Opinion

The peacock on the plane

The boom in airline passengers insisting they must fly with 'emotional support' animals tells us something

This is the editor’s letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.

As you squeeze into a downsized airline coach seat that would be snug for a 9-year-old, you find a peacock in the next chair, warily eyeing you. Or a diapered duck. Or a pig (sans diaper). Or a large, growling dog. Absurd, I know, but entirely possible: Last year, Delta alone flew 250,000 service and "emotional support" animals brought by passengers who insisted they needed cats, turkeys, rodents, untrained dogs, and even a peacock to keep them calm at 30,000 feet. (The peacock, thankfully, was rejected.) Some of these animals have pooped in seats and aisles; others have bitten passengers and other support animals. If there's a single phenomenon that captures the spirit of this age, it's this one. As David Leonhardt put it in The New York Times this week, the support animal is one more piece of proof we live in a culture that "fetishizes individual preference and expression over communal well-being."

The credo of this culture is simple and shameless: I am the center of the universe. What I want is what I need, and who cares how what I need affects you? This worldview, unfortunately, is promoted and magnified by technology that encapsulates people in a bubble of personal preferences. Thus it is that public places are filled with oblivious morons loudly running their mouths on smartphones, or plowing down crowded sidewalks with their ears plugged and their downturned heads buried in texts. In fetishizing individual expression, social media has fouled the virtual public square with bile and menace. In national politics, there are no longer any commonly agreed upon facts, no basic standards of decency — just tribes fighting for dominance. If you disagree, you're an un-American loser. Am I reading too much into the story of the peacock on the plane? Perhaps so. But just wait until the next time you settle into an airline seat and there's a comfort creature with a sharp beak glaring at you.

More From...

Picture of William FalkWilliam Falk
Read All
Patrick Henry in China
Protesters.
Talking Points

Patrick Henry in China

Falling from the sky
Sam Bankman-Fried.
Talking Points

Falling from the sky

It will get worse
A view of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's house following an attack on her husband.
Talking Points

It will get worse

No, it's not over
A nurse.
Talking Points

No, it's not over

Recommended

10 things you need to know today: December 4, 2022
Oil fields being tapped in Russia.
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 4, 2022

6 outstanding homes built in the 1940s
House
Feature

6 outstanding homes built in the 1940s

United States knocked out of FIFA World Cup following 3-1 loss to the Netherlands
U.S. captain Tyler Adams kneels after his team is eliminated in the World Cup.
Heartbreak

United States knocked out of FIFA World Cup following 3-1 loss to the Netherlands

White House says there are currently no plans for Biden to talk to Putin
President Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2021.
At An Impasse

White House says there are currently no plans for Biden to talk to Putin

Most Popular

Once-a-decade critics' poll names greatest film ever
Movie theater
we come to this place for magic

Once-a-decade critics' poll names greatest film ever

Home of Iranian climber who competed without hijab reportedly destroyed
Rekabi in interview
Iran protests

Home of Iranian climber who competed without hijab reportedly destroyed

Houston police arrest 2 in connection with killing of Migos rapper Takeoff
Migos rapper Takeoff memorial billboard
'an innocent bystander'

Houston police arrest 2 in connection with killing of Migos rapper Takeoff