Friendly Skies

In life, we often take it for granted that the skies we fly on are friendly ones. Last night I kissed and hugged my mom farewell and she went off back home to Florida on a redeye flight. She took her flight, had her bags packed, all with the assumption that although it might be hard to sleep on the trip [1], that the trip would be safe, that the plane would have its mechanical systems properly checked, and that there would be no violence along the way. Although from time to time there are violent exceptions to the ordinary course of events, for the most part we have a great deal of trust that our lives will be peaceful and friendly when we go about our normal activities like flying and driving, enjoying the experiences that travel provides and trusting that we will not be in harm’s way along the way.

There are times when this sort of expectation is rather seriously dashed, though. A few days ago, a passenger plane traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lampur was shot down over Eastern Ukraine by a Russian-made missile system in what appears to have been a deliberate attack by Russian supported separatists. These incidents are not very common. Since 2000, there have only been a few such incidents, most of them (like this one) occurring in known conflict areas: a couple in Iraq, one in Somalia, and last week’s incident was the first since 2007. During the Cold War, such incidents were more common given the global nature of a world in a constant state of fierce tension. As a result of the crash, all airline flights over Eastern Ukraine have been suspended, and Malaysia Airlines’ horrible year has continued in the worst way [2], entirely without their fault, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time around the wrong people. Time and chance happen to us all.

As world travelers, many of us expect that we will be safe wherever we travel. We expect that as peaceable American citizens on some kind of private business, or even humanitarian service work, that we should be largely immune from the fallback of bloody coups or civil wars. We generally work very hard not to take sides in such matters, even where we might have a curiosity in such affairs, and by and large are pursuing our own business with the expectation that this will not lead us into harm’s way. Most of the time, this is a sensible position to take, but at times our faith in our own safety no matter where we travel is rather rudely shaken by circumstances. How do we deal with the reality of the fact that we are not immune from the troubles around us? To what extent does it motivate us to try to build enclaves of safety in an unsafe world, or attempt to wrestle with the fact that no one is entirely safe as long as anywhere is unsafe.

Whenever I have traveled, I have behaved with the expectation that despite the differences between myself and others, that there was at least almost always the potential for friendly relations. I have, by and large, sought to be friendly with the widest number of people possible, at least to the point of civility and politeness, and superficial conversation, while those who are close to me in some fashion I like to be friends with to a deeper level, to the extent possible, through lengthy and deep conversation. Planes are good places to get to know people at least somewhat well, as one can learn a lot from watching what someone eats and drinks, what sort of books they read, what sort of music they listen to, or what sort of movies they watch when they are given many choices. What is done with this time for interaction remains up to the people themselves, whether they choose to make the skies friendly or not. Hopefully we choose wisely.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, History, International Relations, Music History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Friendly Skies

  1. Pingback: The Customer Is Always Right | Edge Induced Cohesion

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