When the Tanks Roll Into Town

“No school today, tanks rolling into Bangkok.”

As soon as I read the cryptic text, the phone rang in my hand. It was so startling, I nearly dropped it. “Hello?”

“Robert, what’s going on over there?” It was my mom and dad on the other line. Even though I couldn’t see them, their fear and concern were great enough to fill the room. “We’re watching the news…there are tanks moving into Bangkok.”

Isn’t that how nightmares begin? I may have pinched myself just then to make sure I really was awake. I looked up and 2003844986_4b70964c93_zlocked eyes with my wife, just as confused with the early morning call as I was with the sudden news. “I…hold on, let me turn on the TV.” I bypassed the local Thai stations and tossed the remote to the bed when I found the English-speaking Singaporean news channel.

Yep. Tanks. And soldiers. Lots of them.

My heart dropped into my stomach as I sat on the bed and tried to find my voice. “I’m not sure, I don’t know.” My phone buzzed, another incoming text, and I was afraid to hang up the phone with my family, my lifeline. “Let me find out. Call me back in an hour.” I hit the disconnect call button with a sigh. I sure hoped they would be able to get through again.

2003846274_8b118859b9_zSo began the first coup I’d ever experienced in person. Although it was aptly named Thailand’s Bloodless Coup, it was simply the first domino that fell in a multi-year struggle of power, control, and political wrangling that escalated into gunfire, exploding pipe bombs, arson, riots, sniper fire, and death. A month after Yvonne and I made it out of the country in late 2008, the main airport was surrounded, overtaken, and closed. Our favorite weekend spots in downtown Bangkok were in flames, our memories forever burned to the ground.

“How can you be so ignorant as to not see?” I imagined people screaming as I watched it all unfold before my eyes. Seven years later, I’m still confused about who, if anyone, was in the right. Which political side was morally superior? Was there a better faction to side with? Both sides claimed the other party was wrong, that they belonged to the only side of compassion and reason. Meanwhile, the country they all loved burned slow and steady as another person fell in the street to a mystery bullet.

No worries, though, it was most likely from one of “those people.” You know, “those people” …the ones who started it all. “Those people,” who were different than they were. “Those people,” the ones we should get rid of if we’re ever going to fix the country.

Hate destroys. It burns and causes rifts that seem impossible to cross. I firmly believe that damage is what some people crave and lust for. It paves a path to power and control that most people don’t want, thus ignore. It’s the crowbar that splits us into opposing sides of a political chasm that only leads to hell and hate. Watch and you’ll see it widening every day, swallowing some and separating the others.

Look around some more and you’ll find items scattered among the wreckage – things they tried to destroy – which would be pretty good material for building a bridge from one side to the other.

Try it. It may surprise you. Or do we just want the chasm to grow so large that only tanks and soldiers can put us back together again?

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