TOM SELLECK, HILLARY CLINTON AND THE LITTLE INVISIBLE PEOPLE
I guess they're so small because they don't eat any protein-- or much of anything-- and neither did their parents, grandparents or ancestors. I'm not in India anymore; I'm in Thailand. You don't see much of that kind of grinding, horrific poverty in Bangkok. Nor do you see the levels of garish displays of conspicuous consumption like you see in Delhi. You see some and you do see some people in appalling poverty. But it isn't anything like the extremes you see in India. In Delhi wherever I went on the streets there were always clusters of small, very dark, very skinny people. They're everywhere, but no one seems to notice. There are hundreds of millions of them-- more of them in India than the entire population of the United States! And no one seems to notice them. They don't own anything but the rags on their backs and I've never been able to figure out how they exist. The begging can't possibly support them, even if every tourist and every trendy call center-walla gives (far from the case; no one notices them).
I didn't cry the whole time I was in India. It was simply too horrible to fathom. Families laying in the filth and dust with stray dogs night after night, wrapped in their rags, bundled around a little fire burning garbage. Delhi's cold. I've being seeing it since I started coming to India in 1969. It's just unfathomable. Has anyone cared about these millions and millions of people since a right-wing religious fanatic assassinated their champion, Mahatma Gandhi 60 years ago?
I cried tonight though, here in happy, happy Bangkok. In retrospect I think the reality of India caught up with me. But what set me off was a speech on TV, a speech by Tom Selleck, playing fictional Michigan Governor Jim Pryce who had just won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency in a 2000 film I had never heard of, Running Mates. What set me off was the juxtaposition of "Pryce's" spontaneous, inspiring, courageous acceptance speech at the end of the film with my own musings about the unlikelihood that Hillary Clinton (or Barack Obama) could ever be moved to give such a heartfelt and edgy, populist speech.
The movie paints a realistically tawdry picture of U.S. politics. The big money interests, it is asserted, control it all. Pryce, acting out of his basest instincts-- like too many Insider Democrats do, substituting fear and ambition for courage and the public interest-- decides to throw his lot in with the Establishment Insiders who haven't been able to prevent his nomination but are willing to donate $100,000,000 towards his campaign for a piece of the action. At the last minute-- on the podium of the Convention-- he tosses away the second half of his prepared speech and reneges, reverting to form as a populist and reformer, denouncing the plutocrats and their stranglehold on the American political system. He tells the whole nation that "The government of the United States is not on the auction block and America is not for sale."
It was thrilling and depressing at the same time-- inspiring in terms of what could be, disheartening in what really is. I have a stronger and stronger feeling that I will kick myself for not having jumped in and gotten behind John Edwards' campaign months ago.
Not Tom Selleck: