How a king's death helped me find peace with Hillary
About five years ago in Bangkok, Thailand, I was chugging beers in a bar with strangers in that intimate and adoring way you can only do with people you’ll never see again. As the night progressed, we became stuck on the topic of America. We all agreed, it’s one of the greatest countries in the world, a topic that eventually inspired us to go see a new movie starring the greatest American of all time: Superman.
There were commercials and previews, and my new besties sloppily joked and played popcorn mouth basketball — until, that is, a strange thing came up on screen: against a blue background, a yellow emblem, with a national anthem playing under it, followed by a screensaver montage of pictures of their king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.
I’ve spent months of my life in Thailand through the years, and recent news of the king’s death made me unexpectedly sad. After all, I like democracy: I have no loyalty to kings. But my sadness helped me think about this year’s presidential race in a brand-new way, and find peace with the choice we’re facing between a giant douche and a turd sandwich.
There was a moment of silence in the theatre. Quick as spit, my eternal homies sprung to their feet and slapped their hands over their hearts. It was like we do at our anthem at football games, only with no chatter, with no one checking their phones.
I ignorantly stayed plopped in my cinema seat.
They turned on me: “Stand up!” one hissed. “Your hand on your heart!” I replied that I am an American. We had a little stomp with the Brits 240 years ago; Big Riles ain’t standing up for your Big Chief.
Their eyes attacked me like daggers while a few drunken mouths loudly hissed Thai curses. The two then moved to another row. The anthem separated us. It showed they were clearly Thai — and I wasn’t.
Lots of countries have kings and queens. But Thailand adored its king. Its love for a leader was unlike the forced love of North Korea, or the semi-ironic love of the Brits.
Thailand is a tumultuous place: it’s not a country, it’s a tree-covered disaster area. But no matter what, the Thai king was always the same. During floods, he personally directed rescue efforts. During political coups, he mediated between the two sides.
When he died recently, at the age of 88, after ruling for 70 years, Thais flooded the streets and nearly flooded the gutters with their tears.
Ever since 2000, I’ve been confused by American politics. That year, the republicans nominated George Bush Jr., son of a former president. He seemed kind of dim and unmotivated, like the boss’s son who got promoted to assistant manager at the Dairy Queen before he fully understood the Blizzard machine. There were fourteen other people who seemed more qualified — and several chimps. And even though Bush Jr. didn’t win the popular vote one election, he ended up crapping in the West Wing for 8 years, and crapping on America for going on 16.
I think presidents are the closest thing we have to royalty — they’re like our kings. They can start wars and change the rules and they don’t obey all the laws. We might secretly love kings. Forget all the fighting we did to rid ourselves of British rule, forget all our love songs to democracy, we’re dumb bipeds just like everybody else, and we love shiny epaulets and flashy planes and cars that royalty always rides in. We picked George Bush Jr. not because he was likable, but because he was the son of the former king. We’re all a little submissive. We want to be dominated by a strong king.
We want stability.
By all predictions, In January 2017, the president will likely be Hillary Clinton — wife of a former king.
Like many Americans (even the many people who are voting for her), Hillary Clinton brings up a special little ball of contempt in me. She voted for the Iraq War because it was the politically easy thing to do. She didn’t support gay marriage until 2013, although she had to have known it was the right thing for equality. And the way she doesn’t seem to stand for anything at all beyond the most centrist position possible, irks me to no end. She’s as inspiring as a bag of mulch. I wouldn’t follow her on an afternoon hike, let alone into a war she’s likely to get us into.
But I’m not going to hate being her loyal subject. She’s something I know. She’s a Clinton — a descendent of America’s kings. We need the Clintons like Thailand needed its royalty, because the Clintons represent stability.
In this schizophrenic world, where beheadings lead the evening news and the Earth is one big microwave, the Clintons usually do the semi-reasonable thing. At least we know what we’re getting.
Democracy is scary. Monarchy is safe. Until human nature changes, the Thais will want their kings, and American will treat our presidents like kings, too, and keep electing the relatives of former presidents.
Soon, they’ll play the Clintons’ personal anthem before all our movies, and we’ll stand at attention while a slideshow plays of presidents Bill, Hillary, Chelsea and Charlotte.
And anyone who doesn’t stand up? They aren’t one of us.