[TODAY]Patriotism, racial slurs bode ill

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[TODAY]Patriotism, racial slurs bode ill

Kim Jong-pil, the president of the United Liberal Democrats, made a malicious remark that was productive for a change. The opposition party leader harshly censured the NBC "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno as a malevolent person who has no civility toward other countries. "Malevolent guy" is a good description of an ugly American who makes tasteless racial remarks.

I felt uncomfortable when American athletes walked into the stadium with the torn American flag from the World Trade Center. That display during the opening of the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City came despite protests from the International Olympic Commit-tee. I wondered if the games could be fair when the stadiums were filled with American patriotism. The thought that politics should not harm the Olympic spirit, I feared, was just remote idealism. And as expected, questions were raised more than once during the games about the fairness of the judging. American athletes benefited from judgments that looked suspicious, and Jay Leno's tasteless joke threw salt in the wounds of Koreans who believed that the short-track skater Kim Dong-sung was robbed of the gold medal by partisan judging.

NBC, which aired the show, is callously offering no apology. People say America has changed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The biggest change is that patriotism has been stirred up like never before. The United States is described as a fearsome beast that has been wounded by an arrow. Therefore even intrepid countries like North Korea have curled their tails between their legs. All countries are careful not to stir up the United States.

There is now a culture where Americans who question President Bush's rhetorical claim that North Korea, Iran and Iraq are the "axis of evil" are identified as unpatriotic. I believe Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" declaration has successfully turned patriotic fervor into a global strategy. The "axis of evil" speech not only portrays a mental change in Americans after Sept. 11, but also amplified patriotic sentiment. The whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, whom the U.S. government pledged to capture, are still unknown. Therefore, the U.S. government cannot haul before its own people the true entity of "evil" that attacked the heartland of the United States. Instead, the U.S. government dragged out an "axis of evil" ?forces that support the terrorism that crushed American pride.

But listening to Mr. Bush's speech, there is nothing there that links the three countries identified as the "axis of evil" to the provision of weapons to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist network, Qaeda, and the Taliban or to training of the terrorist groups.

Through the "axis of evil" comment, President Bush can support two strategies: First, the war against terrorist in Afghanistan can move on to its next phase, expanded to other rogue countries; and the patriotism of Americans, which is advantageous to conservative Republicans, can be tapped.

Terror is evil, and our country experienced its own atrocities when terrorism doomed Korean Air Line Flight 007 in 1987 and in 1983 when the North Koreans tried to assassinate President Chun in Myanmar. Just as no country would refuse to participate in a war against terrorism in principle, there would be no American who would oppose U.S. president calling the forces that support and harbor terrorism an "axis of evil."

The speech, it must be said, was a work of political and diplomatic genius.

Mr. Bush, speaking of North Korea, stresses that the regime in North Korea took away the freedom of the North Korean people. Mr. Bush showed his determination to return the people of North Korea to freedom after eliminating the "axis of evil." I am not sure if Mr. Bush's speechwriters have read the book, "Discourses on Titus Livy," written by Machiavelli, which proclaims that the common people believe an era of freedom will come when an evil sovereign is overthrown. Mr. Bush's cause is just and great, but it surely has stirred up the leaders of North Korea.

But there are those who oppose the characterization of an "axis of evil." Many European countries are opposed to an attack on Iraq, and public sentiment in Europe opposes Mr. Bush's insolence and one-sided principles.

But most important is the jingoism being stirring up in the United States by the "axis of evil" speech. The reform of legislation to strengthen criminal regulations, the increase in the defense budget and the attempt to restrict the activities of the press are just a few of the examples of the jingoism that has arisen. If such sentiments are not curbed, remarks from people like Mr. Leno may result in the opposite of Mr. Bush's intention.


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The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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