Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid | AspenTimes.com
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Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Harley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

There are lots of places I’m glad I don’t live, and not all of them are in New Jersey or Wasilla, Alaska. In fact, I would much prefer those two places to anywhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Here’s a general rule of thumb: If the country name ends in ‘stan or the women in said country have to cover themselves from head to toe, you can pretty much consider me not interested.

The one place I think I would least like to live, however, is North Korea, a nation famous for having bitterly cold winters and virtually no electricity to keep warm during them. But that’s not why I find the prospect of life in North Korea so repugnant. Mainly, I just think it would be horrible to live in a country where self-delusion and paranoia are more or less official state policies.

Both of those lovely attributes were on display in the last week with news of North Korea’s much ballyhooed rocket launch and a controversial soccer match between the two Koreas. And both events provided further evidence why being a North Korean would be a fate worse than being a North Dakotan during flood season.

The rocket launch was hailed as a “proud victory” by officials in Pyongyang, who claimed that they successfully deployed a satellite to beam back patriotic songs for the listening pleasure of the ecstatic population. So ecstatic was the population about this momentous occasion, apparently, that tens of thousands of them rallied in the capital to celebrate.

This can mean only one of two things: Either the people were forced to rally under the threat of death, or they were told that if enough of them gathered and generated sufficient body heat, the ones in the middle of the crowd, much like emperor penguins, might actually experience warmth for the first time since September.

Despite the government’s assertion that the satellite was up and broadcasting, the U.S., Japan and South Korea all claimed the launch ended in failure, with the rocket crashing down into the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, Pyongyang scoffed at this notion even as North Korean officials told Japan to stop searching for debris from the rocket, an action which they considered espionage and an “intolerable military provocation.”

Why anyone would be worried that somebody might find a rocket in the ocean if that rocket made it into space is beyond me, but that’s just the sort of self-delusion that seems to emanate from North Korea on a daily basis. I think it’s obvious what happened; the rocket fell into the Pacific, but North Korea suffers from such a massive inferiority complex that there’s no way the government would ever admit that.

As far as the paranoia is concerned, here’s all you need to know about the soccer match between North Korea and South Korea: The South won by a score of 1-0, and the North immediately accused the victors of poisoning its players with an “adulterated foodstuff,” whatever that means.

What happened is that prior to the match, a World Cup qualifier played in Seoul, three North Korean players got food poisoning. According to the South, a sports doctor examined the players and found no serious problems, but that wasn’t good enough for coach Kim Jong Hun and the North Korean soccer association, which called the alleged poisoning part of Seoul’s “moves for confrontation” with Pyongyang.

It’s sad, really, to think that the people of North Korea believe this sort of tripe, but they’ve had this brand of state-sponsored nonsense drummed into their heads for so long that they’re probably brainwashed by now. I’m quite sure that if that rocket did deploy a satellite, it’s broadcasting a hell of a lot more untrue propaganda than it is music.

But at least this time the two Koreas were able to meet on one of the teams’ home pitches, which was not the case the last time they played each other. On that occasion the North refused to let the South display its flag or sing the South Korean anthem at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang, so FIFA intervened and moved the game to a neutral site in Shanghai. I imagine Pyongyang somehow spun that as a “victory” too.

But let’s not hold these unattractive qualities against North Korea. Rather, let’s spread our arms wide and give North Korea a great big hug. I think that’s what Pyongyang is really looking for. At the very least it would help the population stay warm without having to huddle together like penguins.


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