The Screenplay-novel Manifestos

Less is more vivid

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Bombing Perfect Strangers"

[The following are the opening paragraphs to "Bombing Perfect Strangers", a piece that I wrote which appeared in the online magazine rabble roughly three-and-half years ago. At the time I wrote it, the invasion of Iraq remained only a possibility -- and the stand-off with North Korea was much more temperate. But as in life so in history; what goes around comes around, and the piece, I think, has become timely again. I've made a few minor changes to it to clean it up a bit, but this is pretty much as it originally appeared.]

“We don’t want to talk about North Korea,” my students say. “We want to talk about music or movies.”

I’m an ESL instructor at a university in a small city in South Korea. And I’m frequently made painfully aware that most young people today are uninterested in politics. Pop culture is their real passion, and the currency of pop culture is physical attractiveness. When I go to the maze of bars, restaurants and shops that is at the south end of the university campus and pass the bulb-lit merchant wagons that sell pirated cassettes, the music is usually by singers chosen as much for their looks as their talent.

This is so much the way of the world that it feels tendentious to point it out. But, I must; pop culture is like a drug. As the clouds of war gather in the Middle East, not many people in Korea seem especially perturbed. Most are simply happily living their lives. But, underneath, there is pervasive unease in this country over the possibility that unless the regime in North Korea falls of its own volition, there will, at some point, be war in this region of the world as well.

This explains in large measure the antagonism that Koreans often feel toward the U.S. government and “George Bushi.” The relationship between Americans and South Koreans is enormously complex. America — in fact, North America generally — is seen as a kind of utopia. And Americans as individuals are both liked and cherished; Americaphilia runs as strongly here as Americaphobia. But there is a distinction made between the American government and American people. For the most part, current U.S. policy is seen as actually being opposed to the interests of peace. After all, the current U.S. administration has staked its prestige on fighting an “axis of evil,” and needs an enemy in North Korea. This, then, is the theory proffered for why the administration has taken steps to squelch the Sunshine Policy of North/South reconciliation.

to read the rest, click here.


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