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Yeah, But What Do YOU Believe?

These days, coming up with topics related to living in Thailand is pretty tough. We’ve had the same restrictions as other countries, and with no international tourists, many businesses are closed. Watching the havoc ensue in the U.S. from afar, has me feeling thankful to be living here now. There haven’t been any new cases of the virus for a couple of months, and although everyone here is required to wear a mask and have their temperature taken before entering a business, there is no civil unrest.

One thing I’ve noticed about Thailand, is although nobody is really concerned about political correctness, there doesn’t seem to be much discrimination. If you’re fat, people will say you’re fat. If you have darker or lighter skin than your average Thai person, it will likely be mentioned. People recognize differences, but for the most part, don’t really care. People aren’t offended by facts and truths.

It reminds me of growing up in an era before social media and cell phones. In my little hometown of Kingman, Arizona, the population is largely Caucasian, I admit. However, about 10-percent of the population is Hispanic, and I don’t remember that ever being an issue in school, or life in general. Many of the Hispanic kids were popular, played sports, were cheerleaders, and performed well academically. I don’t recall anyone ever being treated differently because of their race. Was it happening and I just didn’t see it?

Maybe, I missed it because of my “white privilege”. But wait! I grew up with my grandparents. My grandfather was a trash collector until he was hurt on the job. After that, we lived off of his disability check, and the money my grandmother made, first at Sprouse-Reitz, then later at the bakery. Both were minimum wage jobs. I grew up on “the other side of the tracks” (Kingmanites will understand). When I graduated high school, my guidance counselor called me into his office to tell me I had a $200 scholarship from the Kiwanis Club. I read the document, and said, “I’m not sure I want this. It says it’s for needy people.” My counselor said, “Uh, Rob … we need to talk.” It was that day I learned I was poor. I’m not sure the word “privilege” really applied.

I joined the Navy at 23 years old, and spent months at a time on ships with people from every race, religion, and nationality. In my 26 years of active duty, I don’t recall ever seeing anyone fail to promote because of their skin color, what god they worship, or their political leanings. I’ve had African-American commanding officers, and my last command, Surface Forces Pacific, was led by a three-star admiral, who also happened to be an African-American. Everyone interacted with each other daily, and lifetime bonds were formed. It seems to me, if there were tensions brewing, everyone would know. The ship is a small place, and if you think being locked down in your house is tough, try an eight-month cruise with limited port visits.

So, what has people so riled up? Do you personally feel hatred toward anyone because they’re of a different race, or political party? I’m not so naïve as to think those people don’t exist, but I feel most people are too busy with their own lives to pay much attention to those outside their own circles. Of course I think what happened to George Floyd was awful. I think Michael Chauvin is a horrible person, who never should have been a police officer. I also think he would’ve probably done the same thing to a white person. Bad people exist. They exist in the Navy, in police departments, in the NFL, in politics, and every other organization or vocation. In every walk of life, there are people who are ignorant, have no regard for human life, and who feel no empathy for others. Most people, though, are like you and me. We don’t want to hurt anyone, or see anyone suffer. We just want to live our lives in peace with the opportunity to do the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Unfortunately, these days, we have external forces (no matter which side of the aisle) trying to influence our thinking. The younger people, without as much life experience, absorb this information like sponges. Like every generation, they want to rebel. The problem is, social media, and even mainstream media are being used by opportunists, who are guiding them in their rebellion. People aren’t thinking for themselves. They believe the rhetoric being fed to them, and they’re being used. They’re used to promote political programs, which eventually leads to power, wealth, and influence to those pushing the agenda.

Many people, especially those with little conscience, are using this unstable time as an opportunity to get what they want. At a basic level, maybe it’s the thrill of smashing a window, setting a fire, or stealing a big screen television. It’s the adrenaline rush of the action, or the hit of dopamine from the high fives and "likes" of like-minded people. At the higher levels, it’s the strategic positioning of people with authority in order to gain wealth and power. Instability creates opportunists, and this is going on world-wide. I’m sure India and many South-Asian countries would agree.

In my mind, I believe most of us as individuals want basically the same things. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is pretty accurate. First we’re looking for food and shelter, then safety, love and belonging, esteem, then self-actualization. It’s a tough pyramid to climb, and most of us never reach the top. I think most of the folks pushing the agendas get stuck somewhere along the way, and they think money and power will get them to the top. Seems to me, those who actually do reach a state where they are truly happy with themselves are the least conniving and are emotionally generous.

Anyway … I guess I’m just saying to be aware of what is truly important, and maybe while you’re being force fed all this information from the media, take the time to digest it, and decide for yourself what you think is right and wrong. I couldn’t care less about your color, religion, sexual preference, or political beliefs. I don’t believe many people do care. I may not agree with you about everything, but if you’re kind to other people, and cause no harm. You’re okay in my book! Let's not let outside forces divide us. In the end, it's up to us ... not them.