This is not an invitation to argue or debate. This is just a story about my emotional process post-election in the context of traveling in Thailand.
[Wat Chong Klang lights up Jong Kham Lake in Mae Hong Son:]
When I found out who won the election, I crawled into bed and stayed there for about 24 hours.
I felt lost, lying in that bed in my guest house in Chiang Mai. Anger boiled in my veins. That day, my own country repulsed me to the point of feeling physically ill, and I thought maybe I’d decide to stay in Thailand after all. Most of all, I felt ashamed—ashamed at my own apparent naiveté, my own folly for believing that I belonged to some idealistic, accepting, progressive country that doesn’t actually exist. That was stupid of me.
Did I do my part? Surely I could have done more. I could have left everything behind to campaign for Bernie from the start. I could have made phone calls. I could have bought bumper stickers and signs, at least. I could have gone door-to-door.
I suppose none of that would have mattered, though.
[This puppy brought me much-needed joy; I was almost too distracted by its cuteness to admire the gorgeous temple where it played! Dog therapy should not be underestimated.]
Who are these people? Who are these people that would condone war against my very body and my rights? Who are these people that would lionize a sexual predator, glorify his calls for violence, resonate with his ignorance, his racism, his bigotry, his disregard for the natural world that I so love and cherish?
They are all around me. Somehow, I didn’t know this.
The Trump Slump would follow my every move as Jimmy and I motorbiked from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon where we stood upon the highest point in Thailand; from Doi Inthanon to Mae Sariang, where, as Jimmy and I wandered the night market, The Slump eclipsed my ability to truly engage and enjoy; and then, from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son, where I would finally find release in an unexpected way.
“America needs to get its act together,” an Australian told me on the road today, “they’re not doing any good for anyone.”
[The floating krathongs on Jong Kham Lake in Mae Hong Son]
The Thais loved their king. Bhumibol Adulyadej, King Rama IX, passed away on October 13, 2016, having served as the country’s monarch for 70 years. When we arrived in Bangkok, many people were dressed in black—mourning will last a year’s length, with black being the popular clothing color of choice until then. When we passed through immigration at the airport, we were given small black ribbons to pin to our clothing or bags.
We were in Mae Hong Son for Loi Krathong, a Thai festival/holiday that takes place on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (often in November.) This year we had the sheer good luck of being right on the lake, watching as the Super Moon poked its head and then emerged over the mountain ridge. After dark, hundreds of people floated “krathongs” onto the lake—little boats in all shapes and sizes made predominately of banana leaves, carrying candles, incense, and offerings including food and fish food (as the lake lit up with the floating lanterns, the big fish that inhabit the waters splashed around, dragging some of the offerings down! I couldn’t help but think of Jaws as some of the krathongs could be seen being dragged through the water.)
[Jimmy and I with our offering to the lake.]
Many attending the festival wore black to indicate mourning. This year, people told us, the festival was much quieter, much tamer than usual, out of respect and grief for the king’s passing (normally fireworks go off and parties are much more celebratory, we were told.)
On the eve of the festival, Jimmy and I took the motorbike to Wat Doi Kong Mu, the beautiful temple that stands atop the hill overlooking Mae Hong Son and its lake. Numerous people were releasing balloons with candlelit lanterns attached, sending wishes, prayers and requests for forgiveness into the night sky.
I decided I needed a release. As I held my lantern, as I thought about how much love the Thais had for their king, I took a breath, and mustered up positive vibrations to send forth into the night, daydreaming what it might be like if my own people had such unity, such esteem for our leader.
[A balloon lantern being released at sunset]
It is written, I have learned from Paulo Cuelo’s The Alchemist. Everything happens for a reason; even the things we don’t like. Might this be an opportunity—an opportunity for my people to come together with a stronger resolve than ever before?
As I released my candle and my energy, I watched it float away: I felt lighter. There is no them versus us. There is only us. To pause for distinction might defeat the very purpose of what I strive to be: accepting, open, embracing all life.
[Me, getting ready to send my balloon lantern into the sky]
This doesn’t mean I will stand for hatred. This doesn’t mean I will stand passively by while Donald Trump destroys the things that I care about. But I will listen. I will seek to understand. I will try to ensure that those who voted for this future remain beings worthy of love, in my eyes, however difficult that might be for me— but let there be no mistake: I will not tolerate intolerance; I will not abide a regressive future; no one shall control me or my body, and I will act in self-defense if necessary, whatever that might mean.
So have no fear: I will be home in time for the revolution.