By Bryce Potter
As I write this, I'm staying with a friend in Northampton, Massachusetts. Some of you may have heard of the multiple arsons which occurred last weekend. My friend's apartment is square in the middle of where all of those fires were set. Just keep that in mind as you read...
It's interesting that in all of the furor over the attempted bombing of Flight 253 on Christmas Day that the news media, the administration, and everyone else involved seem to have forgotten the most important part of the story. The man was subdued by passengers. Good, decent people who just happened to be on that flight, who stepped up and took on a threat to their very survival. Good people. They'd make good sailors. We know the value of teamwork, and the folly of expecting someone else to fend for our own safety. There is no 911 on the ocean. No police, no fire, no hospital. Help, if any, could be days away. We take care of ourselves, just as those passengers did. We expect no help. In 2005, Pride of Baltimore was dismasted off the coast of France. No rescue was needed. Just a few months earlier, Bill of Rights nearly suffered the same fate, only surviving by the Grace of Neptune and the fact that we did not have a square topsail. Despite having no bobchains, we saved ourselves. We didn't even start our engine, merely suffered through a long downwind run with no headsails in decent seas, which anyone who's steered a schooner can well appreciate. There are numerous other instances of sailing vessels suffering disaster or near disaster, and dealing with it themselves. It is what we do. It is who we are.
During the rash of fires this past weekend, the local fire departments were overwhelmed. According to news reports, they ran out of trucks to send to fires. At least one of the house fires was quenched by neighbors, dashing out into freezing temperatures with fire extinguishers and buckets, saving as much as they could of their neighbors houses. They, too, would make good sailors.
Too many of us, though, are too willing to sit back and let someone else do the hard, dangerous work. Too many don't want to deal with these problems which upset their ordered, precise existence. These, we must teach by example. Our society has fallen too far into the dangerous complacency of allotting our safety and security to "others." Why? As a society, we can take responsibility. We, as sailors, who are used to it, need to lead by example. We know how. Too many others have forgotten. By your carriage of yourself, by your actions, by your compassion and by your insistence on shared responsibility, remind them. We all live here together, we are all connected on this great ship, the Earth. We must lead. We are not the fringe. We are not backward. We are the cutting edge. We have the power to lead our planet back out of the dark age of greed and complacency that has us in its grip. Our time is now.