I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man…
Thus goes the song Rocket Man, written by Elton John back in 1972. Itself inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story ‘The Rocket Man’, John’s ballad talks about the conflicting feelings of an astronaut traveling to Mars, as he ponders whether or not is worth to leave his family behind to fulfill his job.
Yet, this well known song was likely not in Donald Trump’s mind when he branded North Korean’s leader Kim Jong-Un a ‘little rocket man’.
The two men, and I’m using the term ‘men’ very loosely here, are engaged in regular name-calling nowadays, a sort of tit for tat routine pitting two bullies who forgot to grow up locking horns in turf wars around the schoolyard.
POTUS v Rocket Man is now a thing, a melodramatic reality with fathomless viewership prowess. It would almost be funny, were it not for the rather sinister overtones that permeate this international tug of war.
So the world watches as these two sycophant-ridden leaders take to the airwaves to pour scorn on each other. POTUS uses tweet to unload his crude verbal vitriol. Half a world away, Kim uses the more traditional approach of televised speech to retort, and his words resonate with the cheap bubble gum quality of Google-translated foreign speech: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.’
POTUS recently used a perhaps overly-generous time allocation at his maiden UN speech to proclaim that the US would ‘totally destroy North Korea’ if the latter ever dares to attack US soil, or any of the country’s allies. During the same speech, POTUS actually referred to the North Korean leader as ‘Rocket Man’. Well now. Take that, UN protocol and statesmanship.
It is hardly news that world leaders do sometimes get a little hot under the collar while speaking inside the UN chamber. Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev starred in the infamous shoe-banging incident at the UN in 1960, for instance. Krushchev started banging his shows hard against his desk, in angry response to comments uttered by the then Filipino leader Lorenzo Sumulong. And in 2006, inflammatory words spoken by President George W. Bush about Fidel Castro’s ailing health prompted the entire Cuban delegation to storm off the chamber, throwing down their ear pieces as they did so.
All those high-profile shenanigans notwithstanding, no US President had ever used any pejorative term when addressing another head of state. The words ‘rocket’ and ‘man’ had certainly never been used in such derogatory fashion at Chez UN. Say it isn’t so, Kim perhaps thought, but nonetheless took POTUS’ speech as a ‘declaration of war’.
And what’s with ‘dotard’ anyway. Is it perhaps a portmanteau or ‘doting retard’? Or maybe a poor translation of an ancient North Korean insult? Not so. Turns out that such obscure term means ‘an old person with declining mental capabilities’. In the slightly unhinged POTUS v Rocket Man theater of horrors, the dotard is king, it seems.
The latest episode in the POTUS v Rocket Man serial sees the man with the weird black bouffant brand POTUS a ‘mentally deranged megalomaniac’.
The world tunes in, Truman Show style, to watch as both world leader caricatures blast each other with rhetorical salvos.
And all the while, the unspeakable gravity of war smears the men’s cartoonish faces.