Unknowable Factors

Over the years I have tried to be a little more optimistic about the human race. I am a strong supporter of the death penalty and for taking responsibility for one’s actions, so it’s not often that I go about defending people who have wronged others. I have also long believed that there are more unknowable factors that go into making a person, well…such a horrible person. Nature V Nurture is a fascinating topic and all, but I don’t know if our society, as a whole, really considers these arguments when facing looming crises or when just encountering a bonafide nutjob.

So let’s take, for instance, my recent defense of Dennis Rodman. My father is a pretty conservative guy who, like me, tries to see the good in people (though he’s much better at this than I am), and we somehow ended up discussing Rodman’s then-upcoming trip to North Korea. Perhaps it is the generational gap or simply our differing points of view, but dad and I couldn’t come to an agreement on why or why not Rodman should steer clear of such political matters. I defended Rodman and his desire to bridge the cultural rift North Korea has created with the modern world. I defended his friendship with Kim Jong Un as our countries’ best opportunity to move forward.

And then Rodman went to North Korea. And then Rodman did this. Damn you, Rodman. What the hell was I thinking? What the hell were YOU thinking? Ugh.

As a result, I haven’t completely given up on Rodman. I haven’t given up on North Korea, either. A few years ago I fell in love with the idea of seeing North Korea join the modern world sometime during my lifetime. I started watching countless documentaries about North Korean defectors and the regime’s brutal labor camps. I compared the myths of modern Western folklore with those of North Korea, and read numerous accounts of families torn apart after decades of violent rule by the Kim family. None of this makes me an expert in North Korean relations by any means, but it has helped me learn a lot about the human spirit and simple compassion.

When I came across this video yesterday for Grouplove’s song “Ways to Go”, I wasn’t sure if I should be horrified or hopeful. I watched this video before Dennis Rodman opened his big mouth, and last night, while I was still oblivious to the whole scandal, I told my husband about it. I wanted to share it but I was a little concerned that people would think Grouplove was mocking the  atrocities carried out by the Kim family regime. I was concerned that people would think *I* was mocking such atrocities. I decided to share it, though, because you all know me better than that.

My husband and I talked last night about the possibility of North Koreans being introduced to the real world. It’s a favorite topic of mine and holds so many questions: Who is responsible for them when that happens? How many millions of people will feel displaced in their own country? Can they even call it their own country? Will they suddenly become refugees in their own land? It’s like these people have been living in a terrifying version of The Truman Show, but I genuinely want to see the North Korean citizens have a chance to be welcomed by the rest of the world. It’ll be, in some weird way, a mass repatriation. Don’t you think?

As I get older, I find myself being more lenient when it comes to forgiving people who do really ridiculous things. A part of me still wants to defend Dennis Rodman’s outburst. Seriously. And I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why. It might have more to do with me trying to be compassionate and less to do with Rodman as an individual. Still, the Nature V Nurture argument rages on in my head, trying to figure out what makes Rodman want to defend a man like Kim. It’s the same argument I’m using to figure out what makes me want to defend a man like Rodman.

I want to believe he is in North Korea for the right reasons. I want to believe he and Kim have deep heart-to-hearts. I want to believe that Rodman isn’t just as crazy as Kim. I want to believe that my being optimistic about the human race isn’t a big, big mistake.

2 thoughts on “Unknowable Factors

  1. That’s one of the hardest challenges in life: optimism for the human race. I was never raised to give people the benefit of the doubt, so learning how to was extremely difficult. I’m able to in my adult life but it’s hard to get out from under the cloud of skepticism. We just never know how much judgment is in a persons heart, or what cruelty they’re capable of. Sticky situation for all.

    And I’d love to watch some of those documentaries you mentioned, what are a few of them called?

    • Camp 14 and Kimjongilia are two that come directly to mind. To be fair, I haven’t yet watched Crossing the Line, but I plan to soon. That one is about the US Army soldier who defected TO North Korea and opted to stay. My favorite doc, for a glimpse at supposed daily life, is A State of Mind. It follows two young girls who are training for the Mass Games. You can almost hear in their voices that there’s got to be something better in life.

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