During my years of international travel with my husband, we were constantly reminded of the reason the term "Ugly American" came into the world's vocabulary. We were rude, crude and generally obnoxious. Then the sentiment moved on to arrogant Germans and pushy Japanese.
It would seem it has come full circle. Actor Richard Gere, another actor who I guess expects a pass for bad behavior, nearly got himself jail time and also put a popular young Bollywood actress at risk. "The Kiss", at a public AIDS awareness event in India, has been all over the news. His attitude, when asked about the episode on the Daily Show, was no big deal. No one ever goes to jail for these things.
You see, public displays of affection are frowned upon in Hindu society. Especially by the hard-liners. Especially ones as demonstrative as this. Gere, a well known follower of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, travels to India often and knows this. But then, he is Richard Gere.
He is also one lucky man. While some of the more moderate lawyers involved in the legal issues feel the arrest warrant for Gere and Miss Shetty had no legal merit and made the country look ridiculous, others within the country have not fared so well.
Today's news, according to Reuters, reports a 70 year old Indian physician and his 61 year old wife were burnt to death after being accused of practicing black magic. They were tied to a pyre, doused with kerosene and ignited. They died screaming for help. They in fact were farm laborers who also practiced traditional medicine.
The article went on to say dozens of women are murdered each year after being accused of practicing witchcraft. Last year a barber slit his 4 year old son's throat with a razor blade after he started seeing visions of a Hindu goddess demanding a sacrifice.
It is difficult enough traveling to corners of the world in which customs vary so differently from ours. When going to new countries my wise one would spend considerable time studying proper business and social protocol. He delighted in telling me it might save a bullet in the head with the charge coming to me. In hindsite it isn't so amusing.
Yet once again we have our celebrity element stepping forth above it all. No wonder foreigners want to come to the states to become stars. Look at the Geres, the Rosie O'Donnells, the Hiltons and the Baldwins! The very worst they get is community service - a few hours. If they're really in dutch it's off to rehab. Out of sight out of mind until things settle down.
Too bad the doctor and his wife and the four year old and all those women weren't American entertainers. Perhaps they'd be alive had they been.