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Volume 8, Issue 1                                    University of Houston
Pirates: plunderers of souls, rapiers of innocence

Blake Whitaker 
Opinion Columnist 

It's a widely known fact that Johnny Depp is an attractive man. Only the fringe lunatics of the scientific community and the most audacious of those normally hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners journalists on the E! channel would suggest otherwise. In Disney's 2003 blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp proved that even dreadlocks and a waif-like physique couldn't stifle his sex appeal. Or so my girlfriend tells me. 
Depp's pirate character is part of a swelling tendency to romanticize the seafaring scalliwags who thrived off plundered gold and freaked out on nutmeg like eighth graders on Robitussin. If you need proof, just look around -- it's nearly impossible to go out on Halloween without seeing a pirate costume; Sept. 19 is official Talk Like a Pirate Day. 

Even if you don't find yourself adjusting your pantaloons in a keg line on Halloween or spending one day in September making your dad wish he had been more careful, it's easy to see this pirate thing has taken off. And don't the kids just love it. Parents may smile and shrug the trend off, chalking it up to harmless fun. But not so fast, Mom and Dad -- that's the same attitude that killed Ricky Nelson and made Dick Cheney's daughter a lesbian. 

The simple truth is, pirates were not nice guys then, and they aren't nice guys now. In colonial times, pirates made a living off plundering other ships and often employed cruel tactics for fun and profit. Violence was a way of life for them, but many seemed to see it as a recreational pastime as well as a professional necessity. 

Take “keel hauling,” for instance -- when some pirate crews captured victims who weren't worth holding for ransom, they would tie them behind the boat and drag them until they eventually drowned. Infamous captain Blackbeard was known to kill crew members on a whim, and often cut off the fingers of victims to snatch any rings that caught his eye. 

Today, piracy is still prevalent. Pirates still attack ships -- one crew even made a failed attempt to board a cruise ship on Nov. 5 off the coast of Somalia. The International Marine Bureau reported 201 pirate attacks in the first nine months of 2005. And they're still dangerous -- 31 sailors and civilians lost their lives in pirate attacks in 2004. 

Though incidents have been reported off the coasts of several countries in Asia and Africa, a plurality of modern pirates works in Indonesian waters. They don't wear funny hats or say “matey,” but their modus operandi is the same as that of their predecessors. 

I don't want to ruin anyone's fun, but potential Pirates should know what they're getting into. Right now, the team is young and seemingly on the upswing. Budget restrictions will prevent that from lasting, though -- there are only so many franchise contracts to go around on a small-market team, and you're no Jason Bay. 

The point of this column is actually some heavy junk. You want to dress up like someone who killed and robbed people and inspired others today to do the same? To paraphrase a talking menorah, be my guest. Just don't come crying to me when the ghosts of Blackbeard's victims come looking for their rings, floating above your bed with their three-fingered hands in permanent shocker formation. Then, you'll be the one walking the plank … of insanity. 

Whitaker, a guest columnist for Breaking News, 

never wishes to discuss this column ever again. 
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