Published August 12, 2010
Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who hurled obscenities through the PA system of the plane he was working on, then deployed the emergency chute and slid into media stardom, needs two things more than stardom:
1. He needs a complete psychiatic evaluation to see whether or not he is abusing alcohol or illicit drugs or may be suffering from a major mental illness like bipolar disorder.
2. Barring any findings of a mental condition that would deprive him of the ability to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law, he needs to go to jail, hopefully for a reasonably long time.
Word is that Slater was enraged at a passenger who swore at him and whose overhead bag somehow tumbled onto his head. That, along with whatever ill will he felt about serving as a flight attendant for years, supposedly led to his tirade.
Well, guess what? Flight attendants are supposed to be available to help passengers, even the irritable ones. They are supposed to honor their employers and the other patrons of the airline by following protocols if a passenger is unruly. They are supposed to respect the safety equipment that might save lives one day, not deploy it in a narcissistic rant.
I know we are a nation dealing with unprecedented economic challenges. I know people are being asked to work more for less, in many cases. I know that people go to their jobs worried about keeping their homes and paying tuitions and feeding their families.
Against this backdrop, Steven Slater showed the opposite of what we hope for as Americans from those struggling along with us. He took center stage, cared not a lick for the fact that his employer happened to have hired him and paid him a salary and probably gave him health insurance, cared not at all that children would hear him scream obscenities while holding up a can of beer, and cared not at all that airports have seen terrorist events and that personnel might well be traumatized seeing a jet unexpectedly deploy its inflatable slide.
In other words, Steven Slater showed reckless disregard for everything and everyone, except serving his own ego and rage.
The fact that thousands of Americans have flocked to defend Mr. Slater may speak to their own frustrations with work and family responsibilities, or it might speak to their desire to bask in his unfortunate moment of fame with him. They should be ashamed to be associated with him. They should be mortified.
If we want to be a nation of children who act out for the camera—frustrated bank tellers who might decide to throw bags of money in the street, angry waiters who decide to pour water on patrons, bus drivers who abandon their routes and climb to roofs of their buses to enjoy some cold beer and give the finger to anxious parents—then we’d better understand what we are abandoning. It’s not the America I know where people have always doubled down in their willingness to work harder, be kinder and find a way to stay aboard, not bail out.
Send Steven Slater to prison. Let our kids see that when adults act outrageously, they get time outs, just like they do. But for adults, it’s called going to jail.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for Fox News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His book, “Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty” has launched a new self-help movement including www.livingthetruth.com. Dr. Ablow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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