And so, the war is “officially” over. Saddam is supposedly in Belarus; Chirac is shocked-no, stunned!-to discover that even Colin Powell holds a grudge; the North Koreans have nukes. Hollywood actors are thrilled about the box-office failure of The Real Cancun . (Whew! We sure dodged a bullet there! Being wrong about the war and out of work would have been too much to bear!) And, at this very moment, even as you read this, I’m quite certain that the first looted artifacts from the Iraqi museum have not only arrived in America, but are being hung in an apartment on Park Avenue.
Personally, my real concern here is with the North Koreans.
When I was in college, I was perhaps the only student at Boston University who subscribed to the official North Korean newspaper, the Pyongyang Times . Why? I loved the language. I adored then-Premier Kim Il Sung’s rhetoric, which his son, current “Father of the Korean People” Kim Jong Il, has chosen to emulate. It was so outlandish-so over the top-that it makes Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf sound like a junior account executive on the Procter and Gamble business at Burson-Marsteller. To really understand what we’re up against here, consider the missive I received from North Korea almost exactly 20 years ago this week:
“Loyal Comrade: As you know, today is May Day, the International Worker’s holiday, a day set aside to mark the heroic struggles of the world-wide working class and all oppressed peoples against the vicious, colonialist, international rule of capitalists, their cartels, and their imperialist strategies, designed to plunder workers and peasants, and crush all peace-loving peoples. Against the brazen-faced U.S. imperialists, and the hordes of mangy and rabid running dogs and stooges they have enlisted in their world-wide fascist assault on the People, only the glorious revolutionary leadership of Marshall Kim Il Sung, the ever-victorious, iron-willed, brilliant commander and loving father of the 40 million Korean people, can inspire the workers of the world to rise up, and gouge the aggressor with victorious hammer-blows that will utterly destroy the enemy.
“Remember: There is no illness in Korea, because the self-reliant philosophy of Juche destroys the death-dealing squalor of capitalism. There is no tooth decay, because Korean children are not forced to subsist on the chemical and sugar saturated offerings of the Coca-Cola monopoly. Unable to obtain a decent diet, American children are instead forced to brush their teeth with vile pastes, rather than eat nourishing, collectively-grown food, which would give them strong bodies, and healthy teeth.”
Somehow, I suspect that it’s not a terribly good idea to trust these people with sharp instruments, let alone nukes. Or, as Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said so eloquently: “I now inform you that you are too far from reality.”
In other news, your diarist remains as appalled as ever by the current crop of American politicians. First there’s Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick (“I have no problem with homosexuality, I have a problem with homosexual acts”) Santorum, who doesn’t want to put cops on the street, but rather in our bedrooms. It’s not enough to say that this man-Trent Lott redux-must go, or at least be stripped of any power in the Senate. The fact that he shot himself in the foot like this only indicates, sadly for us, that he didn’t aim high enough.
On a somewhat more benign note, I received my first invitation for a 2004 Presidential fund-raiser, from Howard Dean’s campaign. At this point in the race among Democrats, I know little about the former Vermont governor beyond his opposition to the war, and his recent musings as to whether the Iraqis are now better off then they were under Saddam Hussein. But as I glanced down at the invitation, I began to get that old sinking feeling, as I discovered, first, Martin Sheen’s name among the sponsors, and then, lower on the page, check-off boxes requesting either $250 for the “General Reception,” or $1,000 for the “V.I.P. Reception,” running in the same room, at almost the same time. How very, very swell-Hollywood faux populism at its finest. To paraphrase Robert Frost: Something there is that doesn’t love a velvet rope. And, from my point of view, something there is that makes it unseemly, and disingenuous, for supposedly populist Democratic candidates.
Thinking about this, I was reminded of a recent interview the Democratic candidate John Edwards gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution , wherein he explained how he found his calling in politics, and how the desire for “respect” will be the cornerstone of this candidacy:
“Our family went to a fancy restaurant one Sunday after church. I was still looking at the menu, when my father announced that we had to leave. Everything cost too much. At the time, I was young and embarrassed. But it shaped the way I look at the world. Why does somebody who works in a mill 40 hours a week get less respect than someone who was born into a rich family? That’s an outrage. And it’s a lot of what drove me after that. Growing up … I would think, ‘Wait a minute. We can compete with anybody, if we just get the chance.’”
On the face of it, I find it almost impossible to parse this statement, and find the linkage between “respect” and not being able to eat in fancy restaurants-let alone make sense of what seems to be his more troubling worldview, that only people who were born into rich families can afford them. Last I checked, America was still a meritocracy. Even Martin Sheen worked his way up from nothing. But on the other hand, if Mr. Edwards wants the government to start subsidizing lunches at Michael’s or Le Cirque, he’s certainly got my vote-so long as he starts by storming the velvet ropes at the next Howard Dean soirée.
Finally, I leave you this month with a short quiz. Question: What’s the difference between Halliburton and Janeane Garofalo? Answer: Nothing-they’re both profiteering from the war. Following up on her glib and insipid remarks on the new Bill Maher show-wherein Ms. Garofalo proffered that “Arabs are the new blacks”-she confided to The Washington Post that “I’ve taken my punches. But the positives have far outweighed the negatives,” which include unsolicited speaking engagements, stand-up gigs and stage roles-along with finally making America Online’s list of “Comedians to Watch.” How very nice for Janeane: The anti-war movement was a good career move.
As for me, I remain your loyal diarist-with a deep suspicion that when Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said, “I now inform you that you are too far from reality,” he wasn’t so much deluded as a prophet ahead of his time.