See me not my shirt

Today I unintentionally did a very stupid thing.   I wore a shirt that I believed to be orange in colour, whilst others told me it was more red than orange.  (No, I do not sympathize with the reds.)  It proved to be a very interesting experience, but one I hope not to repeat anytime soon. 

Here’s my story.  This morning, I woke up at 5.30am so that I would be able to get to the fitness early, do my morning run and get to work in time.   I was sleepy and the room was dark.   I picked a skirt, grabbed a shirt, and a cardigan.  I looked at the ensemble quickly, and my mind went..”What colour is that?  Oh, its orange…okay, orange is fine.  Now you are running late, traffic might be bad, go and run!”
I did my run, showered, and changed.  As I looked in the mirror, a terrifying thought flashed across my mind, “Oh my god! I’m wearing a bright red shirt!”  My cardigan was fitted and didn’t cover my entire shirt.  I had nothing else to change into except my running clothes.  
So, I had to put on a brave face and walk around the changing room in my bright orange (or is it red?) shirt.  I noticed looks and strange facial expressions in the dressing room, but tried to ignore it.  (My fitness is predominately “yellow.”) However, I felt so self conscious I asked the lady looking after the room, what colour she thought my shirt was.  She didn’t reply, but told me to just wear anything I liked because we weren’t involved in politics.  
She was just trying to make me feel better.
I arrived at work, all was fine.  My colleagues are lovely people.  I asked them what colour they thought my shirt was, and they honestly told me “I think its more red than orange.”   I covered myself up in my shawl and  spent the day telling people that my shirt is “orange.”  I never felt so self conscious.
Lunch was interesting, I hopped on a taxi and went for lunch.  However, as people walked pass me, I would notice sudden turns of the heads and a looks that weren’t all so friendly.  Of course, strangers didn’t and wouldn’t say anything, but you could sense their eyes of disapproval and perhaps of disgust.  I told myself that perhaps I was just “imagining” things and “overreacting.” I wasn’t.   I think I now understand what arabs might have felt like immediately after 9/11. 
Then I met someone I knew in the bathroom and she gave me a quick glance and her eyes changed. I told her..”it’s orange, not red.” She smiled and told me her honest opinion.   She said she was wondering about my shirt, and why I dared to wear the colour “red.”  She also told me that if I really was a “red shirt” she wouldn’t talk to me.  Such were the extent of her emotions.
I had to reassure her that “No, I am not a red shirt.  I am not a Thaksin-sympathizer.”  I was colour-blind and grabbed a shirt too quick.  (I was dumb and not thinking)   
Her comments were a reflection though of what was going on in people’s mind.   Politics has divided my country into yellow and red.  People now go around judging people by the colour of their shirt.  We see people in red shirts and instinctively we categorize them. We “label” them and forever change our perception of them without really knowing them.  It stirs up emotions of anger, hatred and annoyance.   
I too am guilty of that.  I do it whenever I see someone in a red shirt nowadays.  The other day, I wondered why there were so many on a street corner and was getting emotional at them.   As I watched and observed, I realized they worked for “Coca-cola” and were delivering drinks to 
7-11 stores!!   I had let my emotions “blind” me for who this group of “red shirts” really were.   They were “Coca-cola” employees and had nothing to do with politics.
Now I think I understand racial discrimination a bit more.  Its pretty much the same thing, except that its not the colour of our skin, but the colour of the shirt we wear.  Bangkokians are lucky, its easy to change the colour of your shirt, but you can’t change the colour of your skin.
A few years ago, I would never have imagined that my country of a thousand smiles, my country where people are so carefree, would become so divided.  
How long would it be before we can go back to our carefree days, when we were all so loving and smiles greeted you wherever you went?  Days when people didn’t ask you “What colour shirt are you? ” when they first meet you.  When people didn’t categorize and label you without first knowing or finding out who you really are.   
I miss my old Thailand.  I love my country and my King.
Take a break from our emotions, stop and pause a little before we judge someone. As they used to say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Have less emotions, less anger,  and less hatred, so that we can solve our differences and move on with our lives.  

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