death fest that was the season finale of Game of Thrones, I decided that perhaps it was time for some lighter fare. What’s that you say? The new season of Orange is the New Black has been released early? It is classified as a comedy now… isn’t it?

The season opened and I sat back expecting to be entertained. The scene showed a new driver behind the wheel of one of the prison vans. The character was a white junkie. A new character, an African-American prison guard, asked if she smoked crack before prison. The inmate responded along the lines of ‘crack is for blacks.’ The guard jumped out of her seat. ‘What did you say?!’ Sorry, the inmate replied, ‘crack is for African-Americans,’ and continued driving with a smile on her face, oblivious to the fact that the statement wasn’t any less offensive for its use of more politically correct terminology.

I will admit I snorted as I watched the scene. I consider myself somewhat educated and worldly, and at the time, I found the inmate’s well-intentioned ignorance funny as well as pitiable. I felt ‘in’ on the joke and that made me feel better about myself.

A few days later, church bells rang out in Charleston in reverence for the victims of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting on June 17th. Calls to remove the confederate flag from atop the State Capitol seemed to finally gained traction with legislators. A news story ran that one of the oldest manufacturers of the confederate flag would halt production. Just because you can make something, doesn’t mean you should. It started to feel like progress was being made. Americans (and Southerners at that) were finally making an effort.

Then, I read more headlines. Nationwide sales for the last production of the flag were through the roof.

I find that watching ignorance in real life is a lot less funny than it is on TV.

This article does not fit with my other writing. It makes me uncomfortable to even write the words. I’ve felt that my voice has no place in the conversation. Then I read “Please Stop Being a Good White Person,” written by a white mother of a mixed race child. By all means, please go and read it. I’ll wait. It made me realize that getting uncomfortable is a necessary step in the process.

Her words reminded me of the line from Jim Collins’ business book, Good to Great. The enemy of great is good. It reminded me of a scene from the movie Whiplash. “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”. – Terence Fletcher

Good is the acceptance of mediocrity and the status quo. Take, for example, Comedy Central’s the Daily Show. When I first started watching it, the program was just another late night celebrity talk show. The show was funny. It entertained. It was good. Then Jon Stewart was brought on board and he began to gradually shift the format. Soon he was challenging his guests, who were not just entertainers, with a well-timed joke or two. There was a risk that ratings could plummet, but instead the guests kept coming, and not just the people who agreed with Jon politically. Suddenly instead of more anecdotes, there were conversations on TV, albeit with a humorous spin. That was until Charleston. Jon Stewart wasn’t joking that day, and I find myself similarly unable to do several days later.

Taking down the flag is good. Renaming buildings and streets, as if that somehow changes history, is good. Taking up hashtags like #blacklivesmatter or #alllivesmatter are good, but I want us to be great. It begins with things like braving uncomfortable conversations. Conversations, not rants, put downs, one-sided praise, or public humiliations. This is not a political issue. Nor is this restricted to race, religion, or sexuality. This is, and has been, a human rights issue and good is no longer good enough.