Swimming From Cambodia

I’m not sure what they’re smoking in the editorial offices at the New York Times, but it can’t yet be legal in the Empire State.  And it probably never should be.  How might we best describe the decision to publish this particular vacation travel article at this particular time?

  • tone-deaf
  • callously insensitive
  • completely clueless
  • just totally fucking oblivious

I didn’t think our Mediterranean vacation could get much better.  [We] had already swum several miles a day through astonishing turquoise waters off Kas, a remote village on Turkey’s southwest coast, where cliffs soar up from the sea, the soft air is scented with jasmine and views of the glimmering bay are downright therapeutic.

Amid a ring of seven islands, our group of open-water swimmers glided alongside limestone coastlines, the sunlight spangling the underwater landscape of smooth boulders and serrated pillars.  We swam over marine forests swaying in the current.  We crossed into the open sea, pulling rhythmically through a panorama of royal blue, a laser show of sunbeams funneling into a gleaming ring in the depth.

“It’s like swimming in the sky.”

That’s right, at a time when hundreds of Syrian refugees have been drowning in the Mediterranean as they attempt the ocean crossing into Greece, the Times decides to publish a puff-piece celebrating an American family’s weeklong swim vacation idyll in Turkey amid “translucent waters under mighty peaks … arcing our cupped hands into the water in unison, catching views of one another with each breath.  It was bliss.

Life-is-but-a-dream

Out of thirty-seven paragraphs, only one sentence buried halfway through the article acknowledges the elephant in the room:

The captain of the daily ferry between Kas (Turkey) and Meis (Greece) said that of the roughly 400 refugees crossing the water into Greece each month, most of them from Syria, 10 to 20 brave the [ 5 kilometer ] swim, waiting for nights with no moonlight so they would be undetected.

But quick, let’s change the subject, avert our eyes, and return to fantasies of paradise:

We swam a foot or two above the cragged shelves of submerged rock, as if soaring over canyons.  We would swim about 20 minutes and stop to rest and drink from water bottles or to check out a turtle floating below, some passing trumpet fish or another otherworldly seascape.  One minute we were peering underwater at the waves plowing fizzily into an island’s limestone bank; the next, we were in open sea more than 100 feet deep, as if drifting through an indigo dome, with no bottom in sight.

This sudden queasiness I feel isn’t seasickness, it’s utter disgust.  I can (resignedly) accept the fact that wealthy Americans are willing to blithely disport themselves in exotic Third World locales while the locals quietly starve within their quaint hovels.  I can (somewhat) sympathize with the staff of the Times travel section, who’ve seen their usually-reliable winter season ‘escape’ destinations suddenly rendered off-limits, ravaged by Zika virus.  But this is too much.  America’s haste to aid the Saudis in their Sunni reconquista has blown back in a big, big way and Syria’s little people are paying the price.  If you’ve already forgotten little Aylan, there are plenty more just like him washing ashore on those craggy limestone beaches.  For them, another kind of paradise awaits.

beachhead

 

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