International discussions

(Written on 06 May 2007 - M/V Sea Hunter, Malpelo Island) During my travels, I often end up at the dinner table with folks from an array of different countries. Inevitably, we end up discussing politics and the role of America in the world. I've spent a lot of time with Swiss folks (some of whom are good friends), and I've found political discussions with them to be particularly frustrating. I've noticed that everything is either extremely obvious or amazingly unbelievable; there is no middle ground. Certain comparisons between Switzerland, Europe and the United States are easy to make, but the issues must be comparable. I often hear, "in Switzerland/Europe, we do XXX. In the United States, you do XXX. It's unbelievable!" What's unsaid is that the situations in the two countries are totally different -- so different, in fact, that it doesn't make any sense to discuss the stated comparison so simply. So I end up in the position of having to either state that there is no point to the discussion, or having to try to articulate the underlying differences that I feel make the comparison infinitely more complicated than stated. When Bush comes up in conversation, it gets worse. Much of the world doesn't understand that most of America doesn't support him. They bring up the fact that we voted him in office -- twice. I point out that he lost the popular vote the first time around, but I have no excuse for the second win (it confuses me as well, since I voluntarily live in a politically left area of the country).

Finally, when I'm out on boats in remote parts of the world, I just want to enjoy and document the wonderful marine life we're there to see.

I guess I could just hide in my cabin...