Wednesday: Popular American Culture and Politics

Contrary vs. Belligerent


Last week’s post was a grimace in the national-facing mirror, taking a moment to notice the blemishes and scars so often overlooked in the frosty glass of American Exceptionalism.

But while America may be Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary right now, North Korea is turning out to be something much more belligerent.  And talking about it is no nursery rhyme lesson.

So let’s touch on North Korean Exceptionalism shall we?  Let’s bypass Team America cheap-shots and head straight to a TED Talk by Hyeonseo Lee.  This one is pretty riveting – this is a woman who escaped North Korea because of her own wherewithal, and then returned to test her luck and remove her family.  It’s a story about perseverance and courage, but it’s also a story of charity, humanity and the kindness of (Western) strangers.

Yes, America fosters a healthy dose of Red-White-and-Brainstorming in our classroom rhetoric.  And yes, we can’t seem to get our act together to fix the systems that help the hungry, the unhealthy, the poor.  But our 99 percent are allowed to stand with signs to protest the 1 percent.  Our government doesn’t starve the lower class when exercising a vindictive power trip.  Our president was voted in, whether you like him or not.  He’s firmly ensconced in the cushion of middle age; he’s not a trigger happy, over-praised 20-something with inferiority complexes and a serious detachment from reality. 

America has had a fall from grace in the past decades.  It can’t be denied.  But we’ve honed our pissing contests to use rhetoric and finely choreographed steps.  So much so, that we are genuinely startled when a small man across the globe whips out his Musadan missiles to show off.

I mean – we’re still America.  We wrote the book on “ours is bigger than yours,” from televisions to refrigerators to cars to, yes, missile caches.  Our military might wouldn’t even fit entirely inside North Korea – even AFTER the sequestration cuts.

So, although I still think America has a little soul-searching to do in the pursuit of self-knowledge and truth, the winner of the Delusional Country on the Brink of Self-Destruction Via International Incident goes to North Korea, hands down and missiles up.


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