Paul Andersen: Wicked witches of East and West |

Paul Andersen: Wicked witches of East and West

A splash of water is all it took to liberate the enthralled hordes from the evil spell of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Innocent, young Dorothy accidentally doused the old hag for the ultimate meltdown, turning the diabolical darkling into a steaming pile of rags. Even the flying monkeys jumped for joy as their malevolent matriarch literally evaporated. If only it were that easy.

Today, wicked witches of East and West hold us in the thrall of nuclear war. Two contemptuous men — Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un — hold the power of life and death over their fellow man, which is neither moral nor practical.

These witches are belligerent, egotistical extremists who need a good dousing to free those millions of minions who quake in fear at the dire possibilities.

North Korea expert Nicholas Kristof warned last week in The New York Times: “Today, with the possibility of an exchange of nuclear weapons, if North Korea detonated nuclear weapons over Tokyo and Seoul, deaths in those two cities alone could exceed two million.”

Kristof quotes a North Korean Foreign Ministry official: “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is on the eve of the breakout of nuclear war. We can survive such a war.” The North Koreans, writes Kristof, live in a bubble of propagandized fantasy.

The problem is obvious, he states, in despair over this pair of pernicious potentates: “We have an American president and a North Korean leader who both seem impetuous, overconfident and temperamentally inclined to escalate any dispute — and the American mainland increasingly will be in the cross hairs of North Korean nuclear warheads.”

The Trump view of nuclear carnage seems as detached and impersonal as that of the Las Vegas shooter, who murdered dozens as if playing a video game. Bump stocks and nuclear proliferation go hand-in-hand in a culture of escalating violence.

Conventional weapons in America are defended as a security issue. The opposite is true in an era where no one will ever feel safe again. The Las Vegas shooter was a deranged sociopath. So are Trump and Kim as they recklessly hold millions hostage with nuclear arsenals.

One can only hope that gentle spirits will prevail, like Stanislav Petrov of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, who in 1983 averted World War III by not reporting radar images of incoming American missiles, which were actually solar flares.

The stakes are high as man assumes the godlike powers of life and death with the pull of a trigger or the press of a button.

With Trump and Kim, the matter is personal, much like it was between G.W. Bush and Saddam Hussein. Vengeance conveys executive whims into war, with repercussions of PTSD echoing into the far distant future.

Meanwhile, we scarecrows frightfully shy away from the torch-like conflagrations thrust at us, panicking helplessly when our sleeve is aflame. Dorothy had better come to the rescue because we cannot depend upon the Wizard, our fulminating Congress that pulls levers in a semblance of control while hiding behind the curtain of political self-interest.

The global intrigue with weaponry is pervasive and dominant, presaging a bland lethality in a world where nuclear escalation has enough fire power to extinguish much of life on Earth. Most of us feel powerless to avert such a holocaust.

And yet, we care, as shown by the disaster relief millions of Americans proffer for people they have never met, helping those less fortunate who find themselves in harm’s way. Can we care for the North Koreans in the same manner?

“No man is an island …” poeticized John Donne. “Every man’s death diminishes me because I am part of mankind …”

This sentiment is symbolized by the flags that fly at half-staff for weeks. Over time, our collective pity diminishes as in a protracted war where the death toll is announced routinely, and with less and less impact.

“Have I not reason to lament what man has made of man?” posed William Wordsworth in a sad, rhetorical query.

Dorothy’s innocent splash was symbolic of sympathy for the flaming Scarecrow. Where is a bucket of water and someone with the courage to throw it?

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at

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