As I was leaving Malaysia in ’99, I was detained by the authorities… a minor thing, I thought, a bit of confusion about a stamp in the visa, or rather the lack thereof, when I had entered the country, just about a week or two earlier. I hadn’t come into the country secretly, or anything. I’d come across my border, had my luggage inspected and everything. Not my fault they didn’t give me a stamp.
Well, I spent a night in jail, and the next day they moved me to a detention camp. A hell hoe of a place, 2 pit toilets for a couple hundred of us, two meals a day which consisted of a couple of pieces of white bread and some really thin soup with a small dead fish, rather on the bony side, floating in it.
I was there for 8 days. I knew I had it better than most of the people in there. The majority were Indonesians, who had come looking for work. They would be detained until there were enough to fill a boat, and then sent back. Some were not on the first trip. Some were Thais, and it was a similar situation. One poor guy, from Burma, was stuck. If they sent him back to Burma, he would be executed, but they weren’t going to let him out unless it was to Burma. There was a guy from Iran, who seemed to be kind of nuts, but I could understand that.
I fell in with a group of Africans, partly as they were the only ones who spoke English. Anyway, one of the other prisoners had a phone, he let me call the American embassy, and a very nice lady there worked hard to get me out. Once I was out, I did pop in at the embassy to say thank you, and bring her flowers, but it was voluntary. I wouldn’t have been berated in public if I had failed to thank her, or the president at the time, who was Bill Clinton.
Donald Trump’s tirade at LaVar Bell is ridiculous. Sure, he’s happy his son’s home from China, but that’s kind of the State Department’s job, and there’s no evidence that Trump was involved in the process at all. As Ball said “If I have to thank anybody, it’s the president of China.”
Also, though, and this is really the problem with Trump, one of the things that Trump does not understand: if it is obligatory to say ‘thank you,’ then it doesn’t actually mean ‘thank you.’ It means something else.