The 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in NYC just ended. There was something for everyone:
Justin Trudeau fan-girls.
Fashionistas. (See President Buhari of Nigeria, left.)
Yesterday at 3:30 in the morning, there was even a “UN Experts Workshop on Witchcraft and Human Rights.” By candlelight, I assume.
But the UNGA kicked off last Tuesday. First, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a lovely opening speech (in three different languages, no less), addressing seven global challenges. Ready?
Nuclear peril; terrorism; humanitarian no-no’s; climate change; rising inequality; something he called “the dark side of innovation” (like botching other countries’ presidential elections?); and the refugee crisis.
If Guterres was trying to get Trump’s attention when he said the following about climate change . . .
“Solutions are staring us in the face; leadership needs to catch up.”
. . . he should have held up something shiny first.
And about the refugee crisis: “Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite. Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.”
And nukes, “We must not sleepwalk our way into war [with North Korea].” This was even before Trump threatened to wipe North Korea off the face of the earth.
As was the online chat I had recently with an old friend who lives in Seoul. I’ll give it to you in bits as I get thru the UNGA speeches . . .
ME: Hi, X!! [She asked that I not use her name]
X: Hi Deb!
Hi! I keep thinking I want to come to Seoul! Now it seems a little scary. I thought you could fill me in on how the South Koreans are feeling about our crazy U.S. President and how he’s dealing with N. Korea??
Oh, are you visiting Seoul?
Not yet. Hopefully soon.
So you want to know Korean’s point of view on North Korea?
Yes, I’m curious. What’s the feeling about North Korea right now?
Especially since Trump has made these stupid threats. He’s insane.
Oh, you didn’t support Trump for election?
Mostly uneducated people support him. And the Russians.
And very rich businessmen.
First, we think North Korea is crazy. And we’re more sensitive about China.
Because we believe China is supporting North Korea behind everything.
Ahh . . .
So now we are watching to see how USA deals with China regarding the North Korea craziness.
We’re guessing there are 3 ways . . .
Next up at UNGA was Brazil’s President Michel Temer, who kicked off the General Debate (Brazil always goes first — long story). I missed that speech, ’cause I was in the Berkshires, still listening to the birds chirping from bed . . . until I saw the text my friend who works for the U.N. had sent me:
“Here’s how I’m feeling waiting for Trump at work this morning.”
I hopped out of bed, but I missed the lead-in to Trump’s speech: when the North Korean Foreign Minister conspicuously got up and walked out of the assembly hall. Then our Prez stepped up to the podium and commenced making fools of us Americans (as usual) while I made coffee in my friend’s country kitchen, and live-streamed the show from my Mac.
First he talked about how rich and awesome we are, bragging about our soon-to-be $700 billion military. And then he basically said you’re all on your own, because sovereignty is the ultimate peacekeeper:
“Those three beautiful pillars, those pillars of peace: Sovereignty, security and prosperity.” Uh, in whose world . . . ? He used the word “sovereign” 21 times, according to the NY Times. And according to my own count, he used the word “beautiful” 3 times, in typical Trumpian style. “The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words.” What an orator.
Let’s return to my friend in Seoul for a moment:
X: We’re guessing there are 3 ways . . .
#1, USA and China will do a big deal. USA gives up one big thing to China.
Like USA will accept the idea that Taiwan belongs to China. This is what China always wants.
ME: I see. Accepting that would be something the US could “give” to China.
Yes, yes. But they say it is not big enough deal to give up [China’s support of North Korea].
Right. And the other 2 ways?
2nd possibility – USA will keep doing big army training. So in the meantime, there can be a chance for the opposition party in North Korea to have a coup d’etat.
This could be the best chance for the people who are against Kim Jung Un. They say Kim Jung Il and his supporters were in extreme danger or nervous, as they were about to have coup d’etat.
Wow, that would be cool.
#3 Japan and [South] Korea, both of us make nuclear weapons.
Just what we need — more nuclear weapons! Yikes. But I understand why they would want to.
Meanwhile, Trump continues insulting various members of the UN:
“Rogue regimes represented in this body . . . not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity. Authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom . . .”
Is that the traffic cone calling the kettle orange? The part of this man’s brain that recognizes hypocrisy is obviously feeding back into itself, because it somehow led to Trump’s now infamous proclamation,
“The United States . . . will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
CUT TO: The empty seats of the North Korean Ambassador.
And back to my friend:
ME: Do South Koreans talk about this much, or is it just part of life?
X: Hmm, we are very sensitive about this, definitely yes. But we don’t talk about it every time we hang around with friends.
Got it. Same here.
But North Korea always so much bothering. It is true. We really always say we hate Kim Jung-Un. We hope there could be coup someday. He is crazy, really.
We talk about Trump a LOT (he’s also CRAZY), but sometimes we talk about other things.
Do you guys see Trump as crazy as we do?
I know Trump is crazy.
But USA is super supportive of Korea, in dealing with North Korea. The TV and government will never complain about Trump, as we need the USA.
I can understand being USA-friendly, even though we have an insane president. We just need to get him out. I miss Obama.
Back at the UNGA, the audience shots during Trump’s speech were killing me . . .
Trump throws shade at Iran, calling it “a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.”
CUT TO: The Iranian delegate, who picks up his iPhone and tweets “@realdonaldtrump: I’m right here, idiot. I can hear you.” (How cool would that’ve been?)
Trump says, “In Syria and Iraq, we have made big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS.”
CUT TO: The Syrian delegate wondering how he can trick Trump into eating some poop.
Trump talks about how we pay an “unfair” portion of the UN budget. But “to be fair, if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it.”
CUT TO: The Zimbabwe delegation, wondering which one of them is gonna get to recite Samuel L. Jackson’s Ezekiel 25:17 speech from Pulp Fiction to Trump after they rope him to his gold toilet with one of his own ties.
Trump attempts to sound like he gives a shit about women by mentioning “the Woman Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, part of our commitment to empowering women all across the globe.” That’s Women Entrepreneurs, dumbass. I hate this guy.
CUT TO: Melania Trump, who clearly hates him too. Or she doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. What is she seeing through those soulless eyes in that immovable face? And who is that anonymous woman next to her in the fabulous Chanel-like dress? I don’t know if she’s Melania’s security detail, or her not-so-secret lipstick-lesbian lover, but if she’s the latter, Melania is definitely the top.
Then of course there’s Nikki Haley looking like she’s watching her family home burn down, Rex Tillerson looking like he’s being forced to share a chair with someone else, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with a big hashtag over his head: #WhyTheHellDidISayYes?
I had money on Trump not mentioning Russia, but he managed to criticize them for violating the sovereignty in Ukraine. It figures he framed it in sovereignty. Oh, this was supposed to be a “united nations” speech?
Trump did NOT mention climate change. But everyone else did. Too bad catering supplied everyone in the assembly with several single-serving, single-use plastic bottles of water. You guys!!! Jeez.
After Trump’s ratings rally, all the other UN member leaders took their turn at subtly or not-so-subtly putting him in his place (after each gave some lip service to victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria).
Doris Leuthard, the President of Switzerland, announced, “‘To each his own’ is not a viable way to respond to global issues.”
President Kiska of Slovakia spoke in English, but with my Slovakian grandmother’s accent. He dissed Trump with, “There is no stronger enemy . . . than egoism, ignorance and narrow-minded national or personal interests,” and asked, “Are we here to serve, or to be served?” My count of the words “ego,” “ignorance,” and “nationalism” in his speech: 3 each. I was so proud.
Nigeria brought THE HAT. (Poor guy was almost impeached while recuperating in London for three months after he was hospitalized for complications from prostate cancer. That’s some tough constituents.)
The Czech President was quite the intellectual, mentioning the books “The End of History” and “The Crash of Civilizations,” and quoting Martin Luther. He suggested — rather than continuing to convey our condolences, organizing protests, and operating the 38 different UN committees on anti-terrorism — instead creating “a single but strong office” for fighting against terrorism, based on Article 47 of the UN Charter. He spoke of “brain drain” — when the brightest people from war- and poverty-stricken countries emigrate to other countries — and thought it better to help those people stabilize their regions with electricity, infrastructure, etc. That all sounds good, but I was most impressed by this: I think the dude was off-book.
Ellen Johnson, the first democratically elected female President of Liberia, said “The next generation must belong to women.” Amen to that, sister.
The next day, French Prez Emmanuel Macron TOTALLY delivered. So much for his chummy attitude towards Trump in Paris.
This is me writing as fast as I could while he was speaking:
“. . . Of course France wants to step up to assist . . . but development aid must be more innovative . . . invest in education, because it is HERE where we can win . . . and health, to combat malnutrition. . . . Wherever women are undermined, development is undermined too. . . . we must preserve progress and freedom of the press . . . The planet will NOT negotiate with us. [The Paris Climate] Agreement is not up for negotiations . . . we will not backtrack. . . . We are inextricably linked to each other. . . . Nothing is more effective than multilateralism, because ALL of our issues are multilateral. Our vision is universal, not regional. It’s not ‘survival of the fittest’ . . . it’s in ALL of our interests . . . a world where all of us have our rightful place. . . . It’s not WALLS that protect us, it’s our desire to act . . . Our security is their security . . . We must balance our interests with our values . . . “
I was so busy absorbing that during the next speech, from the President of Colombia (who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year), that I zoned out . . . until I heard his translator say, “. . . the gradual dismantling of their democracy.” Was he referring to us??
Remember when this kind of talk was about crazy dictators in other countries? Welcome to the new America. And Europe, for that matter. (I just met some Belgian Jews who are checking out Toronto this week, to see if they want to move there.)
Of course, at some point, North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un responded to Trump’s speech from home, saying “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”
X: . . . In [South] Korea there are 2 groups:
Group 1 supports North Korea right party. Group 2 is against North Korea and USA-friendly.
I’m in group 2.
Old people, and many of upper-middle high class – they are group 2. They are mostly Not young student or they are teachers. [not sure I understand this]
Oh, I didn’t realize there were many people in S Korea who support N Korea!
Yes, many crazy Koreans support North Korea — you have no idea. This is more issue for Koreans, actually. It has been like this since the Korean War. So we’re divided: North Korean supporters, and against North Korea.
And speaking of Canada . . .
I was about to tune out for the day on Thursday when cutie-pie Justin Trudeau took the stage. Much of his speech was about how Canada has done a shitty job with their “indigenous peoples,” while looking at times like a young Harrison Ford with his adorable half smile, and the girls swooning over him in the assembly hall.
Humbly promising to right Canada’s wrongs done to those indigenous peoples, he even talked about climate change in relation to that population, and then took his only dig at Trump: “There is no country on the planet that can walk away from the challenge and reality of climate change.”
Of course the Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi*, who followed Trudeau, was ALL about climate change. Given that they’re an island nation with no military, and who are gonna be swallowed up by the rising seas, they’re basically like, “Is this thing on? Hello? Anyone?”
*(Seriously. That’s the dude’s name.)
Then Theresa May says in her speech (which might’ve been Wednesday, actually): “We will never let anyone destroy our way of life.” Could I be any more embarrassed to be white than I am now?
On Friday, Ri Yong-ho, the Foreign Minister of North Korea (aka the DPRK), finally got to speak at the General Debate. It was both powerful and chilling . . .
“I feel forced to make comments on the speech, uttered four days ago by someone called the U.S. President, that rendered this sacred UN arena tainted.” OUCH.
He said (translated from Korean) that this “deranged megalomaniac . . . lacking in basic common knowledge . . .” insulted their country by “referring to it as a rocket. By doing so, however, he committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets visit the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more.”
Um . . . help???
Then he made some really good points: That the U.S. was the first to make nuclear weapons, and the only country to actually use them (in Asia, no less), and that we’d threatened to use them on the peninsula during the Korean War. And that we’re still staging military exercises on the Korean peninsula, so what else could the DPRK do, besides build up an arsenal?
“Our ultimate goal is to establish the balance of power with the U.S.” Fair enough. Except that our two leaders are CRAY-CRAY!!! Can we do a “Two men enter, one man leave” Thunderdome kinda thing — except neither man leaves?
ME: Same here, two groups. Democrats and Republicans.
X: Hmm, Democrats and Republicans. You are which side?
I’m a Democrat.
Very liberal, very global.
Very worried about climate change.
What do Americans hope now?
Do you want new president?
Most of us do, YES.
What’s the idea for new election? How it can happen?
Unfortunately, we can’t have a new election until 2020. If he gets impeached (my theory is that he will eventually quit when that gets close), Vice President Pence will become president — and he is an awful man. Very “religious” and very anti-gay.
It is similar . . . wrong election and selection, like in Korea, haha.
I don’t think Trump will make it through his first term. There is a huge investigation now about how his campaign colluded with the Russians.
LEFT: How South Koreans see the “socialist” North Koreans (they’re better known as a dictatorship).
BELOW: How North Koreans see the capitalist South Koreans.
It’s pretty nuts how much our countries have in common now, right? Here’s the rest of our conversation (with another gratuitous shot of my nephew [and me] at the zoo) . . .
Russia supported him?
Was there dealing behind election?
Yes, they interfered with our election. It’s a huge scandal here.
There is an FBI investigation now to uncover if/how the Trump campaign helped the Russians do that.
Interesting. What was benefit for Russia to have Trump elected?
Trump is a big, stupid, selfish rich man, who wants to be bigger and richer. He actually admires dictators like Putin—he thinks they’re smart. Russia wanted him to remove our sanctions on them. But the U.S. Congress just passed a law saying that the President cannot remove sanctions without their permission. It was a big deal.
I see. That’s funny. And that’s stupid, admiring dictators.
And interesting; why Russia?
Greed. Money. Power. For example, if Trump removed the sanctions, and allowed Russia to do business with us again, then he could build a Trump Tower in Moscow and become more famous. On Russia’s side, Putin would have more power, and more places to hide the money that his corrupt government takes from their people.
Korea impeached our last president. All my family and I were very sorry for that. She was not lucky.
Oh, you and your family liked her? I thought she was corrupt?
She had a monster next her. She trusted the monster lady, who was a friend, like family, for 30 years. That was stupid. But President Park was a really good person. She doesn’t even have any money, so technically it’s not corruption.
When I hear more things from my mom, I will update you again, haha.
My mom is expert of newspaper and representative of Conservative party.
I recently watched all the episodes of a Korean TV show. It was about 5 girls who share a flat. I loved it!
When should I come visit?
Yes! You can stay as my guest.
I’d like to show you around this city. Watch more Korean dramas on TV — then it will be more interesting to visit.
How about in the spring?
It is nice weather if China doesn’t send us a huge dust wind. Glad to talk to you today!
You, too, X!!
The UNGA ended last night. I didn’t even get a chance to cover the break-out meetings . . . or the decimation of the Caribbean by hurricanes . . . or yet another attempt by the Republicans this week to kill healthcare for 32 million people. Oh, well. Maybe next time.
But I hope you were inspired or motivated or something. Let me know in the comments! And subscribe in the sidebar.
As they say in Korea, 나중에 봐요 (see you later)!