Surprise revolution took away my cartoons

Of course, the poisonous lizards, vicious grave-robbers, and deadly games of dodgeball came from some other accidental adventures, but that is another story.

I was in Rangoon to atone for my sins.

It was the Fall of 2007, the Jewish High Holidays, and I had gone to Burma to do some research on the small Jewish community that had been there for about 200 years. I planned to celebrate the High Holidays with them, observing Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement for the first time in about fifteen years. I did a little sightseeing too—a temple that held a hair of the Buddha, the 12th century ruins of Bagan, the floating villages on Inle Lake, a monastery filled with cats trained to jump through hoops. There was nothing political about my purposes in Burma, yet politics was in the air.

Around the time I arrived, thousands of Buddhist monks had begun to protest in the streets, objecting to the economic hardships and corruption of the military junta that had ruled Burma since 1962 (which they renamed Myanmar in 1989). Soon civilians began to join the protests and the scope of their complaints grew. The people wanted freedom; they wanted democracy and an end to oppression by the military elites. Of course, as tends to happen in these situations, the military elites wanted the protesters silenced.

On the same day that over 100,000 people marched in Rangoon, I crashed at a friend’s apartment where she had satellite television. For the first time in weeks, I channel surfed; I saw CNN’s images of marches happening just down the street, past the temple with the hair of of the Buddha. I learned that battle hardened troops were being sent into the city from the countryside. I changed the channel to watch SpongeBob SquarePants. I needed to temper reality with a little absurdity.

And that’s when the crackdown began.

As the troops took up positions around the city, the government cut off the internet, sealed the borders to journalists, and scrambled the satellite television signals. No more CNN. No more cartoon network.

And I really missed them.

Even as things were going insane in the world around me, TV comforted me. Even though I was having the adventure of a lifetime, potentially witnessing history infold, all I wanted was to be curled up on the couch at home watching TV. The next day, I left for Mumbai, India, where the festival of Ganesha was just winding down. Fireworks and parades and revelers throwing pink paint every which way. In Burma, the government shut down the protests with merciless violence. The almost-revolution was crushed.

For me, it was on that flight in Asia that I first imagined the heroes of the reluctant heroes of the Accidental Adventures series, Oliver and Celia Navel, who are doomed to have a life of adventure, when all they want is to watch TV. They aren't just some kids I made up. They're me. Not exactly, of course. I've thrown in a good chunk of daydreaming, but my craving for silliness, my longing for television, and my own accidental adventure, inspired the idea for the series.

Of course, the poisonous lizards, vicious grave-robbers, and deadly games of dodgeball came from some other accidental adventures, but that is another story.


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