April 24, 2007

Ship of Fools

In the middle of the South China Sea I’ve discovered that I am on a cruise entirely filled with self-serving members of the Republican Party.

I didn’t realise that we had a few ‘Liberal Democrats’ on the ship until enduring repeated comments from the more voluble of our passengers, former advisers, trade attaches and men who made their money from oil. I’m stuck on a floating cliché.

Over dinner I sat through the garrulous rantings of a rotund Houstonian. Conversation focused on a handful of attractive women on the boat who were looking for some action, as though tattooed on their foreheads. The evening ended with a bottle of Hennessey and a very generous box of cigars, shared amongst six men who didn’t look like they were going to see any of the action themselves.

The clincher was a southern gentleman who was bigger than Texas with an accent wider than the Mississippi. In long drawn tones he laid out the misgivings of his seating arrangements earlier in the evening, having been sat next to the pretty young philly from New York. Not only was the hapless girl a damned Yankee but her extreme liberal persuasion made her an entirely unsuitable conversation partner for dining.

She apparently was not considered to be worthy of seeing any action either, and the last drops of cognac were emptied into glasses and thrown down like swill.

Most of my conversations aboard the ship have the potential to create enemies, as the majority of passengers are fervent believers in the good sense of President Bush and the righteous manner in which the American forces have conducted themselves to make the world a safer place.

These people have described to me the excellent conditions at Guantanamo Bay, a prison of comfort and privilege. They deny the liberal media’s representation of torture and abuse and tell me that ‘proper reports’ have shown otherwise.

These people are keen to point out that no-one has attacked the USA since 9-11, due to the deterrent force of the US military. They seem to overlook Madrid, Bali and London in this testament to how the world is a safer place.
These people blame the media for showing such graphic pictures of the combat and wounded soldiers – this is war after all and ‘they declared war on us’!

For a group of travellers so keen to learn about the history of war in the Pacific they seem to be very flexible with recounting the history of more modern events.
But not everyone on the ship are obnoxiously tragic fans of the conservative right.

Strangely enough the two historians and authors, who are the lead identities in telling the story of WWII in the Pacific, are both of liberal leaning. It is with begrudging respect that our compliment of Bush barkers sit back and listen the telling of history, a balanced and factual account of the greatest conflict the world has ever known.

The lessons of a war sixty years old are no less relevant today.

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