Folks, there is a military school in Pyongyang, North Korea, where eleven year old students are being taught tactics and strategy aimed at preparing them for the “fight” against the United States. One of the pre-teen students at the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School was quoted as saying, “I am trying to study harder, because I really think that’s how I can get my revenge on the American imperialists”. The shaven headed Jo Chung Hyok, between taekwondo thrusts, added, “It’s my revolutionary duty.”
Are you kidding me! What kind of world are we living in? It sometimes can be a razor thin line between “brainwashed” and “hogwash”!
And listen, the problem I have here is not that North Korea hates us. That is not breaking news. And I’m not concerned this morning about the upcoming 60th anniversary of the close of the Korean War. Or who has the most missiles aimed at whom. Or who, for goodness sakes, has right or might on their side! I’m not even thinking about the eventual outcome of all of this.
I believe with all my heart that an eleven year old kid ought to be first and foremost…..an eleven year old kid! I don’t care what language you speak. I don’t care who your father is mad at. I don’t care about national policy or U. N. sanctions. It doesn’t even matter if your national leader is a complete nincompoop.
When I was eleven years old I was swinging on a grapevine across that big ditch down behind George Sexton’s house. I was polishing the Johnson waxed dining room floor with my back side as I slid into an imaginary home plate with the winning run. I was racing my little brother to the top of the hill in front of Paul David Campbell’s house.
I wasn’t mad at anyone. Hate wasn’t a part of my vocabulary. I wasn’t trying to “get even” or “settle an old score”. I wasn’t concerned about strategy or tactics. I wasn’t living for the future…… I was trying to have the most fun that I could have at that particular moment. It seemed like the God intended natural thing for a little boy to be doing.
Oh, I knew about world events. You sit on the front steps of Woodrow Kennon’s store and listen to the men talk for five minutes and you came away with a working knowledge of hog prices in Memphis, the weather “coming up” from the Arkansas/Missouri area and the job Ike was, or wasn’t, doing in Washington. We took it all in, we figured some of it was important but to tell you the truth, we were much more interested in the peanuts we were pouring down the neck of the Coca-Cola in our sweaty little hands.
Mrs. Cox, in the fifth grade, taught us arithmetic, reading and spelling. She didn’t teach revenge. We read books that had pictures of little children jumping mud puddles and playing on slides. She helped us grasp the rudimentary elements of knowledge commensurate with our age and ability. She certainly didn’t scare us or threaten us with ideas and worldly affairs way above our station.
I was eleven years old when Calvin Purvis ran into Bill Argo’s Gulf Station with the news that Russia had just sent this “Sputnik” thing into outer space. Didn’t no one there panic. Mr. Argo didn’t turn to me and say, “Kesley, you’ve got to start training right now to ‘get us back ahead’ of those Commies.” He didn’t give the old “win one for America” speech. He didn’t stick a BB gun or a Ka-Bar knife in my hand and admonish me to “learn to use them”. They talked of the “space race” and what Khrushchev might be up to……but they didn’t include me in the conversation. I was, after all, just a little boy.
When my first son was only a few days old, Coach Wayne Taylor gave me the best single piece of advice I ever received on raising children. He said, “Let him be the age he is. Don’t wish him to be older for your benefit. And don’t try to keep him a little boy after he grows past that stage.”
I wish today those little shaven headed eleven year olds in North Korea had that same opportunity. What a warped sense of life, not the beauty and joy of it, is being forced on them! They will have plenty of chances to see the twisted, contorted world that grown-ups have created. Let’s don’t rush them into that!
Besides, the world picture changes way too often for “long range hates and enemies”. In 1958, we were preparing for the Russians. There was no other enemy looming. I get to be an adult and so much of the world attention has shifted to the Middle East; and then on to Afghanistan and the Al-Qaeda.
Those little boys in North Korea are preparing for a fight against a perceived enemy that may not even exist, or could actually be an ally, when they grow into a position to use all these fighting skills they are so ardently pursuing now.
I wish I could sit down with each one of them, hug their necks, and discuss life…..over a six and a half ounce bottle of Coca-Cola filled to the brim with a bag of Tom’s Peanuts.