Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Sadly, travel is not a universally effective cure for those maladies.
We were joined at table for dinner two nights ago by two couples. Like virtually everyone aboard, these folks were seasoned travelers. Christine and I seem a bit unique as we have traveled only one other cruise together and never with Viking. We have found that most people we have spoken with are cruise veterans and Viking “frequent fliers”.
In the course of enjoying our meal, conversation wandered across a broad range of topics. It was inevitable that travel experiences would be among them. One of the ladies began to speak derogatorily about “those Chinese”. She exercised no restraint in assigning a whole list of negative characteristics to over one billion souls, oblivious to the possibility that those characteristics might not apply to every person of Chinese descent. More disturbing was that many of the highly professional wait staff are oriental and one of these servers was tending another table immediately behind and within easy earshot of the lady.
Christine and I exchanged glances and using our spousal ESP, jointly began talking about one of our favorite topics, grandchildren.
Thankfully, we were successful in redirecting the conversation, or so we thought. When it came out that we had 10 grands and that the births included a set of twins and a set of quads, the gentleman from the other couple quipped, “Well, you folks are certainly doing your part to preserve the white race!”
Dinner was near its end, as was our association with those folks at table. I am usually one who does not want my silence to be misunderstood as an affirmation of something another person has said. Under the circumstances, I have concluded that silence and declining to further engage in conversation was the appropriate course.
I believe the evenings experience to be an aberration. Assemble 900 random people and the spectrum of beliefs and prejudices will be well represented. Our friendships are not random and so we tend to be surrounded by like minded acquaintances. It is worth remembering that our personal beliefs are like the ocean horizon, other beliefs do exist well beyond the range of our own, and are held as firmly by others as we hold to ours.
One a much lighter note:
The day included early morning exercises, breakfast in our room, a lecture on pirate history (really fascinating! Spain and a Portugal looted over 500 billion dollars of wealth from the indigenous people, that’s as measured in current dollars, the largest transfer of wealth to that point in history.), team trivial pursuit, and high tea. Music in the Atrium, then dinner tonight at 8, followed by a performance by tenor Lee Bradley.
Peace Everyone! Pete