meet Dennis Rodman, arbiter of dictator flesh

Once upon a time, while the Dodo still walked the Earth, when dinosaurs munched on greenery not laced with cadmium, when Democrats and Republicans could break bread together without drawing derringers, came the dawn of this nonsense blog.

And lo, did we thus in one of our very first posts encourage Dennis Rodman to break the neck of Kim Jong Un, Overlord & Dictator of the North Korean people.

Sadly, Rodman didn’t take us up on our offer of eternal glory for all mankind. And yet, all these years later he’s back. For some reason.

This morning Kim’s goons released a comatose young American who was foolish enough to travel to North Korea, and got arrest and infected with botulism for his troubles. I think it says all you need to know about North Korea’s status that one of their most high profile capital prisoners can get infected with botulism.

So you can laugh at Rodman all you want, or criticize his visit, but at least he got this poor dude released. Which is apparently more than all the resources of the American government can do.

So maybe Rodman just does these visits to set somebody free every once and a while? I mean, Rodman’s a joke, so the visit is meaningless to his otherwise trashed reputation. So what does he care what people think of him as long as he gets somebody out of jail? Eh, maybe I’m giving Rodman too much credit. Maybe he just likes the sack full of emeralds carved in a forced labor camp that Kim will give him after they play h.o.r.s.e. and Rodman lets Kim win after three rounds.

But at any rate, Rodman still has it in his power to become the hero we always wanted him to be. Rodman clocks in at six foot seven and 220. Kim clocks in at negative Napoleon and 420. It’s just about the most one sided fight you can imagine.

It’d be like if you pit Andre the Giant against Hitler in an MMA fight. They’d be picking Hitler out of the fence for weeks. For the young uninitiated, Andre the Giant was in the original Mission Impossible series where he played Boris, a seven foot four Soviet agent who had steel teeth and wore this top hat thingy he could throw like a Frisbee to decapitate people.

Seriously though, think of the legendary status that awaits Rodman if he carries out our wishes. Think of how famous the guy who killed Hitler would have been? He or she would be on the lips of schoolchildren for all time. This sounds right up Rodman’s alley.

Dennis, friend, there’s still time. We’re counting on you.

warm up walk in the Beijing airport during layover, with Drowning Pool blaring through the terminal speakers

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Busan – hiking and the monk’s car

Some of the best days are the ones where you wake up and have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.  I’ve gone through these phases.  I used to plan nothing for trips, then I planned everything, and now I’m back to planning almost nothing.  Busan was the early days.  It was Korea, that was enough for me.  So we scheduled nothing in advance.

We wake up one day and the rest of the group doesn’t want to do much of anything.  Probably because they were hungover.  I’m sure I was too, but I was young then and didn’t need to lay around suffering.  So Tim and I decide we’re just going to leave everyone and go, somewhere.  I think we just picked some random temple off a map in the suburbs north of downtown Busan.  It was December, but not a completely freezing typical Korean winter just yet.  So we bundle up and roll out.

We had to take the train and then the bus to get there.  Neither of us spoke anything above bare bones Korean.  We quickly got lost and are just standing there on some random suburban street corner trying to figure out what bus to get on.  Then this middle aged woman walks up and in halting English asks us where we want to go.  We show her the temple on the map and she agrees to help us.

But she refused to give us directions.  Instead, in one of the most generous things I’ve ever seen in my life she decides to ride the buses and escort us to this temple.  Then she says she knows a good place for lunch next door to the temple.  So she walks us there and explains to the owner in staccato Korean probably how these two American idiots didn’t know what they were doing.

The two women essentially shrug and our kind escort wishes us luck and carried on with her day.  We couldn’t thank her enough but she treated it all very matter of fact, smiled, and was gone.  The lunch was incredible.  In the Korean style we each had the ten or so little bowls of various meats, vegetables, and sauces.  It’s probably in my lifetime top ten of meals.

shrine

I think this is the temple, I’m not so sure.  The shot is logged wrong by how my memory remembers this trip.  So who knows.  But I’m pretty sure this was it.

We walked around the temple for a bit and then Tim being the far more adventurous of the us simply states we should stroll up the nearby mountain.  So we point ourselves toward the hill and just start walking.  As we got higher we realized we’d stumbled upon a routed hiking trail and so we continued to follow it on up the mountain and across the peaks.

It’s hard to describe how mountainous a good chunk of Korea is.  Cities are perched precariously along the coast with ribbons of suburbs rolling out in the valleys.  The inclines of the hills are quite steep and it’s rather sobering to think that when Busan was the last holdout against the Communist siege in 1950 that these mountains held hundreds-of-thousands of young men who would decide the fate of Korea.

Looking Back.jpgLooking back toward Busan from the hills.

valley

Ribbons of suburbs and the Nakdong River.

back-downhill

We walked for miles and miles, probably at least over ten miles.  It’s a blast, the weather cooperates, the trails are dotted with other friendly hikers, and oh, ah, it’s getting into the late afternoon.  We’re in trouble.  There’s no way we can go back the way we came in time.  We have no desire to hike back on the trail in the dark lest we fall off the darn mountain.  Fortunately we happened upon a temple nestled up there that’s near the trail.  We figure if nothing else we can call a cab from there to take us back downtown.

Temple From Above.jpg

Temple Gate.jpg

I walk around a while admiring the temple while Tim somehow strikes up a conversation with a monk who speaks immaculate English.  Decked in pristine Buddhist orange and thick glasses he says there’s no need to call a cab because he’s driving downtown anyways and he’s glad to give us a ride.  He asks us to wait for a bit while he gets ready and he’ll go get the car.

I’m raised in the Catholic Church, and so I have this idea of poor Trappist monks on a farm like my Dad used to visit.  I expect this to be a hair raising ride through twisting mountain roads in a Yugoslavian knockoff beater.  Instead, the monk rolls up in a pristine black BMW that easily cost north of $50K.  Tim and I were just cracking up.

It was nearly dark as we set off for downtown.  Tim sat up front with the monk while I dozed in the back.  Tim and him chatted away about everything.  I wish I remembered more of their conversation but I was exhausted.  I do recall the monk was headed downtown to party with his friends.  I never did catch the reasoning for the dichotomy between the wealth, partying, and religious lifestyle of the monk.  In retrospect I just find it hilarious.

Back downtown, we managed to link up with our friends again.  I don’t remember the rest, probably for valid reasons.  But I do remember the hills well, and that monk and his crazy car.  It was quite the day not worth planning.

temple

 

They’re guilty so we have somebody to blame for our anger

The institutions & traditions that guide our society are not on default. They can live forever or they can evaporate. The difference between the two depends on us. Not politicians, business, or our ancestors. Us. If we fail to preserve the distinct factors which make us free, we will one day find that the life we know is gone. And if that be so, we’ll have no excuse at all to whine. We will have failed and those who came before us will damn us for our recklessness and stupidity.

Pick three or four key phrases that guide our liberty and I hope one of them would be:

“The accused are innocent until proven guilty.”

This key tenant of our legal system has been around for nearly two thousand years. It’s explicitly or implicitly written into a large number of constitutions. We’re taught it in schools. We’re made to believe that it’s what separates us from the forces of darkness.

I’m going to let you in on a little (well known) secret folks. It’s a lie. The accused are guilty until proven innocent. Even the most senior members of our tribes are in on it.

Today, Park Geun-hye, a democratically elected president outright accused a ferry crew of actions, “akin to murder”. She wasn’t there. The investigation is ongoing. Nobody has a clue at this point what really happened. But in front of a very large crowd a president decided to play prosecutor, defense attorney, judge, and jury. Case closed.

She then went on to claim that those accused will face charges. Uh, Madam President, how exactly do you expect them to now receive a fair trial since you’ve called them murderers? Well friends, she doesn’t, she doesn’t care. She’s already said she wants them destroyed. She isn’t interested in justice for anybody, not the accused, not the victims.

The entire basis of our judicial system, and that of almost any Western nation, is that everybody is equal before the law. Everybody. Regardless of the charges, the circumstances, who they are as people, what kind of beer they like, whatever. It’s an even playing field. Does this always happen? No, we’re human, but the aspiration is to get as close as possible.

When you have a president blowing off the rules less than a week after the incident at hand, folks, the train has derailed. What I find most shocking (I’m actually not really shocked) is that almost every, single, major news outlet has managed to not understand just how dangerous and pervasive these words are to our culture and values. They report on her words, without understanding their context when it comes to integrity. Don’t blame the media too hard, they just don’t understand, hard reporting is not their thing.

We have a different concept we use to describe heads of state who whether through deceit, irresponsibility, or just plain anger, subvert the justice system for their own personal or professional gain. We call them dictators.

Now a number of you will claim that this is in Park’s blood. Her Father had it in him, the emotion of the last few days just exposes her inner self. I do not agree. This is because whether it’s your own head of state, your mayor, or any other politician or leader? Well friends, I have noticed a growing trend where the guilty are thrown on the block in front of a unruly crowd and cameras as soon as possible in a manner unbecoming our freedom. Don’t believe me? Go watch your news the next time somebody is arrested for an accused financial crime, a murder, a horrific accident, and so on.

What these leaders will claim is they’re battling for justice. No, what they’re battling for is anger. Anger is not justice. Anger perverts justice, poisons it, and lays it hollow and meek. Don’t blame them completely. It’s your fault too. You get angry, you want justice, but you don’t actually seek justice, but a cure for your anger.

The Koreans are angry. They have every right to be. This is a horrific accident. But until the actual facts are known, until the process has a chance to play itself out? Not only will we not see any true justice, we will also demolish any possibility to learn from this disaster so that it may never occur again.

Park is telling the crowd exactly what they want to hear. In this, she has fallen into the same trap of irresponsibility as many other leaders today. The job of a true leader, especially a true democrat, is not to always tell the crowd what they want to hear. In the darkest moments, sometimes the most immortal and moral thing a leader must do is tell the crowd what they don’t want to hear. Her foremost task is to buttress the system that makes her people free. It’s not her right to destroy the values her office is chartered to defend.

The crew deserves their day in court. They will no longer have it.

Your arrested neighbor deserves their day in court. So does the potential drug dealer down by the corner, or the accused child molester picked up by the school.

In the grand scheme of things, anger is irrelevant. What lasts forever is justice. Without justice there is no difference between us and pure darkness, the medieval world we’ve left behind in the name of morality and liberty.

Next time something like this happens, close to your home, realize the destruction that anger wields, and take a moment to pursue a deep breath in the name of freedom. Then, when a leader steals your liberty in the cause of anger & evil? Hold them accountable.

dictator_park

Today, more than any other moment, I am now just like my North Korean counterpart.