AMERICAN AIRLINES’ PUBLIC IMAGE GIVES SATAN A RUN FOR HIS MONEY
Really, American Airlines is one of the few entities that already has a worse public image than Satan anyway.
By now most people are probably familiar with the Friday Buzzfeed story about a woman nearly kicked off an American Airlines flight over her “Hail Satan” t-shirt. This is also how I learned what a rabbithole the “Satan” keyword page on Buzzfeed is, but let’s deal with one outrage at a time.
On an October 30 flight from Florida to Nevada (here we pause to tabulate the sheer number of omens already at work in that setup) the crew hauled passenger Swati Runi Goyal up to the cockpit to recount her sins.
Per Buzzfeed, Goyal is a member of the Satanic Temple, but an offended flight attendant took an adversarial position on her shirt and insisted she cover it up. Appeals to the Prince of the Power Of the Air apparently didn’t pan out.
American Airlines has since apologized by way of Vice President In Charge of Humiliating Apologies Ross Feinstein.
Keep in mind, American Airlines is the same company that so often harasses black passengers that the NAACP gave them a straight-up scarlet letter in 2017. Is it possible to operate a business whose entire suite of practices consists of red flags?
It should go without saying, but a private business can’t eject you just for being a Satanist–at least not until Brett Kavanaugh sobers up enough to sink his claws into those precedents somewhere down the line.
But the legal advice site Legal Zoom points out that while “you cannot deny service to someone because of his or her race, color, religion, national origin or disability,” non-arbitrary discrimination like “a dress code to maintain a sense of decorum” might be okay.
American Airlines’ single-sentence advisory for passengers reads, “Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.”
Let the record show that the right to bear feet shall not be infringed.
Obviously this is so non-specific as to be useless, but it’s a common non-standard all the same. At Christmas In the Park, we’re under similar obligation not to create any ornaments for our tree with “offensive” words or images. But what in Ba’al’s balls does that mean?
Black’s Law Dictionary says that “in the law relating to nuisances and similar matters, ‘offensive’ means noxious, causing annoyance, discomfort, or painful or disagreeable sensations.” Apparently I’ve had a sound legal case against Jimmy Fallon for decades and didn’t know it.
Is a pentagram offensive? Not fundamentally; it’s just basic geometry, and the history of the symbol stretches back thousands of years even before its association with Satanism and black magic.
It was even a Christian symbol for a time, and the Mormon church remains EXTREMELY DEFENSIVE about its use of pentagram imagery to this day.
Of course, it’s very obvious we’re not using it that way. We’re definitely using pentagrams in the most godless, Satanic, blasphemy-guzzling way imaginable.
But that means the offense lies not in the image but instead in the speech behind it, which I assume is why the city hasn’t sent us any emails. Well, that and they’re afraid of getting a death curse for Christmas.
On the other hand, we’ve noted here before that traditional, mainstream religious imagery is WAY more graphic and upsetting than Satanic symbols. Millions of people in America kneel to the suspended corpse of a latter-day religious extremist weekly or daily.
Some enumerate his gruesome wounds. Others openly discuss eating flesh and drinking blood to attain eternal life. This is not normal.
Except it is. In that very specific context, and with the benefit of social privilege and thousands of years of enforced tradition.
Comparably, the phrase “Hail Satan” is pretty benign. It can be a statement of personal affirmation; it can be a greeting or a farewell; it can be (as Goyal says) an ironic or satirical statement, or a sincere expression of Satanic principles.
It can even be a really awkward way to say grace at Thanksgiving with certain relations you never want to have to put up with again.
But the one thing it’s not is normalized in American society to the degree that, say, Jesus’ flayed corpse is, which is why one of those things can get you kicked off a plane and the other just gets you a brimming donation plate.
We might call that two-faced or hypocritical, and…yeah, we ain’t wrong. But at the same time, we’re all mired in that gray area, all of us find something offensive that others do not.
How then do we balance the ideals that inform our occasional sense of indignation with our concessions about their subjectivity?
In most cases, we don’t. We’re just like American Airlines (a cursed phrase if ever there was one…), just winging it with a vaguely worded policy and hoping that most days it doesn’t come up.
The Satanic Temple’s Seven Tenets offer some guidance on this, but it’s tricky too: “The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.”
This one is the problem child of the list, often the subject of abuse and bruisingly stupid Internet quarrels.
But at its heart, the statement is (or should be) a simple acknowledgement of the unhelpful, unaccommodating, unholy complications of living in a society.
Swati Runi Goyal’s shirt didn’t really offend the American Airlines crew; Swati Runi Goyal herself is what they don’t like, and the shirt is just what tipped them off about it.
Just showing up, being who we are, and existing in the world is itself sometimes provocative. The world is not built to accept everyone at face value. And yet, everyone is very much a part of the world.