I woke up one morning last week and realized that Yingluck Shinawatra was now the Prime Minister of Thailand. Pinch me. Slap me. A bad dream becomes reality. Is this another episode of that absurd soap opera known as Thai politics, or a harbinger of worse things to come?
You know, it would be a marvelous thing to celebrate the fact that Thailand now has its first ever female prime minister, a sign perhaps that Thailand is growing up and that government is no longer just another good old boys club. But the fact that Yinkgluck’s party was elected by Thai voters is no sign of anything, other than sheer nepotism and the return of a dubious cadre of well-connected politicians.
Yingluck is unashamedly a proxy for her older brother, the controversial ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. She was even referred to as “my clone” by Thaksin himself during the campaign. I’ve heard it said that it’s a shame that Yingluck won’t be allowed make decisions on her own without consulting big brother. But maybe that’s for the best. Yingluck is a political novice who has never held elected office of any kind. She has held staplers and fashion magazines. As an “executive” in the Shinawatra family’s telecommunications and property development businesses, it’s not clear what she exactly did. But hey, whatever it was, it’s apparently enough to make her a valid head of state in the eyes of the voting public.
As frustrating and silly as things can get here in Thailand, I keep thanking my lucky guavas that I’m not living back in the USA, where citizens are trying to salvage their sanity — and bank accounts — amidst the latest crippling waves of political and economic turbulence. Barack Obama seems keen on proving that he can be just as awful a president as George W. Bush was. That may sound like an absurd statement, seeing as how Bush was one of the very worst US presidents ever, but the reality is that Obama is doing a pretty awful job of his own so far. Granted, he has been hamstrung by obstructive Right-Wing Republicans and misguided Tea Party loonies, but his inability to prioritize job creation, his well-intentioned but horribly-executed health care plan, and making too many concessions to the Republicans in the recent debt ceiling fiasco, all make for a fairly miserable report card. What happened to Obama’s vision, his hoped-for leadership, and his ability to inspire? At this point, the silver-tongued fellow in the oval office can’t inspire anyone more than his wealthy core of campaign donors. (Read this week’s excellent opinion piece by Drew Westen in the New York Times for more on the “missing Obama.”)
Meanwhile, the US economy continues to sputter, millions remain unemployed, and yet the profits of big corporations are soaring and the wealthy elite are paying a paltry percentage of taxes. There is an ugly, ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in the US, and a lot of citizens are very angry. Will people really be shocked when London-like riots erupt in American cities in the near future?
Obama would be looking very much like a one-term prez at this point except for the incredibly lame lineup of Republicans who have announced their candidacy for the 2012 race. One of those potential candidates is Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas. This guy is so off-the-wall that he makes Sarah Palin look normal. But he’s a born-again Christian, so that explains the weirdo angle. Yes, another one of those crackpots who dismisses the threat of climate change and thinks that prayer is the answer to solving any problem. A column this week by Timothy Egan in the New York Times provided an excellent look at Prayin’ Perry. Here is one excerpt:
“ … Perry’s tendency to use prayer as public policy demonstrates, in the midst of a truly painful, wide-ranging and potentially catastrophic crisis in the nation’s second most-populous state, how he would govern if he became president.
Perry: “I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God, and say, ‘God: You’re going to have to fix this,’” he said in a speech in May, explaining how some of the nation’s most serious problems could be solved.
That was a warm-up of sorts for his prayer-fest, 30,000 evangelicals in Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Saturday. From this gathering came a very specific prayer for economic recovery. On the following Monday, the first day God could do anything about it, Wall Street suffered its worst one-day collapse since the 2008 crisis. The Dow sunk by 635 points … given how Perry has said he would govern by outsourcing to the supernatural, it’s worth asking if God is ignoring him.”
Sure, it’s easy to make fun of kooky politicians like Perry, but he’s already served three terms as governor, so most of his constituents must be happy with the job he’s doing (which includes executing more prisoners than any other state in the country). And the sad truth is that unabashed Christian politicians, the so-called Evangelicals, like Perry are the norm not the exception in the USA. In fact, if you are not a bible-toting, Jesus-loving, happily married, family values kind of guy — or gal — you have zero chance of being elected to the highest office in the United States of Amnesia.
Having faith in a higher power is one thing, but when those religious beliefs lead to bullying people and making illogical decisions based on “faith”, then it becomes a problem. An emotional crutch for one person becomes a danger to others. It should be obvious to any sane individual that religion should be kept out of politics. So why is it that so many people support religious zealots like Perry? Maybe it’s just the sobering fact most of the voting public are religious zealots themselves and have no qualms about their leaders being similarly delusional. They certainly don’t seem fazed when their elected leaders resort to voodoo-like superstitions like praying, expecting to receive divine guidance for answers. Personally, I would prefer my elected leaders to think about matters intelligently, using facts and logic to come up with solutions. They’re going to pray about it? That should frighten people. In God We Trust? There’s your problem right there.
You hear all this talk about respect for other religions and tolerance for those with different beliefs, but I think it’s better to turn that notion around: there should be zero tolerance for religion in politics, and zero tolerance for religious groups who attempt to impose their hackneyed beliefs on others. As the wise philosopher George Clinton once said: “Free your mind … and your ass will follow.”