No True Escape from Politics

Day 73, Grand Asia 2017

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017 – At Sea

Most of us were taught never to talk politics and religion at the dinner table. In the United States today, the topics can be hard to avoid. As a former newspaper reporter and editor and more recently an editorial columnist, I had become obsessed with politics over the last two years, and frankly I was looking forward to getting away to sea.

The cruise has been full of activity and distractions, but if you turn on the stateroom TV for news, you have a choice of CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News and BBC. For straight news, BBC is the best, but of course isn’t so U.S.-focused. CNBC is mostly financial, and because our time zones have been so far from home, it has a lot of international financial coverage.

MSNBC and Fox are 98 percent commentary, so no real news coverage. I favor one, but try to watch both to get some semblance of balance. It really doesn’t work that way. I find it hard to believe they cover the same universe.

Each day we get an 8-page New York Times, which does a pretty good job of differentiating between news and opinion. And the newspaper’s website is always free from the ship because it partners with Holland America. So that’s where I go for news. I miss my daily reading of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Dallas Morning News.

At dinner and other occasions, we generally have followed the maxim of avoiding political talk. At one meal, which must have been shortly after the Washington Post reporting on Alabama candidate Roy Moore, a man at our table for eight brought it up and said it wasn’t possible that the women would remember something that happened 40 years ago. I couldn’t help but to blurt out that if something that traumatic happens, you never forget. After a bit of an awkward silence, the conversation turned away from politics.

This afternoon a couple of people were checking the New York Times website from the library to see if the Alabama results were in (we are four hours behind Alabama). I think they each were looking for different results. By the time I went to dinner, most news outlets had called the election for Doug Jones. Our group of five learned we all were likeminded in our political approaches, and we celebrated the victory with a bottle of wine.

I’m sure other quiet discussions of politics have occurred around the ship, but the universal approach has been to enjoy our trip and avoid those topics that might divide us. And with all the ports we have visited and stories we have to tell, that isn’t difficult.