Thursday, April 9, 2009

It Ain't the Same Old Pirates

UPDATE: I took the captain's name from the news reports on Thursday, where it was given as Mark Phillips. Captain Phillips' first name has been corrected to Richard. So please read Richard Phillips below instead of Mark Phillips. Also, I'm not sure if this will post again showing today's date or remain under Thursday. I need to tune up my geeky side. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
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There's no Penzance in the waters off Africa. No Black Pearl or Captain Jack Sparrow. No Captain Hook or Tinkerbell. As for real pirates, no Jean Lafitte or Blackbeard. No buried treasure.

Pirates have long captured our imaginations. We've romanticized them and dressed our children in pirate costumes for Halloween.

But yesterday Somalian pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama, a ship manned by an American crew. Pirate attacks off Africa are nothing new. These guys who hail from a dirt poor country have found a way to coerce a lot of money from shipping companies. Is hijacking ships on the high seas ethical? Legal? No. It's theft and extortion.

Has the world done anything about it? Not much. Last year some countries started sending ships to patrol the area. But it's a vast ocean out there where the pirates operate, and it would be impossible to cover all of it 24/7.

Yesterday it became personal for Americans. And for me. We have a friend who is a ship captain. And since he often sails off the African coast, we were naturally concerned for his welfare. It was a long wait until we heard Mark Phillips was the Maersk Alabama captain. Not our Charlie.

It's a different feeling when a tragedy or disaster has the potential to affect you personally.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mark Phillips and his family. And to the now-safe crew members and their families as well.

Let's not wait until another such attack gets personal for us. Next time it might not end as well. And as I write this, Captain Mark Phillips is still held hostage.

The Maersk Alabama was not a fluke. To the world, it was a wake-up call.

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