For the past week or more I've been hearing the Buffalo Springfield in my head, as I read what's going on in the city I now call home. Maybe it's distance that is making me look at this situation differently--maybe it's the everlasting naivete of the '60s that still scars me--maybe it's the curse of eternal optimism. I'm beginning to support a side and it's one that I never thought I would lean toward.
I want to believe that people who were injured and those who died on April 11 did so for a cause that is greater than a pissing match between a telecommunications mogul and a media empire-builder. I want to believe the farmer in Isaan who was quoted in today's IHT, saying, "This is not for Thaksin, this is for democracy." He then defined democracy as "The majority chooses the winner."
Isaan has always chosen the winner in Thailand's elections, but with ballots that were no longer their own. The value that people in that region have traditionally found in their votes was the amount they received by selling them to the highest bidder. If the current political situation gives rural Thailand the knowledge that they can control their own destinies with the power of their combined votes, then this is a movement to be proud of.
The stand-off in the streets of Thailand's capital is easily categorized as rural against urban, but the poor in Bangkok have as much to gain by what is happening now as their Isaan counterparts. My comfortable Bangkok life, and those of people who live in circumstances far more privileged than my own, is based on a minimum wage that scrapes the bottom of the barrel.
There are families in my neighborhood who live in one bedroom of what used to be a single-family dwelling. A live-in housekeeper receives a wage that is a shade more than 100 US a month, plus a room of her own. Not far from where I live families live in tin houses by the sides of canals that stink and many of the people who live there make their living by selling food and trinkets and flower garlands by the sides of some of the most polluted roads in the world.
There are days when I come back from a walk in Bangkok praying for a revolution--a real revolution--not the kind that lets the leaders of one side take the marbles from the leaders of the other and keep them all for themselves. Thailand deserves better than that--everybody, rich, poor, red-shirts, yellow-shirts, urban and rural.