"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, November 13, 2010

American Splendor: Of Cruise Ships, Veterans, and the Meaning of Sacrifice

Am I the only one to find it strange and disheartening to see soldiers overshadowed on Veteran's Day by tales of survival from a cruise ship? On Thursday morning, the Carnival Splendor was towed into port in San Diego after a fire in the engine room knocked out electricity, stranding passengers without hot food, hot water, or flushing toilets for almost 72 hours.

This hardly sounds like my ideal vacation, especially given that there were 250 "magicians" on board (which is admittedly a step up from 250 clowns), and you can bet I would want my money back. I hesitate to call it a "nightmare" though, as many news articles have been quick to refer to it. Nightmares on ocean liners look like the Titanic or the Lusitania. Not being able to use the swimming pool or get room service, that's inconvenient but hardly an unspeakable horror.

If you want to hear about real sacrifices, about going without hot food or showers for weeks, talk to a soldier. If you want to hear miraculous stories of survival, I'd refer you to a veteran except many of them would rather keep their personal stories to themselves. You might want to read John McCain's autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, not to be confused with Barack Obama's Dreams from my Father (sadly Americans these days appear to prefer dreams over faith). The men and women of our armed forces have given more than we could ever imagine. Complaining about being on a cruise ship for two days that's serving free beer and wine because the toilets are backed up is a field trip in comparison.

I only bring this up because the story of the nightmare cruise became the story of the day when we were supposed to be honoring our veterans. And because I had to read quotes like this from passengers interviewed in the New York Times:

But it was even more difficult for the vegetarians on the ship, said Eric Newman, 27, of Ventura, Calif., who was on his first cruise, with his sister. Mr. Newman said that while most of the crew members had been exceedingly cheery, one snapped at him when he asked for extra salad or fruit. In the end, Mr. Newman said, he marched to the kitchen himself to find something he could eat.
“It seemed like they were not at all prepared for anything to ever go wrong,” he said. “That’s just arrogant. And it made everything really hard.”

Leave it to the Times to give us the vegetarians perspective of suffering on a day set aside to pay tribute to the sacrifice made by so many families who worry about their loved one during wartime, not to mention those who fight for our freedom. Is it just me or has Veteran's Day lost a little of its significance to the mainstream media ever since a Democrat became Commander-in-Chief? After all, when was the last time you heard about Cindy Sheehan?

It seems like just last week we were marveling at the resilience of the human spirit as we pulled trapped miners out of a shaft in Chile who had been stranded half a mile below the earth's surface for 69 days. I'm pretty sure they didn't have hot water and would have killed for a pop tart or cold sandwich. But leave it to pampered American tourists to make two and a half days on a luxury cruise ship seem like the equivalence of sacrifice.

Maybe we should send some of these folks to Afghanistan for a few days just so they can appreciate how good they really have it. Actually, it's because we have soldiers willing to go to Afghanistan (or anywhere really) that America has it so good.

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