The Common Good
May 2012

Like Father, Like Sun...

by Ed Spivey Jr. | May 2012

Becoming a dictator is a great way to get out of homework.

BELATED CONGRATULATIONS to North Korea’s new leader, the 20-something Kim Jong Un, whose exact age is being withheld while government officials review celestial events to choose which one specifically heralded his immaculate birth. This precedent was set earlier by Kim’s charismatic father, Kim Jong “Let-A-Smile-Be-Your-Umbrella” Il, who, according to North Korean textbooks, was born during the appearance of a new star. North Korean textbooks also stated that Il was an excellent golfer and that he produced no urine or feces—a helpful combination if you’re playing 18 holes without a cart.

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The young Kim’s inauguration was done in typical North Korean modesty, with thousands of identically dressed people filling the square in Pyongyang, moving in perfect synchronization to honor the new leader and, secondarily, to celebrate the fact they’d all eaten beforehand. Regular meals is what they get in Pyongyang, as opposed to citizens in the rest of the country, who eat—as human rights groups have documented—less often.

Kim reportedly had very mixed feelings about the impending death of his father and his quick return from the Swiss boarding school where he had been living. He’ll miss his dad, of course, but he got out of final exams. And as any college student can tell you, it’s better to be in the history books than stuck in a campus Starbucks reading them.

I’m wondering if Kim will continue the powerful reminder of his nation’s nuclear capability by adopting his dad’s mushroom-cloud hairstyle. I notice this kind of thing because I, too, have bad hair. But, sadly, I have no nuclear weapons to casually mention to people making fun of me at a party. “Oh yeah? What’s your address again? Anywhere within a 50-mile radius would be fine.”

(In related news, North Korea is actually willing to cease nuclear testing in exchange for food shipments, which reduces the nuclear threat considerably, and minimizes the role of North Korea in international affairs. So Kim might have to go back and take his finals after all. Bummer.)

I’M STRUCK BY Kim’s appearance—his roundish face and unchanging expression—because it reminds me of the Elmo birthday balloon that has been terrorizing our home the past few weeks.

Standard balloons are considered dangerous for toddlers, who could ingest pieces of plastic if they explode when, say, a grandfather is trying to fashion clever animal shapes too close to the stove. (Not to brag, but my three-legged llama is quite impressive, although I have to admit I was trying to make a bunny.)

Mylar balloons are preferable since they deflate over time, like Michele Bachmann or, after some noticeable hissing, like Herman Cain. Unfortunately, mylar balloons spend their final days about waist high, drifting from room to room, with no purpose except to scare the crap out of you.

On numerous occasions I have attempted to euthanize this menace, only to quickly put the scissors behind my back when the granddaughter toddles in and gives Elmo a hug. So it remains a ghostly presence in my home, floating malevolently, a reminder of Sesame Street’s hideous dark side.

Sometimes it follows me, caught up in my natural wake, or it enters a room pushed by some unseen current, bumping against my leg, or passing just inside my peripheral vision. Where once Birthday Elmo brought the laughter of children to our home, Elmo’s Floating Head of Death now bobs and weaves in the dark corridors of my house, appearing when I least expect it, seemingly out of nowhere, a spectral intruder, or perhaps some unspecified carnivore, or worse—a young dictator with a mushroom cloud on his head! (If you’re reading this, for heaven’s sake, send help! Something sharp would be nice.)

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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