At Sports Academy Pool Hall
Rat (Chalking up her cue): You not say much today, kun-Montre**. You have girlfriends problems?
[** “Montre” is the way my Thai friends address me, which is the closest their language allows them to pronounce my name without twitching.]
Me: No. President Obama want Americans to not be angry about Zimmerman, so I am quiet.
Rat (Preparing to break): Zimmer..man? What is Zimmerman?
Me: Hispanic man. In America he shoot black man (mimic a gun firing in conjunction with Rat’s energetic break). Kill him. But not get trouble.
Me: Family from Mexico; come work in America. Some Americans not like.
Rat (Smartly banking the one ball while still looking puzzled): What you mean?
Me: Same same Cambodians come to Thailand.
Rat: Ah, kao jai. (Thai for “I understand”. The Thais, like many Americans and perhaps most people in the world, look down their noses at their neighbors.)
Newt: Why Americans angry?
Me: If Hispanic man shoot black man, or white man shoot black man, not good.
Newt: If black man shoot black man, Americans angry?
Me: Ahh, mai ben rai. (Thai for “not a problem”. Might as well try to be honest.)
Newt: Are you angry?
Me: Yes! I miss easy Eight Ball shot last game. Very stupid.
Rat: Let’s have another tequila round! Make you feel better about Eight Ball and the Zimmerman.
And so life manages to go on for me here in Thailand’s capital despite the verdict, though CNN seems determined to keep the controversy simmering. Living overseas, it’s harder to grasp (much less explain), the way cross-racial violence and justice continues to be a flash point in the U.S. and the manner in which it detracts from more serious concerns. While many Americans are outraged over the shooting of an unarmed black by a Hispanic, each year over thirty thousand of their countrymen (Hispanic, black, white) are in fact killed by guns. Yet nobody gets upset, aside from the occasional schoolchildren massacre, and even then the resulting outrage is fleeting. Far easier to let CNN define what one should be angry about.