Binary thinking | Letter

May 10, 2017

Chuck Sigars correctly notes that “two seemingly contradictory notions” can plausibly reside in a Homo sapiens’ brain (“When truth sits in the wrong seat,” Chuck’s World, April 20).

In his stunning Vietnam novel, “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien writes: “War is hell; war is also mystery and terror, discovery and holiness, pity and despair, longing and hope.”

I gasped when Sigars cited the recent incident at O’Hare Airport as an example of duality. When a writer with a beautiful mind fails to recognize an atrocity, we are all in trouble.

The tale of United Flight 3411 was documented in a video that we all saw on network television. Semiconscious, his nose broken, some teeth knocked out, his glasses askew, and his stomach partly exposed, Dr. Dao was dragged down the aisle and off the airplane like a carcass consigned to the slaughterhouse.

Dao will recover from his injuries, but his psyche is damaged. Faint apologies from United Airlines executives and a payout of funds cannot make Dao whole.

We made jokes about flying in the 21st century, referring to the airplane as a cattle car, and saying that we have to bring spare change in order to use the bathroom and the overhead bins.

Now it is no longer funny.

Those of us who are old enough remember the adventure of flying. Peering out the window at dawn or sunset; flying through cotton candy clouds at dusk; having enough legroom to stretch out; comforted by pillows and blankets; treated with kindness and respect by the flight crew; seeing if we could catch a glimpse of Green Lake and the rooftop of our 77th Street house before landing at SeaTac.

Stewardesses (an outdated term, but valid in the last century) joyfully giving our children complementary wings, a token to remember the flight.

United Airlines’ brand, the “friendly skies” was meaningful.

The old memories have been replaced by the disturbing events shown in the United Flight 3411 video.

My fond memories ring hollow. They are outdated news, irrelevant and no longer true. It was just a paper moon and a house of cards, torn asunder and blown away, never to be seen again.

What remains is cynicism. Sigars believes that “Americans like inexpensive air travel” and we will forget the tale of Flight 3411.


I will never set foot on a United Airlines plane, even if it was the least expensive way to go.

Barbara Tipton


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