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I Didn't Throw Ralph Nader Overboard | The Nation

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I Didn't Throw Ralph Nader Overboard

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I finally have a moment to write.

Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of dispatches from The Nation's Cruise, plying the glaciered waters off the Alaska Coast July 27-August 3. Expect more in coming days from Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Nation contributors Doug Henwood, Liza Featherstone, Patricia Williams and others.

About the Author

Annabelle Gurwitch
Writer and actress Annabelle Gurwitch currently prognosticates on both politics and pop culture on National Public...

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As Sarah Palin goes back to Alaska, take a moment to appreciate some other Sarahs.

Incessant cries for help--and money--from people running campaigns are destroying my peace of mind.

We've arrived at Sitka where my son and I are going on a kayaking expedition, which will be a change of pace as I'll only have a 9-year-old correcting me today! I have learned on this cruise that to voice an opinion is to invite a thousand dissenters; perhaps The Nation should consider offering some kind of degree after completing the cruise.

I mean this in only the most positive way. Nation cruisers are a most impressive group. By the second day I had lost my badge, was wandering the ship with dinner rolls in my purse, slightly seasick; meanwhile, my fellow cruisers were up and about organizing ad hocs, passing out petitions and looking for me so they could either recommend a book to read, challenge my ideas on why the labor moment has become fractionalized or exhort me to join their Temple study group.

Here are some of the highlights I've observed during the cruise: a woman leaving a dinner in a huff after a dinner companion spoke in her opinion disparagingly of "the gays." Ironically, the "a gay" who was also seated at the table found the whole thing amusing but enjoyed the drama. I challenged my table to see if we could incite that kind of ire last night. Sadly, although we had a number of heated debated during dinner, no one felt the need to leave in protest--but there's always tonight, so who knows!

I heard that a woman got very angry during an ad hoc with Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Scheer over comments Dreyfuss made about Israel and stormed out. Where do the people go who storm off? They form their own ad hoc groups. This may be the only organized seminar where everyone wants to and could very well lead their own ad hoc. Marilyn French was in the audience of one seminar in which I was on the panel.

A very passionate man stood up at the end of the panel I participated in on global warming and declared that we were all sugar-coating the issue, that we weren't going to make it, we weren't instilling enough fear in people.

I thought Mark Hertsgaard and Doug Henwood handled his comment very well when they noted how paralyzing fear can be. I also felt that Mark had laid out the issue so articulately and with great gravitas, but the moment was certainly Nation "old style" and just when you're in danger of the rocking of the boat lulling you into complacency, you can count of someone unexpected. Like when a gentleman followed me into the sauna to continue talking about my overly flippant remarks about American consumption. I knew I could outlast him in the heat, so that may have been an unfair advantage on my part in that discussion.

Intense gentleman gave the first question after the global warming seminar advocating higher taxes on gas and bemoaning the fact that the Democrats in Santa Barbara, where he lives, felt this will hurt the working poor. I spotted him later in the evening; he had no such problems with Barnaby the juggler at the 10:30 pm lounge show. Damn, if only we had juggled his comments as well as Barnaby.

I have gotten to sit on panels so far with incredibly knowledgeable and impressive people; I even got to observe Ralph Nader's note-taking. At first I thought he was totaling his expenses, as he was writing down numbers in rows, but no, he was simply pulling facts and figures out of his head.

I have to admit, I had announced my intention to push Ralph overboard for his role in the last election, but he is so impressive and I can't but wonder who will take his place as citizen advocate. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has completely charmed and elevated every discussion he has been in. I would perhaps consider moving to Utah when the Mormoms give up their prohibition against coffee--I just can't live without great espresso--but he does make a compelling case.

Perhaps my favorite moment occured last night during Barnaby's juggling act. He brought up a 10-year-old girl from the audience and asked her what she thought of global warming. She said it was bad. He asked what she was doing about it. She replied, Telling people it was bad. I thought about what we were doing in our seminar. Were we doing anymore than that?

Well, not me, as I am a mere comedian, humorist, but I am very happy to know that people like Rocky and Mark are doing more than just talking. Mark is educating, bringing attention to solutions, Rocky is legislating change and we have Doug egging them on, holding them to greater accountability.

On that note, I would like to publicly apologize to Doug for asking that his baby be brought to the stage so we could see if he had on disposable or cloth diapers. All in good Nation discourse, right, Doug?

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