One of the best things about travel is you get a different perspective on what’s going on in the world.
You also get a different perspective on how the rest of the world sees Americans.
Keep in mind I’m on board a luxury cruise ship. This isn’t your seven day six night Carnival “fun ship” where it’s cheap to get on but expensive once on board. This is the kind of cruise for an older, wealthier clientele so of course it tends to skew conservative.
And then there is the flaming liberal, me, unafraid to voice an opinion and prepared by six years of vicious mudslinging to battle to the death on every issue.
Except I’m not. I am having insightful conversations with people of all political stripes that end more often with toasts to each others health than knives in each other’s backs.
Example: A self described “very right wing” British gentleman I met and had drinks with, (something becoming an oddity in itself in the US) was heard by me to utter “well at least you got rid of Trump” when the subject of politics came up.
That brought me up, as they say in the UK. “You didn’t like him?” I inquired. That lead to, gasp, a civilized discussion of politics and especially what it means to be conservative. He didn’t even fully approve of Boris Johnson but of course the British system means that while you may support and vote for the Conservative candidate in your constituency, sometimes one must have to gulp twice, smile through gritted teeth, and accept the leader of the party when he takes the office of Prime Minister.
Stiff upper lip and all that, don’t you know.
Meanwhile he was puzzled at how America could have fallen for, his words, “a carnival showman with no clear political agenda other than to stay in power”. I mentioned that not once but twice Trump didn’t win the election, but rather he won the Electoral College, another concept my friend from the UK was totally stumped by. I wanted to go into a history of that most peculiar institution, but more drinks arrived just then saving my breath and I’m pretty certain his sanity. We toasted each other, fist pumped, and moved on to other subjects.
Another example: A Canadian couple from British Columbia and I had a chat that swerved into the politics of Canada-US relations. Now these folks were more liberal than my UK friend, voted for Trudeau, and were totally aghast at what happened during the Trump years and in particular the way Trump had treated Trudeau. “He acted like our Prime Minister was a political novice who didn’t understand the complexities of foreign relations when in fact the opposite was true”. I pointed out that that was Trump’s modus operandi, to cleave his faults onto the other guy while proclaiming himself the “expert”.
“Well that’s certainly not the way to deal with others” they proclaimed, insinuating that type of behavior was more playground than political. Our conversation ended with smiles and fist bumps.
One last example. In Barbados we took a photography tour lead by a fairly well known Barbadian photographer. His politics were extremely vailed as he was in a professional situation. I will point out though that he was chosen to produce the official portrait of the new Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, which is only fair as she (yes, I said she) was the former pupil of his schoolteacher mother.
I asked him how well Barbados was dealing with COVID. He explained that at the first signs the pandemic had spread outside of Wuhan and threatened the entire world, the PM had immediately begun to prepare, turning a stadium into a COVID ward, implementing mask and social distancing protocols, and in general taking the disease much more seriously than many of the male leaders both in the Caribbean and around the world. That sounded familiar to me as it was exactly what London Breed the mayor of San Francisco did at around the same time.
Hmm, both are black women. Coincidence? But instead of this becoming a conversation about race it became a dialog about the virtues of these two women and how maybe a life of having to overcome obstacles men never had to allowed them both to be more empathetic and more willing to take potentially risky political stands. Of course the PM also had the advantage of a House of Commons that was more than a little dominated by her party. Like 100% dominated. Yeah, they hold all the seats and were reelected to that same majority just a couple of months ago.
And no one wondered about her emails.
The point is that in each case the conversation was civil, forthright, uplifting, and polite. No Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow or Joe Rogan or any other bombastic bromide. Just a pleasant, informative conversation between two people who don’t want to kill each other
Which of course is what political should be. So let’s have another cheeseburger in paradise