Thursday, October 06, 2005

Life in Bush's America
A woman is kicked off her flight for insulting the president.
Southwest Airlines kicked a woman off one of its flights over a political message on her T-shirt, the airline confirmed Thursday, and published reports say the passenger will sue.

Lorrie Heasley, of Woodland, Wash., was asked to leave her flight from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore., Tuesday for wearing a T-shirt with pictures of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a phrase similar to the popular film title "Meet the Fockers."

A spokesman for Southwest Airlines told CNN that the airline used the "common sense" approach when they decided to escort Heasley from the plane in Reno, Nevada, during a stopover between Los Angeles and Portland, Ore.

The airline felt that the T-shirt was offensive and that other passengers would be outraged by it, the spokeswoman said, adding that the incident is about "decency."

The story makes no mention of anyone actually complaining. Heasley and her husband went through the checkin line, security screening, and were boarded onto the plane without incident. The plane left took off from Los Angeles and flew part way to Reno before anyone had a problem. Ms. Heasley wasn't causing a disruption; in fact, she was asleep for most of that leg of the trip. Then the airline told her she had to cover up the shirt or get off. When they left the plane, halfway home, they were not offered a refund for the unused portion of their tickets.

When the powerful are caught in an embarrassing situation like this one in Bush's America, how do they respond? That's right. They lie about it.
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Marilee McInnis told the Gazette-Journal that the airline's contract with the Federal Aviation Administration contains rules that say the airline will deny boarding to any customer whose conduct is offensive, abusive, disorderly or violent or for clothing that is "lewd, obscene, or patently offensive."

FAA spokesman Donn Walker told the newspaper that no federal rules exist on the subject.

"It's up to the airlines who they want to take and by what rules," he was quoted as saying. "The government just doesn't get into the business of what people wear on an aircraft."

We have one of two things happening here and neither one is very pleasant. One is that some little blue-nosed tyrant within the airline (possibly on the crew of that plane) is being allowed to dictate policy for the airline and strand travelers who don't conform to their version of morality. Remember, none of the other passengers complained. The other possibility is that the airline, like much of the broadcast media, has decided to exercise preemptive censorship, lest they be the subject of a complaint by Brent Bozelle.

Sure, Heasley showed bad taste in wearing the shirt in the sort of place where children, fundamentalists, and Republicans might see it. But bad taste is not a crime. None of us would have survived back to school shopping in high school if was. And she didn't do anything threatening or alarming, like carry a MacDonald's bag into the bathroom.

It goes with out saying that I think we should all wear vulgar, Bush insulting garments when flying on Southwest Airlines from now on.

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