BANGKOK, Thailand — For the past month, I lived in a kingdom. And there, they revere their king. Not Elvis, but rather the King of Thailand. At every movie theater or sporting event, the King’s song is played and everyone stands in respect. It’s hard to pass a street corner without seeing a picture of the King next to his royal symbol. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of his reign — the world’s longest reigning monarch — almost everyone wears yellow every Monday, celebrating the day of his birth. In fact, stepping on a coin, which bears the royal visage, will likely get you kicked off the bus. The Thai people revere their King.
Seriously, he deserves some honor: King Bhumibol Adulyadej really looks out for his people, and has governed with their best interest in mind. He’s credited for helping Thailand’s transition to democracy. When he noticed the increasing debt of his citizens, he called them to a lifestyle of moderation. (When our country went into crisis after 9/11, however, our president called it a patriotic duty to go shopping.) Some Thai even consider him semi-divine, perhaps for good reason: he invented a way to seed clouds to produce rain. A few months ago, he received the first ever United Nations Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award. I think he’s cool because he plays and composes jazz. Swing it, cat!
Back in 1946, his older brother, then king, was found shot and dead in his bedroom. At the time, Bhumibol was finishing his studies in Switzerland. He came back to Thailand and acceded to the throne, but then went back to Switzerland to finish his studies. When he was done in 1950, he was coronated king. For those four years in between, no one doubted that Bhumibol would be king. In some sense, he was already the king, but not yet.
I’m reminded of another King. As good as the King of Thailand is, this King is even better. He walked the earth not in 1946 but about two millennia ago, and proclaimed that he was indeed a king. In some sense, he is already King. But not back in 1950. One day in the future, he will be coronated King and everyone will recognize his rightful place on the throne. And His Kingdom won’t be just in Southeast Asia but over the entire world.
Yet we find ourselves in the years in between. In the meantime, our allegiances will be sorely tested. Will we serve the King, who is and is to come? Will we serve greed, profit, materialism and selfish ambition? Or will we serve ourselves? In the end, if we don’t want to be found seditious, it may be good to ally with the Kingdom come.