Chopper pads

The two tall condo buildings to the right of center have chopper pads on their rooftops. The condos are marketed as having the ability to get you into an air ambulance quickly in the event of a health crisis. One wouldn’t want to die like a commoner in the back end of a grubby ambulance stuck in perpetually-gridlocked Bangkok traffic, would one? The deck is always stacked in favor of the one percent.

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A rare meal cooked indoors

When we’re on the road we get a few luxuries. Olive oil and lime juice to sauteé the garlic and shallots, then stir-fry the carrots, fuk-tawng and corn, some green olives and a diced yellow mango thrown in at the last minute. Served over black rice. Yes, we have gained weight with this no-meat diet over the past year.

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An open letter to a political hopeful

Dear Candidate,

I notice that you often reference your faith when speaking of the reasons you should be elected to public office.

I assume that you do not mean faith in science, since science is mostly about certainty and probability, not faith and desire. When you describe your campaign as being “faith-based”, I assume you mean that you have faith that there is an all-powerful Big Guy Who Floats in the Sky, who’s invisible but who tells you how I should be living my life.

Do I understand that correctly? I may’ve overlooked some subtleties peculiar to you, and if so I apologize.

We all have the inalienable right to believe in whatever invisible beings we wish. So I say: go for it. But when people who want political power believe in all-powerful Big Guys Who Float in the Sky, I worry. What’re they going to think their Big Guy is telling them to do? How will these unpredictable instructions affect me as a constituent?

History is replete with examples of silliness and chaos and horror unleashed when good people believe their Big Guy compels certain actions.

  • There’s a Big Guy Who Floats in the Sky who tells us that men can magically transform bread into actual human flesh … but women don’t have the magic.
  • There’s a Big Guy Who Floats in the Sky who tells us that gay people should have their heads chopped off with swords at public ceremonies.
  • There’s a Big Guy Who Floats in the Sky who tells us that women must be veiled, their genitals maimed by crude surgery, and must be killed by their brothers if they are the victims of rape.
  • There’s a Big Guy Who Floats in the Sky who tells us that women must never touch male religious people, and that women must not enter sacred places while they are menstruating.
  • There’s a Big Guy Who Floats in the Sky who tells us it’s okay to elect to the presidency a guy who laughingly bragged about sexually assaulting women.
  • There’s a Big Guy Who Floats in the Sky who tells us that wearing my cotton-polyester teeshirt is a sin.

I could go on, but I think you get the message.

Elected officials are immersed in crowds of people, all telling them what to do. Their staff, their donors, constituents, lobbyists, colleagues. Everyone has an agenda as they try to coach or manipulate the elected official to say or not say something, to change their position, to cast a vote this way or that. Sometimes the agendas are hidden, but at least the advice-givers are visible to all of us.

Don’t get me wrong: I know we’ve had some great leaders with good hearts who accept instruction from their own Big Guy. And there are terrible leaders who are secular. When there’s an electoral competition between two such extremes, my support always goes to the person with heart.

Most of the time, though, when people in politics promise to follow the instructions of their own version of the Big Guy,  my respect diminishes as I question their common sense and their intellect. Public officials with an all-powerful, invisible advisor who floats in the sky?  That’s scary for all of us.

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Some time in Bangkok

The Peace Corps has a midservice medical exam for its volunteers which, among other things, requires a 3-day tuberculosis test. This is not nearly as odious as the parasite check at the end of service which requires seven days of daily, um, samples — called “poop week” by volunteers. So, as we hang around, I’ll post a few pictures for your amusement.

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