Applause for Mushroom Clouds

A full orchestra provided a sound track to the images on the screen for an audience, clad in their finest evening attire, which represented the elite of society.  Missiles were launched and video tracked their progress across the Pacific.  At times the crescendo of the music surpassed the applause, but in the end the applause assumed the lead as the missiles neared their ultimate destinations.  The leader, prominently seated onstage, smiled and stood for the great finale, which represented his vision, and therefore, his nation’s vision, for a glorious future.  All eyes focused on the screen as the mushroom clouds formed—the final image, a cemetery with a burning U.S. flag, triggered the biggest applause of all.  The glorious future of their nation was now clearly defined as the total destruction of another.

Really?  That’s the goal of the nation?  What about improving the standard of living? What about economic growth?  What about more generally accepted, but perhaps evil goals, like conquering your neighbor?  Even that would be better.  What kind of nation is this?  What kind of place is this?  Thank God, there’s only one.  Yes, that’s right, there’s only one North Korea.

My first paragraph painted a picture of an actual event that took place in April during North Korea’s annual Sun Festival, which celebrates the birth of its first ruler, Kim Il Sung, who passed away in 1994.  Power was then transferred to his son, Kim Jong Il, who died in 2011.  The grandson, Kin Jong Un, has ruled since then.  North Korea’s State Chorus and Orchestra performed, and it was all captured on video.  I was sickened as I watched it and thought back to the few isolated scenes of celebration around the world that were also captured on video when the twin towers fell.

So why do I say, thank God there’s only one North Korea?  Because they are one of the very few remnants of the old world order created at the end of World War II, when the two Cold War blocs were established.  The West, led by the United States, and the East, led by the Soviet Union.  Over the last forty years, Germany has been unified, the Berlin Wall came down, and the leader of the East, the Soviet Union, no longer exists.  You can argue that Russia is the new leader of a different kind of eastern bloc, but Russia has evolved over the last seventy years.  While we may not agree with many of their national ambitions, at least we understand their motivations and can, therefore, deal with them appropriately.   When Russia supports governments we oppose, conquers lands we view as sovereign nations, and interferes with our elections, we can take actions that might influence them and possibly push them in a different direction.

Even China, the new major player on the scene, has evolved.  Like Russia, we may not agree with many of China’s objectives, but we do understand them.  This is one of the great challenges of dealing with North Korea—how can we even process the idea that a country’s national objective is the total destruction of another?  How can we ever understand, and therefore, appropriately deal with them?  To be fair, there may be a few other countries with similar objectives, but they don’t have a developing nuclear weapons program—that makes North Korea special, in a bad way.

North Korea is a dangerous throwback to the Cold War.  Perhaps this is because power has passed from father to son to grandson like an old world monarchy.  It is time for the North Korean people to have access to a true worldview, so they can reject this terrible path that the son of the son has declared to be a national priority.  It is time for the North Korean people to demand the kinds of changes that will improve their quality of life.  But more than anything, it is time for North Korea to realize that it is no longer 1946.