September 3, 2013
Dennis Rodman
Please stop this! (Jon Chol Lin / Reuters)

Dear Dennis Rodman,

I read that you landed Tuesday in North Korea to rejoin the dictator Kim Jong-Un, whom you refer to as your “friend” the marshal. You call this “a friendly gesture” to “show people around the world that we as Americans can actually get along with North Korea.” You’re not even making an effort at diplomacy. 

Clearly, you are lonely. Most people who are in desperate need of new friends do things like join singles groups, take up tennis or volunteer at their local shelters. But you have leaped way way way down the friend-finding ladder from Meetup Groups of People Who Like To Pick Their Faces In Public and The Brony-Adjacent Community to Dictators of Autocratic Regimes. You use the word “friend” to refer to Kim Jong-Un, who reportedly just had several of his country’s most famous pop singers executed by machine gun. 

I guess the word “friend” has taken a pounding lately, from Facebook, where it is synonymous with “person I met once at a party where there was a lot of shouting” or “individual with a name who knows at least 32 of my friends so is probably okay even though her profile picture is a large cartoon cabbage.” But using it in the phrase “my friend, the North Korean dictator” is really beyond the pale. This is a cry for help. Not from you, Dennis, since you seem to dwell in the precise bubble of celebrity where no communications from Earth screaming, “Stop! Stop everything that you are doing!” can reach you, but from the rest of the world, who are faced with the brutal reality that Dennis Rodman has taken on an unofficial role as emissary to North Korea, the kind of sentence that makes you want to go beat your head into a wall and see if you wake up.

You say you’re going there to “just have a good time, sit with [Kim] and his family, and that’s pretty much it.” This again is a case where a phrase (“good time”) refers to the exact opposite of what most people would consider a good time — namely, not bolstering the PR of a dictatorial regime or sitting with someone who reportedly had his ex-girlfriend executed by firing squad. Maybe by a pool, or something.

If you were making decisions like a normal person, we could point out that this is creating a hideous Catch-22 where all normal people are justly horrified that you have been fraternizing with creepy authoritarian regime heads and won’t hang out with you any more, so your only choice of friends is now creepy authoritarian regime heads. Do you want that? Well, maybe. I don’t know.

(In all seriousness, though, this is why celebrity culture is a problem. If you take a human being, surround him with people who think that everything he does is a great idea, cover his every movement with minute attention in the news outlets (“Here Is A Slideshow of Charlie Sheen Turning Slowly Leftwards!”), and and then you suddenly start wanting him to act like a normal human and exercise judgment, say by not befriending or performing for the dictators of brutal regimes, after you have just rewarded him for painting his body bright yellow and leaping off a building screaming, “I AM ON THE HUNT FOR TIGERS,” do we honestly expect this to work? It’s our own fault that we wind up with the question “What Does Dennis Rodman Think Should Happen in North Korea?” as an actual concern that must be dealt with in our foreign policy.)

But look, Dennis, do you need a friend? I will be your friend! Come to my house! I will make us snacks, and I offer the added bonus of not presiding over a regime that starves its people.

It will be a good time.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.