"That tiger didn't go crazy. That tiger went tiger." -- Comedian Chris Rock, speaking about the Siegfried & Roy tiger attack incident in Las Vegas in 2003.
I heard the unsurprising but still disheartening news about Euna Lee and Laura Ling's sentencing this week by the so-called Democratic People's Republic of North Korea. In this case, two American citizens are facing the prospect of twelve years' hard labor -- or worse -- in one of the world's worst penal systems, and the collective psyche of this nation doesn't seem too bothered by it.
I was kind of stumped by this (after all, shouldn't we care more about the rights of two American citizens abroad than we do about the treatment of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad?), so I went to check out the media coverage and the comments left there by people who, well, care enough to leave comments.
Some expressed a lot of outrage and frustration, but there were many who voiced the sort of "Well, they got what was coming" attitude that might help explain why there seems to be more outrage in the streets of Seoul over this than there does in the streets of Peoria.
Judging by those comments, you would almost think that Euna Lee and Laura Ling -- both credentialed journalists working for Current TV -- were being held in the same category as Lori Berenson, the MIT dropout who, with her middle-class American values and gringa-accented, nails-on-a-chalkboard Spanish, went to Peru and operated a safehouse for the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, for which she's now serving a twenty-year sentence under less-than-brutal conditions. (Judging from the fact that she became pregnant in 2008, well, I'll let you write the 'hard labor' joke as you see fit).
In Lori Berenson's case, I would say the 'tiger went tiger.' I can almost see her parents scolding her next year when she gets released, with a finger wagging in her direction...
"Now, Lori, what did we tell you about starting revolutions in Latin America? You're going to bed with no supper so you can think about all those people in Lima whose lives you and those friends of yours ruined."
In the case of Euna Lee and Laura Ling, however, there's no evidence they ever jabbed a finger in the tiger's eye, let alone entered his cage. And, as their families pleaded so earnestly on CNN, even if they did, it was likely unintentional, and certainly without malicious intent.
Thankfully, the State Department and the Obama Administration are spinning up into crisis mode here, so at least they're demonstrating the proper level of concern over two American citizens who may have been badly wronged here, at the cost of their own lives and the well-being of their families who, if they're taking North Korea's track record of taking care of the MANY Japanese and South Korean citizens they've mercilessly kidnapped over the years into account, have every reason to worry.
Some things are just bad, though the commentariat, the blogetariat, and the MSM might not have you think it. The code of the moral relativist says that the 'badness' of any action is only in the eye of the beholder.
A Christian extremist/terrorist killing a doctor in a Kansas church is just as bad as a Muslim extremist/terrorist killing an Army private in Arkansas, though if we're just going by media and Internet references one was apparently eight times as bad as the other.
A foreign government drumming up possibly baseless charges against two American journalists, and then sentencing them to hard labor with the possible trump card of 'bargaining chip' in their sleeve is a bad thing. North Korea is not 'just another country' with a simply 'misunderstood' point of view -- any moral relativist who really believes that needs to conduct some field research, or even just library research, before seriously saying that with a straight face.
Euna Lee and Laura Ling may not look like your next-door neighbors, but they could have been.
They did not 'have this coming' and neither did their families.