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Steven Slater

No, I’m not going all pop culture on you. Don’t worry, Lindsay Lohan posts will not be forthcoming.

I’m fascinated with how quickly Mr. Slater has become a national hero.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, let me give you the background. Mr. Slater was a flight attendant with JetBlue. He snapped a few days ago when a passenger was abusive toward him, after he asked her to follow FAA rules and remain in her seat until the plane stopped moving. The passenger refused to apologize for her rude behavior, so Mr. Slater did what none of us would do – he took to the PA system on the plane to curse her out, bid farewell to a 28 year long career in the airline industry, grabbed a couple of beers from the galley, deployed the emergency exit slide, and slid off the plane.

I say that none of us would do this because it wouldn’t occur to most of us. If it did occur to us, it would probably end at being a lovely, reoccurring revenge fantasy.

But what he did isn’t the interesting part to me. The interesting part is that he’s become a national hero. I’ve seen at least three Facebook groups dedicated to lionizing him. Every news story I’ve seen is full of praise for Mr. Slater. Everyone seems to be on his side. This is particularly interesting to me since, the rude public that he pushed back on is us! Let’s be honest here, we’ve all taken out a little aggression on a flight attendant or TSA officer for making us abide by some stupid arbitrary rule, haven’t we? So why are we all jumping on the “Steve Slater is a hero” bandwagon when we’re essentially the public that put him over the edge?

He’s a hero because he’s one of “us” in the battle of “us versus them”. He’s every working man, standing up against a shitty job that doesn’t pay enough to compensate for the grief that comes with that job. We’re collectively angry at corporate America for the situation that we find ourselves in. We viscerally know that our precarious job security, plummeting home value, and diminishing 401ks lay squarely on the shoulder of big business.

We’re all pro-Steve Slater because we’re as anti-corporate as we’ve ever been.

It’s just interesting to me that when politics is taken out of the equation, Americans generally agree on most issues. To be pro-Steve Slater is to be pro-labor and yet, we’ve been led to believe that Americans aren’t pro-labor because unions are evil.

Let me go off on a union tangent for a moment. 8% of American workers today are union members. Unions get their “strength” from union dues. They’re what fuel union lobbying efforts. Let’s think about this for a minute. 8% of blue collar Americans are union members. So 8% of Americans are paying some percentage of their salaries in union dues which, in turn pay for union activities (of which lobbying is a small part). Are we to believe that unions have more power than corporate interests? Really? HOW? I have yet to hear someone explain how that math creates an equation in which unions are the big, powerful interest group that has ruined everything.

But I digress. Back to Steve. He’s our hero because he stood up to “the man” in a way that most of us want to. And he doesn’t (didn’t) even work for a a company that is generally regarded as evil! He works (worked) for a company that is generally well regarded and yet, we’re elated that he stood up for himself. We’re elated because we’re vicariously standing up for ourselves through him.

Maybe we need to stop framing our issues in political terms, and start talking about what we want to change and how we want to change it.

This artificial right/left divide that has been created is designed to keep us fighting amongst ourselves so that we don’t pay attention to who is doing evil unto us. We’re told to hate the Mexicans, the gays, Obama, black racists, and everyone that isn’t like us. And a certain segment of America is happy to jump on board because they’re angry about the situation they find themselves in, and are happy to hate whomever they’re told to hate. Figuring out who’s responsible takes more work than following Glenn Beck’s chalk board scribblings.

But those people aren’t really angry at the gays, the Mexicans, the blacks, or Obama. They’re angry at the same people that those of us that pay attention are angry at.

The lionization of Steve Slater proves that.

We need to learn from this and reframe the debate and close the false divide that has been created to divert us from the real issues.


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