North Korea - Not Funny
"President Bush says we need more time to find out if the bomb they detonated is a nuclear device. Well sure, that makes sense, because Bush doesn't want to rush to judgement on weapons of mass destruction." David Letterman monologue, 10.10.06
"I'm not saying the North Koreans exaggerated the size of their bomb, but witnesses say the experimental blast involved Mentos and a Coke bottle." Jay Leno monologue, 10.9.06
The country's major television comics are peppering their topical monologues with North Korean jokes these days. Which means North Korea has been tagged as a hot topic by those with their fingers on America's pulse. I don't like it.
It's not that I lack a sense of humor. Most of the jokes are pretty funny. And audiences are laughing. But primarily because the material pokes a stick at the unpopular Bush administration. Or belittles an unknown yet perceived enemy.
That's what I don't like. Most Americans know nothing about North Korea. Couldn't find North--or South--Korea on a map. Nor do they care. Few could tell you the name of North Korea's leader. Unless they've heard Letterman night after night refer to "Kim Jong-il and his brother, Men-Tal-E-il."
The networks and newspapers are all presenting multiple in-depth stories on North Korea. But it's hard to get staunchly nationalistic Americans fired up over a small country halfway around the world, especially given its foreign, repressed culture and barely known brutal political regime.
Those who watch The Daily Show for their news (more and more people every day) actually get a fair amount of straight info, presented with the show's trademark sardonic twist. But again, when the material belittles North Korea's nuclear capabilities it trivializes the seriousness of the danger to all of us.
So don't make jokes about a child-molesting congressman either, you say? Pshaw! The acts are despicable to be sure, but the humor is aimed at the joker responsible for the scandal, not his tragic victims. It's a time-honored America tradition to poke the air out of puffed up, self-righteous leaders when they get caught misbehaving.
Plus, we can do something about miscreants like Mark Foley. We can kick--or vote--them out of office. Seek prosecution for their crimes. And demand a revised system to prevent future abhorrent acts by other vile perverts in power.
But what can we do about North Korea's nuclear capabilities and threats of potential attacks? As citizens, nothing. We are forced to trust our leaders, other countries' leaders and the UN to keep North Korea in line. Not exactly a comforting scenario. Or a laugh riot.
Let's face it, in reality nothing about North Korea is remotely funny. But the American public doesn't seem to have absorbed the message that a nuclear powered loose canon like North Korea poses a potentially grave danger to America and the world.
And if you read the news and analysis carefully, you'll find one theme repeated over and over by the experts: North Korea's actions and threats are predicated on its determination to be taken very seriously.
I sure hope Kim Jong-il and Kim Yong-nam don't watch American television.