Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Rudeness Up High

It's awkward enough blogging about something which occurred well over a week ago. It's even more awkward when I have to agree with Ilhan Omar. Awkward, and uncomfortable. 

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, who agreed with the Minnesota congresswoman approximately 90%, is even more on target. He wrote

Ilhan Omar was right. In fact, it’s not even close. That will come as heresy and apostasy to those now feigning moral indignation over a tweet the Minnesota congresswoman sent out on Sunday. But that makes it no less true. 

In the video Omar shared — about its origin, little is known — a man with a guitar stands in the aisle of a crowded plane singing a Christian worship song. While some passengers sing along, others seem annoyed or studiously ignore the commotion. A little boy plugs his ears. It all moved Omar, a Muslim born in Somalia, to write: “I think my family and I should have a prayer session next time I am on a plane. How do you think it will end?”

The answer, as any honest and intelligent person well knows, is that in a post-9/11 world, it would end with them tackled to the floor and duct taped to their chairs as the pilot radioed ahead to the nearest airfield requesting permission for an emergency landing.

Personally, I think it more likely that there would have been a request and serious attempt to disband the prayer group, which probably would have been successful. Only if it weren't would there have been violence and permission requested for an emergency landing. Still, point well made.

Pitts notes that Omar's comments prompted a torrent of hostile and/or bigoted responses, which

affirms that so-called conservatism remains a doctrine of hate, it also raises a telling question of entitlement, of who gets to do what in the public square. 

Take religion out of it for a moment. Imagine a group of rappers held a rap battle in the aisle of a transatlantic flight. Imagine some bickering couple had a loud argument about his infidelity or her infertility. Imagine a troupe of actors performed a scene from Shakespeare. 

Imagine, in other words, any scenario in which a group of people is held captive to a disruptive performance they did not choose and cannot escape. Do that, and one word suggests itself with crystalline clarity. 

Rude. That’s what every principal in those imagined scenarios would be. And it’s what the singers on that plane were, too.

Exactly. It comes down to courtesy. The singers deny the right of the fare-paying customer to be left in peace to read, sleep, or talk to the individual sitting next to her. As David Doel can be seen remarking here, "all people want you to do on flights is to sit down and shut up for the duration of the flight. That's all the vast majority of people want."

Pitts recognizes

It bespeaks a certain level of social privilege that this seems not to have occurred to them, that they never questioned whether they had the right to commandeer the public square and take hostages, never stopped to think there might be atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans, Jews or, for that matter, even other Christians on that flight who had no interest in hearing them sing. 

It’s unlikely the experience brought any of those people to Christ. If anything, it probably drove some the other way.

It is a matter of privilege and, to Pitts' credit, he doesn't refer to it as "white privilege" or "Christian privilege" or invoke any adjective. It's the perception people increasingly have that they are entitled to do whatever they can get away with.

Emphasizing that the performers demonstrated "a show of their entitlement," Pitts adds "Omar’s tweet was on the relatively narrow issue of a double standard against Muslims. But the larger issue is about the hubris that comes of being at home in every setting, of never having to ask permission."

More reprehensible yet, the behavior prompted me to praise, or at least largely agree with, Ilhan Omar.


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