I would like to think of myself as a mostly intelligent human being with a mostly liberal bent. When an issue arises I would like to think that I examine it with as little prejudice as possible, weighing the merits of all sides of the issue and arriving at a conclusion that is based on the information available, logic, and an understanding of the larger global situation in which the issue is embedded.
I would like to think those things. Every now and then however, I fall victim to some sort of virus that bores its way into my brain and causes large bubbles of what must be methane gas that burst, escaping through my ears at inappropriate moments, causing my mostly liberal friends to look at me like they looked at Ted Nugent arriving for the State of the Union address.
My most recent bout with this malady was caused by a photo, published in a number of articles and on news sites in conjunction with stories concerning the current antics of the new Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. It shows the Korean leader surrounded by his generals planning a nuclear attack on United States cities including Austin, Texas! Austin Texas! Now, normally the idea of anyone declaring an intention to attack our country with nuclear weapons would elicit a sober and measured response from any rational American citizen. But look at that picture!
The sudden onset of what I can only describe as a case of Conservative Knee-Jerk Flu rendered me speechless, and my only thought was that someone should bitch slap the little baby-faced bastard. Austin, Texas? Really? And what’s with those hats? Whatever progress I have made in my life with accepting the cultural differences between countries was rendered moot by the virus and all I could think of was “what sort of deficiency does one compensate for with a hat that big on a head that small?”
I had to take my temperature and go straight to bed for the rest of the day where any further brain farts on my part could do no more damage than wake the dog.
Safely under the covers and away from the photo which is obviously part of a communist plot meant to destroy the minds of rational Americans, I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about one of my all-time favorite television programs from the 60’s. That Was the Week That Was aired from 1964 to 1965 and was an offshoot of a British show by the same name. It was hosted by David Frost , the cast included Alan Alda and Buck Henry, and people like Tom Lehr, Gloria Steinhem, and Calvin Trillium were contributors. A precursor to Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and other satirical programs to follow, I tried to never miss it.
The one bit I remember to this day aired the week Communist China tested their first nuclear device in 1964. David Frost sat at the news desk and related, straight-faced, that China had exploded its first atomic bomb. They had dropped it, he said, from a 150 foot wooden tower, and China, he informed us soberly, now had the capacity to destroy any city in the United States of America – provided that city would allow China to build a 150 foot wooden tower in its center.
For those of you familiar with last week’s post, you will understand that this bit relies on the superiority theory of humor to get a laugh. Today, China is one of five Nuclear Weapon States recognized by the Nuclear Non -Proliferation Treaty, and I, for one, feel much less superior. I am comforted somewhat by China’s long-stated policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, however, and also by the fact that they have such a huge financial interest in this country that nuking it would be like targeting Beijing.
Which actually makes the whole Korean situation more humorous (via the incongruity theory of humor), since it may not even have a missile capable of reaching the US and if it does, it may not have a nuclear device that can be fitted to such a missile! But Korea is threatening a first strike!
Convinced by all this logical analysis of the situation that my fever had broken, I kicked the dog off the bed and, carefully avoiding any contact with the photo containing the Communist plot, began to try to understand the larger global context of the situation.
The problem with Kim Jong-Un is that he is a mostly unknown player in the game of international sabre rattling. He’s young and untested. This is the international media’s way of saying that we don’t really know if the guy is a cunning political strategist or a raging psychopath. At first glance it would seem that only the latter would threaten an action that almost everyone agrees would end his political career were it carried out, not to mention the destruction of a sizable portion of his military force, not to mention the country itself.
The more likely scenario is that he has no intentions of carrying out such a threat and that, cunning or not, this is a political strategy of some sort. North Korea is struggling under UN sanctions. Two-thirds of its population is underfed, and that includes the army. Kim Jong-Un has yet to gain the trust of the country’s populace, and he is pinning his hopes on the idea that developing a nuclear deterrent is his path both toward gaining more trust at home and forcing the US and South Korea to the bargaining table where he can demand more financial aid to repair the damage done by the sanctions. Talk about incongruity.
On the other hand, it may just work. The majority of Americans have no interest in another war overseas and the Obama administration would be reluctant to engage in any sort of major military intervention. There is evidence that North Korea may be further upping the ante by conducting another nuclear test of the sort that brought the UN sanctions in the first place along with another long range missile test. Recently the North has warned all foreigners to leave the South in order to escape the coming nuclear holocaust. And all of this may be designed to force concessions from the rest of the world in order to avoid the possibility of an actual nuclear event. I do hope that it is all bluster, because, at least so far, no one seems to be taking any of this very seriously.
I grew up during the cold war and watched the Cuban missile crisis unfold. We lived, back then, with the daily threat of a nuclear war that could end the world as we know it. I learned to survive by hiding under my wooden desk. But that was a conflict between two “super powers” with arsenals capable of destroying the world many times over, not between (oh shit, I looked at the picture again) the rest of the world and some pudgy punk with a bad haircut who has inherited his father’s need to be taken seriously. Maybe Trey and Matt need to start thinking about Team America II.
All they need to do is stare at the above picture for longer than 15 seconds and the entire plot will be revealed in a rush of CKJF. It starts with this opening shot:
Your Humble Servant, currently in relapse,
The Willowbrook Curmudgeon