Who doesn’t love Jack Sparrow, the fictional pirate who swaggers around asking for rum, makes indecent remarks to the women in his life, and uses a broken compass to guide his ship? Costume shops sell Sparrow wigs and hats, and his likeness has been added to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Plus, Jack Sparrow has endeared actor Johnny Depp to a whole new generation. Plus, let’s admit, Orlando Bloom is pretty easy on the eyes, too.
The dollar store has pirate play sets (and, in fact, play a prominent role in my Peeps show), and little kids dream of fighting pirates (or being pirates) as they play in their backyards. This romanticized view of pirates is a lovely one, but completely inaccurate. Reading a book like Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly allows those interested to gain a whole new perspective on piracy during its height in the 1600’s and 1700’s (even the 1800’s) before the British navy and other countries took control of coastal waters. However, far from being a thing of the past, piracy is still present in the world today, especially off the troubled coast of Somalia.
Take, for example, recent news about a French yacht being hijacked by Somalian pirates. Thirty-two passengers and crew (22 French, 10 Ukranians) are in the grip of about a dozen heavily armed pirates. As I write, the AP reports that the ship is being moved to the pirates’ lair, where the pirates will probably demand a ransom for the precious lives of the passengers (full story). Just last month, a Russian tug boat was overtaken by pirates who successfully received a $700,000 random for the six crew members. The instability of coastal Somalia is due to the instability of its government, which has been engaged in civil war. Piracy is alive and well in the waters off the African coast, and hopefully doesn’t spread to all seven seas.
A group of modern pirates looking for trouble. Though their vessel is less than impressive, their amount of weaponry more than makes up for it.
As we conjure up images of “walking the plank” (an idea actually developed by playwright J.M. Barrie in “Peter Pan”) and buried treasure, let us remember that in real life pirates are terrorists (some in league with known terror organizations) murderers, rapist, thieves, and criminals. Though the fascination with pirates may never cease (nor should it–imagination is a great gift), let us remember those who are being victimized in pirate-infested waters and pray for their safe return.