I’m sitting here, jet lagged, and totally out of the news loop by at least 48 hours. There used to be a time that 48 hours would be no big deal, but in the Trumpian Era, it seems to make all the difference in the world.
We’re now looking at going toe to toe, nose to nose against North Korea. The last 48 hours have seen threat and counter threat of nuclear weapons and ramifications. Fire and Fury. Theatre of nuclear war. In Presidencies of the past this wouldn’t have been a big deal. Seriously. One of the things that a leader does is rattle the saber at the adversary. But normally, out of sight, are armies of diplomats, talking formally and informally, working to tamp down the situation before it gets out of hand.
We don’t have that right now. There are no diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea. We don’t have a fully seated State Department, with years of experience and finesse to cool hot language. Our newest President, in his short six months in office, has brashly talked about the one country in the world that has the best chance at making a change in North Korea’s confrontational worldview.
We have a President unchained to the niceties of diplomacy, and the intricacies of history, who is insistent that, with six short months in office, we now have a stronger, better maintained nuclear force than ever before in history. And we have a North Korean leader who wants to be a big man on campus, leading an impoverished and starving nation who, for a half a century, has been told of great victories against the West and the United States. We do have the King of the Sycophants (with apologies to all the sycophants who have worked their hardest, but didn’t quite make the cut) reminding us that “President Trump is the most gifted politician of our time. He’s the best orator to hold that office in generations”. Hyperbolic language also worthy of being spoken by representatives of North Korea.
I take the Korean situation personally. I’ve never been there, but I have friends and students who have served in Korea, and have stood at the DMZ, staring at the North Korean guard on the other side of that line. I have met students from South Korea, friendly, warm, curious, students. I have a father who served in the original conflict, either at or behind enemy lines as the truce took effect, that turning point in time that, with sixty plus years of diplomatic stalemate, has created the crucible that holds the animus between the United States and North Korea.
I have a son and his girlfriend, two of Berkeley, California’s newest residents, who moved in on a sunny Friday, and now are living in an area contemplating nuclear air raid drills, all happening since their last box was opened and final piece of furniture was placed. And, in my jet-lag addled memory, I think about those hugs goodbye on Tuesday, flights from California to Minnesota, and now prayers for safety and peace to young family living over 1,800 miles from my grasp. All because two leaders refuse to talk, to negotiate, to lead, beyond their egos and personal ignorances.
We need a leader sitting in an Oval Office (paint fumes or not), ready to talk, to listen, and to negotiate, not a spoiled man-child driving his golf cart over greens, spouting dangerous language, and fuming over personal slights.
Fiery, arrogant rhetoric doesn’t cut it when it’s personal.