And the Oscar goes to – the people of North Korea

Pyongyang residents react as they mourn the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo on December 19, 2011.  REUTERS-Kyodo

Reuters, 12-20-11

Nearly every child, by the time it is 2 or 3 years old, realizes that tears bring attention and a lessening of the punishment or the object which is the heart’s desire at that moment.  Some become really, really good at crying – I have a niece that is a pretty good actress.  She is actually pretty good at dancing, singing, math, drawing, running and many other things, but she exceeds at agony and pain, melting into a pitiful, sad weeping girl forced to fall on the floor in her grief.  Everyone around her has learned to recognize the real article from the fiction – they don’t buy the false tears and in the midst of her great acting calmly suggest she “bag it.”  She then gets up and carries on with her day, without even a trace of the tears or pain on her lovely face.  She is not an exception, nor are the parents, grand parents and others who can differentiate between the real and the false tears – it is a ritual of our nation.

Probably a ritual of our race, as I assume that the phony cry is universal, that is children in England, Saudi Arabia, India and North Korea all learn the skill.  And I would have thought that family and friends in those countries would also have learned to differentiate, but maybe not.  This morning, I followed a link to the Huntington Post on my AOL home page to a series of videos from North Korea.  I was treated to the heir-designate and other dignitaries viewing the body of “Our Dear Leader,” born under two rainbows, builder of the nation, father to all and the victim of his own dedication to his country; he died of a heart attack caused by the stress of work while on a train to yet another visit to some pet project in his beloved nation.  I also got to see and hear the responses to Kim Jong-il’s death from all of the leaders of the region.  But by far the most interesting were the official news broadcasts and videos of a mourning nation.

In dozens of different circumstances and all across the nation, they weep falling in the streets, distraught and inconsolable. New broadcasters bravely fight through tears and continue reading, with voices weakened by grief, the litany of the great man’s life work – North Korea. In one video an actor, sitting in a chair, was leaning forward rocking back and forth, sobbing; he had built his life’s hope around seeing the Dear Leader at his next performance and now he was torn from them: “How could that be?” A couple of videos were of groups of women screeching, crying and falling to the ground – I have seen nothing quite like it, that is since I visited my niece in October. Unlike my niece who just wants her way, I think the mourners are afraid they will be punished if they do not show the proper amount of pain and agony; watching a group together is interesting, there did seem to be some real competition to see who had the best wail and the most anguished expression.  I watched and listened to a continuous stream of the mourning videos and laughed for an hour this morning.

Okay, for certain some people do really care and are very sad at the loss of their leader; but unless the skill does not transfer across cultures I recognize phony when I see it.  I have learned pretty well over the course of my life to tell the difference between real tears and a great actress at work.  After all I watched my sister (I was 14 when she was born), the grandmother of the current crying girl, my niece, the girl’s mother and now this lovely girl perform the act many, many times in the last 50-some years.  I love it, but rarely am I fooled by it.  Give those Koreans the Oscar for a great performance!



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