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Cruises to Nowhere: 2 if by land, 1 if by sea, 1 by bus.

May 8, 2014 - Austin Porter
About a decade ago, a colleague of mine drops by my cubicle with a book written by Bill O'Reilly. Reading it will “change your life,” he claims.

I was familiar with Mr. O’Reilly. I’d watched his show, seen him on C-Span promoting and debating, caught him on other television shows, had even tried to read one of his earlier books, so I figured I knew where he was coming from and wasn’t interested in revisiting the issue. Having a conversation with Bill, which is what you do when you read a book, seemed like a cruise to nowhere.

But I agreed to read this life changing work if my colleague would read something I suggested. After reading them, we could spend a lunch or two discussing them.

“What? Something by Michael Moore?” he replied

“Nope. I don’t go to people like Michel Moore, or Bill O’Reilly to find out what’s happening in the world.“ I suggested he read “The President of Good and Evil: Questioning the Ethics of George W. Bush” by Peter Singer.

“I couldn’t waste my time,” he responded.

Just as well. Whenever we talked about anything, I invariably felt like I was on a cruise to nowhere.

A few months back, my wife and I went on a short cruise. When dining, we always choose open seating in order to share dinner with a variety of different people.

One evening, we ate with a young woman, a graduate student, who was studying politics at George Washington University. I asked her what she thought about what was happening in the Ukraine. An older gentleman, in other words a person around my age, who had shown me photographs of his accomplished children and lovely grandchildren, suggested that if George Bush and Dick Chaney were running the show, Putin would be leaving the Ukraine alone.

I pointed out that when President Bush was in office, Putin invaded Georgia, and he didn’t do much of anything because there wasn’t much of anything he could do.

“You’re thinking of Carter.”

For a moment, it seemed to me that he thought Putin was running the USSR when Carter was in office, or was confusing what was happening in the Ukraine with the failed attempt to free the hostages. But maybe he just thought I’d forgotten that Carter was from Georgia.

Who knows what he thought. I thought, “I’m on a cruise to nowhere.”

I used to ride the bus down Columbia Pike to the Pentagon Metro. There was a guy reading Ann Coulter’s “How to talk to a Liberal (If You Must).” He was about half way through when I asked him if it was a good read. It was.

So I told him that although I hate labels (and my postmodern self does), I was a liberal, and if he wanted to practice what he was learning, I’d be happy to oblige.

I guess he didn’t feel that he “Must” so he didn’t. Another cruise to nowhere.

I know that after speaking with me, some people may feel that they’ve just been on a cruise to nowhere. And when that’s happened, I feel I’ve dropped the ball. I probably wasn’t listening as well as I could have, sounded too argumentative, didn’t go into the discussion with the understanding that some of, if not all of my opinions on a particular subject might be mistaken. Didn’t try to understand another person’s point of view, even if I disagreed with it from start to finish.

That’s always a lost opportunity when that happens. After all, we’re all on this Cruise Ship called United States of America. And if the passengers aren’t willing to engage, jaw it up, share with each other our hopes and dreams and solutions then we’re in more trouble than many of us think. We’re on a national cruise to nowhere.

Shiver my timbers.


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