Ship To Shore

We are a bit over halfway on our cruise across the Pacific–by far the longest such trip these old folks have ever taken–and the days at sea have allowed me to maintain a certain distance from the news of the day. Not that we can escape knowing about the wars–both the actual ones in Ukraine and Israel and the political ones in the United States–but the time differences and internet interruptions allow for a bit more space for reflection.

Most of the passengers on this voyage are–like us– elderly, and the entertainment tends to cater to our age cohort. For example, one night, as we were visiting islands in French Polynesia with their breathtakingly beautiful landscapes (and obvious reliance on tourism dollars), the ship’s “World Stage” substituted the 1958 film “South Pacific” for the usual live entertainment.

It had been quite a while since I’d last seen South Pacific, and what struck me most forcefully was how very contemporary its message has remained. If my math is correct, it has been 65 years since the movie was filmed, but the issues it addressed remain uncomfortably relevant: war, of course, but especially bigotry –the ways in which that bigotry gets transmitted and the ways in which it distorts our perspectives and our relations with other human beings.

If I had to guess, I’d assume that every regular reader of this blog is familiar with Lt. Cable’s famous lament, “You have to be taught to hate.”

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear—
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a different shade—
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate—
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

We haven’t come very far in those 65 years….

There have been several other “lessons” I’ve gleaned from being on a ship that is most often far from land. One is the recognition of just how dependent we passengers are upon the safety and sea-worthiness of that ship and the competence and care of its crew.

As I have measured my steps along the Promenade Deck, I’ve seen members of the crew working non-stop to keep the vessel in safe and seaworthy condition. Whenever we’re in port, the entire crew participates in safety drills–some focused on the lifeboats, others I don’t begin to understand–all of which they clearly take very seriously.

The analogy sort of writes itself.

We’re all passengers on two other, larger ships: the ship of state, and “spaceship Earth” –and we aren’t tending to either one with even a fraction of the attention and craftsmanship being displayed daily by the crew of this cruise ship.

My husband and I would not have boarded a ship run by a cruise line noted for its rejection of reality–a line managed by people who pooh-poohed the dangers of weather and navigation. I rather imagine that the people who comment here are equally cautious when choosing modes of transportation. We expect that airline pilots and ship’s captains will be trained professionals, that the mechanics and other crew members will have the requisite expertise and that they all will take their jobs seriously.

America’s Congress just elected a Speaker of the House who insists that the Earth is 6000 years old, that climate change is a hoax, and that all Americans should abide by his biblical beliefs. The systemic failures that led to his election will impede efforts to address the warming of the planet, and may well sink the ship of state.

I wouldn’t board a ship captained by someone who trusted his version of deity to steer a course. I wouldn’t board a ship being maintained by an untrained crew–especially one that inhabited an alternate reality in which the sea’s dangers went unrecognized. I wouldn’t board a ship on which the captain and crew cared only about the safety and well-being of passengers who looked like them and shared their religious beliefs.

I’m very much afraid, however, that both of those larger ships we humans share–the global one and the political one– are sailing in turbulent and life-threatening waters.


  1. Alas, unlike cruise ships and airplanes, where we have a choice whether to board and travel on them, we’re pretty much stuck on the two great ships. The new House speaker’s solution to major problems is to pray. I personally am praying that my vote and the votes of others who think like me—and you—are effective next year. Our lives literally depend upon them.

  2. When we visited New Zealand several years ago, we stopped at a small beach town on the west coast of South Island called Hokitika. I joked with my wife that I needed to call home and have them send all our stuff, because I wanted to stay there. Ha. Ha. These days I wouldn’t be laughing.

    Sheila, do you have someone who can send all your stuff? Nobody would blame you… well, maybe that super-patriot Ian would.

    Enjoy your time at sea and in one of neatest countries you’ll ever visit. They tend not to teach hate there.

  3. And they’re taught, from very early on, and taught not to question, to not think for themselves, to “Just Believe.” For far too many of them, whatever has happened, or happens, is nothing but “God’s plan.”
    Our new speaker is showing what intransigent, insistent ignorance can do to a person. From his point of view, I will guess, all is just fine, after all his god-thing elevated him to this prestigious position…probably because he is a deserving super Xian. And if Louisiana continues to loose land to the sea, and then sinks into the sea, well, what the heck, it’s part of the Plan.
    So, as a captain of his ship, he just puts the thing on auto-pilot and goes off to pray.

  4. Sheila – almost poetically sad today. And there are few places to run to…virtually all the “democracies” are under threat from their Rights. The planet, the idea of democracy, a caring human race – all at war with a vague Halloween monster unleashed from within us…

  5. I was on a river cruise in Germany many years ago, when the pianist played “YMCA” . The whole crowd got up on it’s feet and sang and gestured along. I just laughed. One of the people I had befriended asked what was so funny. I told him I was laughing at the irony of 120 old white Republicans singing a gay anthem. If they had a clue, they would’ve been horrified. I guess some people don’t listen to the lyrics they sing.

    That, of course, is beside the point. You don’t have many discussions about politics on most cruises and that’s a good thing. You have an opportunity to refresh your mind and pretend that all is well in the world. You’re not bombarded with bad news 24/7. Enjoy this small break in your everyday world. Have fun!

  6. The Pacific is probably one of the safest places to be cruising outside our waters. Enjoy your trip.
    I Cor 13 is probably agreed to by Jeffries and Johnson. I hope they work well together.
    In regards to Jihnson being a young earther? Science is based upon observations that is where we test our theories out and make proofs. The problem with old earth science is it is now being challenged by new observations. Rocks from mount Saint Helens are being sent to be dated. Those dates are coming back at 2.5 million years when we know these rocks are less than 50 years old. So what is the new baseline through observation science?
    Also whst young earth scientist are putting forth as an observation is that some dinosaur bones when examined many have collagen in them. so how long does collagen last in bones.? Theoretically, less than 200,000 years.
    These are only two observations that are being discounted by the scientific community in general
    Because it doesn’t fit with their old first earth assumptions that were created around the time of Darwin,
    . Anyone who stands by young earth observations is being shamed and humiliated. So, when a representative johnson looks at these and comes to the conclusion that there is a young earth he is shamed and discredited by the media at large for being a young earther? Let me give you another example… National Geographic for example came with the analysis of DNA in human beings and and the history of humans as being less than 250,000 years, possibly 50,000 years. So do we shame National Geographic and all geneticists tgat look at this data. What about biologists today that are binding discoveries That point towards creation, science,? Aren’t these people also being shamed or they also been afraid?
    We live in a shame based world. And it appears that represent Johnson because he has certain viewpoints he’s going to be discredited and shamed?

  7. Sheila – I hope your itinerary calls for a stop in American Samoa, a real personification of the theme of the old movie South Pacific. I also hope you have a stop in Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand, where my wife and I thought of moving to, though a terribly destructive earthquake since would have cooled our then ardor.

    I crossed the Pacific from San Francisco to New Guinea and islands north of there twice during WW II, and with the zig-zagging to avoid Japanese submarines it took longer to get to where we wanted to go. I was what then was called a “deck ape,” which among other things such as standing sea watch and steering the ship, was a sometime loader on a 40 millimeter with a standing order to take the shooter’s position if he were killed or injured – which didn’t happen.

    The Pacific is a big ocean: It gives tourists such as you and Bob time to sit on the deck and eye such a watery expanse in peace while contemplating the human condition. Have fun!

  8. My friend, you have a talent for exceeding yourself. This was one of those poetic moments when the stormy wrath was tempered by calm reflection.

  9. You do have to be taught. I notice that our new Speaker of the House is young Earth creationist, a believer in the Rapture and Armageddon, and a represser of female sexuality. And of course if you don’t believe as he does, you will be tortured and writhe in agony for all eternity because you rejected HIS god. Someone must have taught him well.

  10. Our birthdays are close and we usually take a trip to escape reality around this time of year. We went to the coast of Spain and sat on the shore and listened to the waves come in last week. Checking in briefly on news sites helped clear my distraught heart regarding the wars. I can’t watch reports from war zones anymore. It’s flashbacks to Vietnam and worrying about my brothers, classmates and neighbors surviving their tours from the 60s. Traveling far away cleanses your being and everyone should be so privileged to do it.

    I have found that there is no paradise unless you can take all your loved ones with you. Those refugees leaving wars zones are fleeing for their lives and we selfish Americans don’t want to help them because there are some among us suffering and they should come first. Why can’t we do both? Ask those “conservatives “ that…can’t we do both? Our democracy depends on it.

  11. John S, your examples of young Earth are simply not true or distortions of the truth. Someone is lying to you.

    Even if there were, however, bits of evidence that may contradict current scientific theories, science would respond to that, investigate, test and experiment, and adjust the theories as necessary. That is the beauty of science — it is not a declaration of truth, but a search for truth. Religious belief, on the other hand, requires faith, which means believing things without evidence. I could point to literally tens of thousands of reasons that the assertions of Catholic Christianity, for example, can NOT be true, yet hundreds of millions of people still believe them.

    Do you see the difference there?

    Science strives for and adapts to truth, while religions ignore and defy it.

  12. Sheila –

    I hope you and Bob are enjoying a relaxed atmosphere on the ship, along with all of the beautiful sights.

    Thanks for today’s reminder that hate must be taught. I’m grateful for being raised by parents who showed no bigotry or racism.

  13. I had not seen that lament before. It affected me more than I would have expected. I had tears burning in the corners of my eyes. I still can’t stop thinking on it.

  14. Over it. “Science strives for and adapts to truth, while religions ignore and defy it.” Perfectly stated!

  15. After the unanimous Republican selection of Election Denier Johnson to fill the second to the president in presidential succession, I have a question > Where are Guy Fawkes and Oliver Cromwell when you need them?

  16. Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

    “Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

    He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

    Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;

    but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.”

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