Saturday, November 30, 2013
As I write this post, mobs of anti-government protestors are invading and occupying government offices throughout Bangkok. Their leader, a former MP named Suthep, has vowed to bring down Thailand's elected government by tomorrow night. For the past week, marches and demonstrations, marked by the screeching taunt of blowing whistles, have blocked streets and caused chaos in the capital. Tens of thousands of Thais from Bangkok and the southern provinces have gathered around the Democracy Monument to listen to fiery speeches denouncing the "tyranny of the majority" and calling for an end to elections, and an appointed government under the authority of the king. They are allied with the Democratic Party which has not won an election since 1992. What unifies the protestors is hatred bordering on mass hysteria of one man, Thaksin Shinawatra, as well as his sister, Yingluck, currently the country's prime minister.
Until the hatred of Thaksin is discussed, debated, resolved and put to rest, Thailand can never advance beyond the political crises that have paralyzed it over for over a dozen years.
Below: I happened on this mob outside the Royal Thai Police headquarters. Later it was learned that protestors had cut electricity to the facility and also to the hospital next door. Soon there will be a response to such vandalism and it won't be pretty.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Fifty years ago this week, my first wife and I were staying at my parents' house in western North Carolina. We were recovering from a train crash a few days before on the border between Texas and Louisiana. A woman in a pickup with her son and dog had driven into the third car back and derailed Southern Pacific's Sunset Limited from Los Angeles. We were in the lounge car talking with new traveling friends on a sunny Sunday morning when the train car started jerking and tipping over. Aside from a few cuts and bruises, the passengers survived, but the occupants of the truck were killed instantly.
And yet...1963 is inescapably etched in my memory and in that of others in my cohort who remember what they were doing the day President Kennedy was killed. My wife and I were moving from Berkeley to New York City to begin a new adventure. Eventually we would continue on to Europe. We were in our early 20s and relatively fearless. The comfortable Fifties were giving way to new possibilities, and the symbol for the Sixties was our young president from Massachusetts and his fashionable wife. I had chosen Kennedy when I voted in my first election two years before.
My parents were not particularly happy with my choice of a wife. We'd gotten married earlier that summer by a Justice of the Peace in Laguna Beach. "Living in sin" at our Berkeley apartment, where we pretended otherwise, made her insecure to the point of hysteria, and I imagined that legitimizing our relationship might help (it did, but only for a while). My mother, who got up daily at dawn to mop the kitchen floor, would stand outside our bedroom door talking loudly in hopes that her new daughter-in-law would awake and join her. But that was not to be.
There's no denying that fifty years is a long time. I've already lived out the three score and ten years allotted to me in the book of Psalms. The difficult part is making sense of it as a whole. Like the simplistic definition of history, it was just one damn thing after another. A friend recently asked me to play the game of posting some little known facts about my life; her's were all fascinating. I couldn't come up with any. One's life is never a singular event when it is contemplated from within. We're the only animal that can stand outside itself and see how it measures up to an imaginary standard. I can chart the distance by comparing points in time and noting the difference. Sometimes I fear that the outcome is rigged.
In November of 1963 I was a skinny lad of 24 with a bit of experience as a journalist ready to scale the ladder of success in Manhattan (my second attempt). By the spring we were living in a garrett apartment in Greenwich Village on Christopher Street. I was writing for a broadcasting trade journal and my wife was a copy girl for Women's Wear Daily. She was friends with Eric Van Lustbader who was on the staff a dozen years before his first fantasy novel. A year later we were living in London where our son was born. I wrote about TV shows for a regional magazine and she stayed at home as an unhappy, unfulfilled mom.
I can write easily about now and then, but it's the in-between years that escape the thread. How did I get from there to here? Were the choices I made at the time random and accidental, or was there a purpose to it all? Often it's the harm I've done to family and friends that stops all thinking in its tracks. If karma is real then punishment must be delayed for it seems I've lived a charmed life.