on the Queen Mary 2, the largest cruise ship afloat, are threatening
to remain on the ship when it is scheduled to drop them off in
Rio de Janeiro after a voyage from Ft. Lauderdale. Propeller damage
delayed the ship after its departure, and the Cunard cruise line
had to delete three Caribbean and Brazilian ports from its itinerary.
are understandably disappointed and upset, and Cunard has offered
to refund half the price paid to every passenger. A minority of
passengers are reportedly unwilling to accept this offer, and
want all their money back or won't leave the ship.
In the interests
of full disclosure, I need to note here that I have been a frequent
passenger on Cunard Lines, both as a paying customer and as a
lecturer (no pay, but free passage). I have not yet sailed on
the Queen Mary 2, but many years ago I did make the trip from
Ft. Lauderdale to Rio de Janeiro on Cunard's Vistafjord. We did
stop at most of the scheduled ports, but rough seas prevented
us from landing on Devil's Island. We were having such a good
time at sea, that no one thought of protesting, much less starting
don't know yet all the facts, I don't want to take sides between
Cunard and the disgruntled passengers.
But I must
say that the analogy of this incident with the war in Iraq is
too irresistable to pass.
analogy, the ship of the United States has long since sailed into
Middle Eastern waters. After intervention in Iraq, the United
States runs into bad weather. Ship propellers are damaged. Whether
it was purely caused by nature or the captain and his crew, or
a combination of both, is not yet fully known, but the ship now
seems to have in sights its destination. All the passengers have
been inconvenienced. A small number have died. No refunds are
possible, of course, but the captain contends that a great reward
in the form of improved national security and expanded democracy
in the world will result after the present voyage. A minority
of the sailors say it isn't enough. They want the ship to turn
around, a short distance from the destination, and sail all the
in the richest and most powerful nation on Earth. In the past
100 years, we have provided to our inhabitants increasing and
unprecedented wealth, education, security, legal rights and technologies
that enable citizens to live much longer, better and freer.
years ago, the United States was a country with a small upper
class that dominated industry and society. A growing middle class
was beginning to emerge. Most Americans were poor and struggling
to find jobs, and when they had jobs they also had unspeakable
working conditions, low pay and long hours. They faced unfairness
and prejudice everywhere. The technologies of that era were so
primitive in terms of communication, transportation, consumerism,
health care and lifespan that any attempt to compare then and
now in terms of even adjusted dollar amounts is absurd.
to say, not everyone today in America has everything they want.
Not everyone has as much as everyone else. Not everyone makes
the same pay or has the same kind of job. Problems persist. Governments
procrastinate on important issues, such as Social Security and
pension-fund reform. Some persons commit crimes. Government officials
make mistakes, and sometimes a few of them break the law. The
world is a dangerous and violent place. We not only have rivals,
but we have enemies. Change, remedy and reform come slowly.
be nice to visit every port of call in the voyage of our lives,
but that's not the way the world works. Sometimes nature intervenes
with hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and pandemics.
our human shortcomings produce temporary dictators and totalitarian
corruption and incompetencedisrupt even democratic societies.
Is the solution
to jump ship or cause a mutiny? There are always those who are
perpetually opposed to everything around them -- their fellow
citizens, their society, their government. They are entitled to
their opinion, but they don't have the right to sink the ship.
In the 1930s,
there were many Republicans who resisted the changes needed to
meet the emergency of the Depression and the external threats
from European fascism. To them, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
was a liar and a traitor to his class. In the 1940s, 1950s and
1960s, most Americans joined gladly in the effort to defeat totalitarianism
from Germany, Japan and, later, Soviet Russia. In the first decade
of this new century, however, we have some Democrats who consider
President George W. Bush a liar, and who resist any and all policies
that he proposes.
made many mistakes, and some of his decisions in World War II
were wrong. President Bush has made mistakes, and some of the
war in Iraq has been mismanaged. We could say exactly the same
about President Lincoln in the previous century. Are we sorry
that the Union was preserved? Are we sorry that we defeated Hitler
and caused the Soviet totalitarian empire to collapse? Should
we be sorry that we are resisting terrorism and promoting democracy
in the world?
to recall where we are, where we have been and where we are going.
Unlike on the Queen Mary 2, no one really has the luxury of getting
off the ship when they want or getting a refund (tax cuts nothwithstanding).
We do have
the right to change the captain at designated intervals (and the
crew) but unless we act like adults, and not like children, we
will fail to notice the harmless-appearing tips of those huge
and dangerous glacial fragments now drifting down from the previously
frozen polar regions of the North.
Casselman writes about national politics for Preludium News Service.
(c) 2006 News World Communications, Inc.