Friday, 18 February 2011

I don't get invites like this every day

Like this one. Do you want to take a tour of the Destroyer USS Halsey, anchored in Hong Kong waters?

Straight away, I say NO.

NO WAY are we touring anything called a DESTROYER. Kids, we stand firm on our PRINCIPLES. My position is here in black and white. Our presence on board might suggest we are somehow implicitly endorsing all US military strategy; that we give our personal sanction to the covert actions of America which probably help sustain indefensible states around the world; that the very presence of our toes on deck might somehow be taken as tacit approval of US operations which protect American investments and armaments trade most likely to the detriment of civilian lives and hungry kids; and that we all adore Mickey Mouse when, in fact WE DO NOT.


But damn, I am one nosy parker.

And this is an education.

Within seconds of that thought, the invitation to tour a US missile destroyer is completely irresistible. To get on board I must grab a fellow home educator's computer to sign ourselves up, and PDQ before the afternoon deadline expires.

So that's what I do. Which is how we find ourselves led under the skin of the USS Halsey.

Okay, I admit. It was one of the most interesting tours I have taken in a while. Not only for the talk about the big gun, missile launchers, control room, and sight of the folding helicopter. (Did you know they fold up? Helicopters fold up! It's amazing, right! But they do!)

The reason why the tour was so engaging was the crew. The crew on board were faultlessly straightforward, welcoming, humorous, acknowledging of questions, patient and thoughtful. Real people, in fact.

Damn. Not for one moment did any one of our touring crew come over as automatons, two dimensional robots, cardboard cut outs and parrots for US agendas. They expressed hesitancies, considerations and smiles. Damn damn damn. It is easier to be principled when humans do not mess up the black and white.

But then something even worse happened. They showed how fantastically trusting they were.

Get this. They let two dozen wide-eyed kids loose in a deck filled with LEVERS BUTTONS KNOBS DIALS AND SWITCHES.

Would you do that? Would you allow a single trigger-happy, curious kid with itching fingers in firing range of a control panel that could have been lifted straight from a Game Boy testing factory?

Seriously, as a grown adult, I was having difficulty controlling my impulse in front of a single lever with the caption SD768 OFF/ON.

That was one pretty amazing tour. Was it a charm offensive? Very likely. Did it work? Hmm. But to save my fragile principles, I'm calling it all an education. Yes, it led to an interesting discussion with the kids about balances of power, war, politics and conviction. That maybe left our principles intact. No way do we endorse the killing of civilians, the destruction of cities, nor the culture of warmongering for the selling of arms.

And I am sure to forget just how handsome was that young sailor. The one who made me wish I was aged twenty and had no principles at all.