Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea and prospects for world peace
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 07:03
Last week, ex-NBA player Dennis Rodman (nicknamed "The Worm") and several members of the Harlem Globetrotters went to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un and participate in basketball exhibition events as part of a VICE documentary that will air on HBO.
In many ways, the experience played out like your typical buddy comedy. Guy plays basketball, guy has facial piercings and attends a book promotion wearing a wedding dress, guy claims he’s going to marry himself.
Then said guy travels to a secretive, totalitarian country where nuclear weapons have been tested to meet and talk about the Chicago Bulls with said country’s leader, a man we know little about, but whose father once allegedly shot 11 holes in one during a round of golf and claimed he could control weather with his mind.
I bet Adam Sandler can’t wait to get a crack at the script.
When I first read Dennis Rodman was heading to Pyongyang as a basketball missionary, I thought it was an Onion headline. When I realized it was true and happened, I just had to laugh.
But then, after watching some old YouTube videos of Rodman’s playing days and antics and the recent propaganda video North Korea sent out that depicts Manhattan burning in flames, I realized if anyone could make a difference healing the madcap and dangerous relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, it’s Dennis Rodman.
Reports say no one in the government endorsed Rodman and the Globetrotters’ trip to North Korea. Based on the backlash caused by Rodman’s visit, it seems pretty certain President Obama will not be taking credit for the diplomatic mission in the future, even if the U.S. and North Korea build a friendly relationship and the Raptors leave Toronto and become the Pyongyang Kim Jong Uns.
However, maybe sending someone like Dennis Rodman to meet with the leaders of North Korea is a good thing. While most have viewed it as a publicity stunt or an atrocity, especially after Rodman referred to Kim Jong Un as an "awesome guy," his trip makes us refocus our attention on a threatening, desolate world situation.
According to Rodman’s agent, Dennis saw the trip as a "chance to speak directly to Kim Jong (Un) that the only way to go is with peace, not war." While the means for securing harmony – a wild ex-NBA star playing and talking about basketball – is unusual, maybe it represents the type of off-the-wall, creative diplomacy America is going to have to engage in to make sure North Korea doesn’t attempt to give us "death by merciless strikes," which is what a North Korean media editorial stated in an announcement during Rodman’s visit.
For many Americans, North Korea represents a weird and humorous threat. This is probably because of the film "Team America: World Police"; you remember, that movie with puppets in which Kim Jong Il is featured repeatedly failing to speak audible English. As well, the bizarre tales that infuse our opinion of North Korean life make the presence of the country seem kind of amusing.
North Korea and Kim Jong Un are volatile and oppressive. They’ve built nuclear weapons, continually threaten America, have suffered famines that have led to reports of cannibalism, and they have no freedom of speech. On top of that, there are ambiguous reports of genocide and mass incarceration of country members who anger the state.
It’s easy to forget what’s happening there because the country is so despotic and private, and also because our domestic problems like the sequester and who’s going to get picked on "The Bachelor" require so much mental energy.
Yet, while Rodman’s visit will assuredly be one of the oddest news stories of 2013, maybe it will be a helpful incident in merely making us think about the threats North Korea poses and the grave issues the country faces.
Can Dennis Rodman heal the tense and hazardous relationship between the United States and North Korea? If you asked me that question a year ago, my answer would be laughter.
Now that "The Worm" has taken it upon himself to use basketball to find common ground between the strangest, most unpredictable country in the world and America, I have to say: if someone can do it, it might as well be Dennis Rodman.