The first note that I make for this article is related to the photo that I attached above. The Navajo Nation, which is located in the Four Corners area of northern Arizona, has begun to distribute a brand of unbleached all-purpose flour that they produce. I found it at Walmart in my neighborhood, which is the one just off Interstate 10 in Tucson. I am very pleased to see it; the price is not markedly different from other brands of flour and everyone can do the right thing and support these entrepreneurial efforts being made by Native Americans. Good on you, Navajo Nation, and I hope the flour proves very popular.
Another thing that I have said in a previous article that was reprinted by Examiner.com is that there seemed to be quite a bit of animus in the media when basketball superstar Dennis Rodman visited North Korea. We know that he is at it again, looking outrageous and as outspoken as ever. Unfortunately Rodman isn't the person I would use as an example of diplomatic skills.
However, this trip has caught the attention of another journalist besides myself who decided to comment on it. In an article for the Huffington Post, author Doug Bandow writes:
"He has been much criticized for visiting the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a brutal totalitarian dictatorship which probably is the most repressive system on earth. There are no political freedoms or civil liberties. Open Doors just released its latest World Watch List and the DPRK again is rated the globe's worst religious persecutor. There has been a slight opening for some private economic activity in recent years, but it remains painfully small and may not survive the execution of Kim's uncle, Jang Song-taek, who was thought to be a proponent of economic reform."
In other words, if no one from America attempts it, what are the chances that any diplomatic relations between this tragic nation and the outside world be established? There doesn't seem to be any interest on the part of other nations either, for which we can hardly blame them. But Bandow goes on:
"Nevertheless, he isn't completely wrong. Sports diplomacy is useful, though its impact in the North likely will be modest at best. And courageous people who get arrested after intentionally challenging repressive governments shouldn't expect everyone else, including nonpolitical actors on nonpolitical trips, to be equally courageous in making the release of political prisoners a priority.
"North Korea is a great human tragedy. And we should hope that the next informal ambassador to the DPRK is someone less prone to inane outbursts. Nevertheless, Dennis Rodman is better than nothing. Not much better, but still better as long as Washington adopts a policy of ineffective isolation."
If President Obama is pained about all this, it behooves him to approach this issue another way. I do not just mean another way in the sense of sending someone else to North Korea; I also mean that he ought to send someone to North Korea instead of allowing the rapprochement to proceed in the haphazard manner that is presently occurring. Of course someone other than Rodman could do it better, and since that is patently obvious, our President ought to follow up on the tiny little crack in North Korea's facade that Rodman has created, and get someone involved who can begin a real process of dialog.
The actor Kirk Douglas also contributed an article to HP in which he praises Pope Francis as a man who is good for all religions. I disagree; the Pope is the Governor Chris Christie of the Catholic Church, in that he decided to talk a good fight and hold the line behind the scenes. Christie is in the midst of a career- ending scandal, and while the Pope does things like shelter a priest who is accused of child molestation, refusing to allow his extradition for trial, he cannot reasonably be accused of moving the ball in the direction of justice. He made some initial conciliatory remarks about the LGBT community, but there has been little follow-up, while his correspondence shows that he attributes homosexuality and marriage equality to diabolic influence. This antiquated thinking is his real face, not the Christie-like smile of bipartisan or ecumenical thought.
It doesn't surprise me that Douglas has paid attention to the welcoming attitude of the press towards the new pope, but if he were really following the excommunication of the priest in Australia (who championed women's ordination) and the increasing openness of those who are shedding more light on his real personality, I don't believe he would have written the article.
Over time, we will see if Francis is prepared to break new ground, or if he would rather appease the public with sound bytes and proceed with the Catholic agenda behind closed doors. I am not optimistic.