The acting was great, but the grief might still be real


The older one gets the more time one spends standing by a coffin listening as preachers, family and friends tell  tales of the deceased live through their eyes.  Every time I learn hear things I had no idea about; usually their dedication to causes, generosity and loving nature.  They are not thing one generally learns about a business associate or cause political acquaintance.  Not long ago, I described my surprise at the funeral of a man who had worked with my ex-wife.  A minster, niece and grandson talked about the deceased man’s life, his love of family and friends, his golf game and his long and loving marriage. It all surprised me, the man they talked about was not the man I thought I knew.  I had that same feeling this week reading and listening to North Korean accounts of the life of the Dear Leader, son of the brave patriot who founded the country and benefactor of North Korea, Kim Jong-il.

In the west, we called him a dictator and claim he lived a very decadent private life out of the view of the Korean people – notice that is the same way we characterized Gaddafi, Hussein and their children; pornographic films, booze, broads and decadent diets.  We know Kim feasted on caviar when the people starved.  He was warm, well dressed and had anything his heart desired at the tips of his fingers while his people huddled in the mud and cold.  However, that is not the story the Korea media tells, nor one you hear from the residents of North Korea.

I watched a special on North Korean theater on al Jazeerah – filmed at least partially in the academy for film directing and acting.  According to the story, Kim founded the academy to train directors and actors to make realistic films that depict the struggles of North Korea to survive in a hostile world and to strengthen national pride and culture; we call it propaganda, they call it patriotism.  Unknown to us, Kim is considered a genius of film, theater and the circus. The Dear Leader was a man of many talents and many facets.

When the film makers asked the actors about their goals, they replied with not one, but two goals.  To “bring joy to the Dear Leader” and to “be good patriots.” One young man’s mother was also in the interview, she commented, “If you are a good actor you will be a good patriot.”  I may have been wrong making jokes about the mourners and their grief; it would appear that the personality cult of our Dear Leader is so strong and so all pervasive that the average citizen may not have been acting, but sincerely grieving.  The grief may be real, after all they have been told all of their lives that the Dear Leader has brought to them opportunity, security, wealth, health and happiness.  In their gratitude, the greatest accomplishments would be to bring joy to the Dear Leader and to be good patriots.   What can they do now? It is impossible to bring joy to a dead dear and who knows what will please the baby dear? And how does act like a patriot now?  It must be very confusing and a little frightening to be a North Korean now – I think I would be be grieving over the loss of certainty also.

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