July 29, 2021

Saturday Morning Soapbox

malaysia air flight
Original image by planegeezer/Creative Commons via flickr

I’m sitting at the bar in Salt Lake City International Airport listening to Kid Cudi while enjoying a Bloody Mary accompanied by a side of toast (it is 9AM). My bartender’s name is Andy and he is a pleasant enough fellow, although our single serving relationship got off to a rocky start. We each made the egregious mistake of inconveniencing the other while trying to navigate the bevy of passengers and scattered luggage. Me, iPad in hand, trying to get to the bar knowing I had an SMS deadline to meet before my flight takes off. He, a tray full of beverages filled to the brim for a table full of impatient hipsters who look like they could be fresh off of the set of Pretty Little Liars or whichever Shore MTV intends on filming at next. Our near collision was the very definition of an unstoppable force colliding with an immovable object. Who was gonna blink and move out of the other’s way? Normally I would have moved immediately but the annoyed hate filled glance he threw me set my stubbornness in motion and I dug my heels in. After a brief reprieve we gave each other the most subtle of head nods and went about our way, each excusing the other.

Long winded intro? You betcha. That’s the point of a soapbox. Follow along; I promise that I’m going somewhere with this.

I’m sitting at an airport, so naturally my thoughts are with missing Malaysia Flight MH370 and the 239 souls on board. Watching the mystery unfold as new details emerge is better than any episode of television I have ever seen. Exactly what happened to that flight may never be known but new evidence suggests that the plane was deliberately veered off course and there is the slight possibility that it may have even landed somewhere in ace real Asia. What amazes me just as much as the mystery is the worldwide response. Governments and nations have banded together in search of flight 370. Why?

As I mentioned above, there were 239 passengers and crew aboard flight 370. 239 lives probably lost in this event. As of July 2013 (the most recent data available), the United States Census Bureau (USCB) estimated that there were 7.149 BILLION people on the planet. Even if we were to assume that each missing passenger had 100 people directly impacted by their having gone missing, that’s only 23,900 lives directly impacted. That is just a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the worldwide population. Why expend the effort?

Projected world population through 2050
Projected world population through 2050

The pessimist will tell you that the only reason countries have banded together in search of flight 370 is because they understand the necessity of air travel for their economic livelihood and have an inherent need to convince the public that air travel is safe. This is a moot point. We travel daily knowing the inherent risk, but more greatly appreciate the benefits and convenience of air travel. To point: A plane recently crashed upon takeoff in Philadelphia and, after a delay–documented by a selfie tweeted from the crash site, followed by another tweet stating “I almost just died”–the majority of the passengers got onto a new plane and continued along their merry way.

The logical realist will tell you that the search is necessary for insurance purposes and conspiracists will tell you that the search is a government cover-up. But I’m here today to propose my own theory: The reason for the worldwide collaboration is the inherent good of man.

“The reason for the interest in flight 370 is our realization of how easily this could have been any of us. Our lives could change forever in an instant, and I believe the outpouring of support is a reflection of what we would hope for if it ever happened to us.”

I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve spent time around people across a myriad of cultures and religions. I’ve stayed in homes with people whose languages I couldn’t speak. I’ve tried foods and drink I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to try. Through all of these travels I realized that, for the most part, we all want the same thing out of this life we have.

We want to work our jobs allowing us to provide and be able to pursue those things we hold valuable and find fascinating. We want to raise our kids safely and see them grow to be happy, productive members of society. We want to break bread with our friends and family while exchanging stories and making memories. Most of us want someone to hold at the end of the day–a confidant we can build a life with.

The reason for the interest in flight 370 is our realization of how easily this could have been any of us. Our lives could change forever in an instant, and I believe the outpouring of support is a reflection of what we would hope for if it ever happened to us. Why did flight 370 go missing? We may never know and that hampers our efforts to help ensure it never happens again. But we will keep looking until we exhaust all possible leads. But let’s assume for a minute that the worst happened and that someone, for ideological or personal reasons, hijacked the flight and crashed it into the ocean. Would this negate everything I just said about the goodness of man? No. Not even close.

2009 Boston Marathon leading woman
Scene from the 2009 Boston Marathon. Some 36,000 runners are expected in April of 2014. Original image by Stewart Dawson/Creative Commons via flickr

To paraphrase Patton Oswalt’s eloquent statement after the Boston Marathon bombings, every now and then a virus arises that tries to harm the well being of this unified body of man and we in turn arise like white blood cells to attack it. Sometimes the virus survives (I won’t say wins), mutates, and tries to attack from a different angle but I can always count on the goodness of men to prevail. Two men bomb a marathon and two thousand respond to provide assistance. One man steers an aircraft off course and the world responds trying to find help those in need.

We all have our good days and bad days. That jerk who cuts you off on the freeway when you’re already behind schedule. Your blood boils and you wonder aloud where the cops are in moments like these. I guarantee you if that jerk lost control of their car and was involved in an accident, most of the people reading this article would pull to the side of the road to try and render aid. It’s what we do because we’re humans and inherently, despite what you may have heard, we’re good. Flaws and all, we remain inherently good.

As the world’s most famous zombie once said, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I just wish more people wouldn’t wait for tragedy to strike before enacting this principle. As for Andy, he showed me how to know when your Guinness is ready to be drunk post-pour (by tapping the side of the glass with a quarter), and I made sure to tip him well and tell his manager what a great job he did serving me. Being a super human doesn’t require rushing into burning buildings and scouring the globe for survivors. Usually it’s a lot of the little things that benefit the whole.

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