Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thoughts on the Maersk Alabama piracy case

Captain Phillips is safe, and I am elated, because of incidental ties to many of the players: U.S. merchant seaman from Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and the U.S. Navy. They represent values and standards thought by many to be passe; thank goodness they are still alive and well in some parts of our society.

As my brief bio mentions, I attended the United States Naval Academy for several months in the 1970's. I entered in 1972, when respect for military service was at a low. At a time when service people were being spat on in airports, my classmates and I got our heads (nearly) shaved and started learning how far we could stretch ourselves, and the importance of being there for our classmates (and knowing it was mutual).

I got through plebe summer and the first academic semester, which I was told was "the hard part." Although I chose to leave, I left with an enduring respect for the service and the people who comprise it, reinforced by first-hand experiences with the officers and midshipmen I was privileged to know.

Fast forward thirty-plus years. My son applied to and entered Massachusetts Maritime Academy. MMA is part of the state college system, with major differences. The school is organized as a military academy: incoming freshmen endure an intense two-week orientation modeled in part on the national service academies, then continue the regimentation into the academic year, with morning formations, inspections, uniforms, and the like. The goal is to instill the responsibility and dependability into men and women who will someday have to depend on each other in trying or hazardous situations at sea.

It amazed me that non-military college students were willing to put up with it, but they do, and as civilian college students they are in a class unto themselves. MMA students are rightfully proud of their educations, and great representatives of the school with core values sadly lacking among their contemporaries from more "respected" schools.

[I'm sad to say my son flunked out of MMA, but I think he now recognizes that he learned valuable things there and earned pride in accomplishments nobody can take away from him.]

Moving to the present, I see all those ideals, treated with "derisiveness" (to quite Obama) by modern liberals, lived out by Captain Phillips and his rescuers. Captain Phillips put himself at risk on behalf of his crew, and you could see the mutual loyalty reflected in his crew after they had been freed and he was still captive. The Navy SEALs put themselves in harms way to position themselves to rescue Captain Phillips, and, when the moment came, all acted decisively and courageously.

I am thankful to live in a society that can still produce people such as these, in spite of the popular sentiments of the day, and proud to have been a member of the community even for for so short a time and so long ago. I resolve to be more worthy of the sacrifices they are willing to make, and remember, when the air conditioning isn't working right or bonuses aren't being paid, that there are more meaningful definitions of "adverse working conditions."

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