“Try to make some sense of it all,
but I can see it makes no sense at all.”
Gerry Rafferty (Steeler’s Wheel), “Stuck in the Middle”
Catching a cold can really mess up your plans. It’s humbling that the human race has yet to find a cure for this peskiest, most mundane of annoyances, and to know that unless you’re either extremely lucky or superhumanly healthy, you can count on having a cold at least once a year. Helpless coughing, nasal incontinence, a throat that feels as if you’ve been gargling with vinegar, lemon juice, and broken glass, sinusitis, stomach problems if you have the flu–it reminds you that having a body is a mixed blessing and that, since colds can only be transmitted not by cold weather but by human contact, that in accordance with Jean Paul Sartre’s famous line, hell is indeed other people.
As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post, my wife Jina, who gloats that she can’t get sick anymore because her faith in Christ is so goddamned indomitable (which makes her a dominatrix of sorts, and me a domino), tried to cure me through faith healing, making me recite her Christian mantra again (“Jesus, take away my sins with your blood and fill me with your spirit–on second thoughts, can we just be friends?”) to no avail. I humored her by giving it a try, but my skepticism runs deep enough to make it impossible for me to suffer any kind of religious conversion; I’m also afflicted with enough dignity–ironically, considering my subterranean self-esteem–not to surrender my will to a higher power, unless it happens to be a beautiful woman, or the sometime-harridan I happen to be married to.
Besides, when it comes to praying, I identify with the prostrate King Claudius in “Hamlet”:
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
The plans I alluded to in the first paragraph had to do with an entry about the situation on Jeju Island, a place I’m told is the most beautiful in Korea and one of the loveliest spots in the world. It’s a volcanic island with transplanted palm trees and villages whose traditional fishing practices stretch back over generations. It was also the site of a massacre before and during the Korean War, which took place between 1950 and 1953, in which government troops from the South slew 30,000 Jeju islanders just to be on the safe side, suspecting they were communist-sympathizers. (Ah, there’s no preventive medicine like genocide now, is there?)
The night the virus took possession I stayed up late, reading a long article by Noam Chomsky about the wacky, madcap antics of the U. S. empire. He mentioned Jeju, so I typed “u. s. military base on jeju island” in my Google search window, and proceeded to educate myself about the crisis unfolding there. As I’ve been cut off from the world of adults who talk about current events for the past five months (although Jina is technically an adult, as am I, I think, she listens to sermons in her sleep through her earbuds, drinking in the rhetoric of barking Korean ministers angry about how indifferent so many of us grown-ups are about good old God), I’ve been hiding my head in the sand, and I kicked myself for not knowing more about this enormity in progress.
It’s a complicated story and I won’t bother regaling you with all the details; it’s also a challenge to digest all the stuff I read and regurgitate it back to you without violating copyright restrictions, something I definitely don’t want to do. Suffice it to say that what’s happening on Jeju Island is tragic–the Korean navy is bulldozing the precious natural landscape and riding roughshod over the area to make way for a huge military base, which will include two submarines, two air craft carriers, and twenty destroyers, along with the latest in multi-billion-dollar hit-or-miss anti-missile technology.
Both the U. S. and Korean militaries insist that the base is not a Trojan horse for the U. S. to set up a bulwark against the Chinese and control the shipping lanes in order to cut off China’s oil spigot at will and bring the Chinese monolith to its knees. They claim moreover that the base serves as a defense against North Korea, which sounds fishy, considering its location, and that the anti-missile missiles they’re planning to erect there wouldn’t be able to take out any North Korean missiles in time to prevent them from incinerating Seoul anyway.
Choe Sang-Hun, writing for the New York Times (“Island Base Stirs Opposition in North Korea,” August 18, 2011), has it that the South is torn by its commitment to the U. S. as a loyal ally who’s protected them against the North for decades, and its newly improved relations with China, who is now the country’s leading trading partner (but the trade is limited to American baseball cards and Wacky Packages). Choe quotes a Korean proverb, saying Korean people don’t want to be “the shrimp whose back gets broken in a fight between whales.” A few Koreans I’ve spoken to about the matter say they would be uneasy about participating in any kind of protest because they fear the government would pursue them with harpy-like fury (or even Fury-like fury) if they did.
Sounds like my dear old homeland itself! (Say, what’s that thing flying towards me in the distance? Holy shit–it’s a Predator drone! Duck and cover!)
Luckily, several of the residents of Gangjeong village on Jeju are standing up to the encroachers, although the Times claims that a lot of other residents support the base, believing it will help generate income through tourism. (This makes no sense to me, considering that Jeju Island is already probably the most popular tourist destination in the country, at least for native Koreans.) Hey, it worked for Okinawa, right?
Another article from the web search (which I promise I’ll give credit to after I finish writing this in a footnote I’ll add to the bottom) claims that the Trojan horse argument is correct, and that the reason for this obnoxiously insidious Murphy’s Law-like development (in both senses of the word) is that during his 2008 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama received half a million clams from General Dynamics, one of the companies that stands to clean up from the base’s construction, and now it’s payback time (which would also explain his seemingly-insane support of Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Circle, a surefire recipe for environmental catastrophe–why don’t we just cut to the chase and nuke the whole fucking planet?).
“Me and missiles jones, we got a thing going on.”
As a U. S. citizen who’s also been a recipient of Korean people’s largesse, it both saddens and infuriates me how my country’s military meme has infected the governing of this nation, regardless of who stands to benefit from the execution of the base. From my relatively powerless, cowering layman’s perspective, it feels like a ferociously foolish move, a way to poke China in the eye at a time when we owe them a shit-load of money; is this our way of saying, “Instead of paying you back, we’re going to blackmail you into keeping the cheddar coming until we’ve finished poisoning the planet”?
I certainly hope so!
I also hope you’ll join Bob Redford (www.savejejuisland.org), Gloria Steinem, Big Noam Chomsky, and other concerned celebrities, along with the good people of Jeju Island, in opposing this plan, whose intentions and outcome appear doubtful at best. You’ll help save endangered coral reefs and the whales will thank you for sparing them from the ear-splitting sonar that will otherwise drive them to their deaths. It’s not too late to turn things around.
May the force–but not the farts–be with you.
God bless a miracle.
Pray for Jeju–to Jesu, if you must.
Postscript: the info regarding “defense” contractor General Dynamics is from a website called TowardFreedom.com, specifically from the article “U. S. Seeks to Establish Naval Base on Jeju Island in Spite of Protests,” by John Lasker. You might want to take a gander over there if you’re so inclined; General Dynamics, along with Bath Iron Works, are American shipbuilders that make destroyers (there’s an honest name for a naval ship!). These ships would be equipped with Aegis anti-missile equipment (named after our family dog, who’s long since taken over for Cerberus) manufactured by the good people of Lockheed Martin–a company once presided over by Lynn Cheney, wife of Dick (no wonder their love is so strong)–and the largest weapons dealer in the world. According to Lasker, the Aegis could also be used to knock out the satellites on which people depend for their cell phones, navigation, circulation of blood, etc., potentially hamstringing the Chinese economy and ability to respond in time militarily to an attack by our guys.
He also mentions that Jeju Island was chosen by the U. N. as a World Heritage Site, which makes its current fate all the more piteous and horrifying.
So what do you say, people? Isn’t the profit of a few bloodthirsty corporations worth starting World War III between the two biggest military superpowers on earth?
Yes, sir! HUA! (U. S. military-speak for “heard, understood, acknowledged.”)
(Hell no, dawg!)