I pulled a few paragraphs from an AP article by Anne Gearan on Condoleeza Rice's trip to Seoul this morning. The first half of the article is about Europe selling arms to China, and the second half is about openness and democracy. The sly juxtaposition of her speech with an account of a protestor just happened to tickle me the right way. I don't really think that the United States is a horribly repressive place, on par with North Korea, but my dark sense of humor perks up whenever the illusion emerges that we just might be.
In Seoul, Rice conducted an unusual press conference with Korean Internet reporters. The event, meant to highlight the freewheeling nature of computer communication in an open democracy, got off to a bad start when American security guards tackled a peace activist as he shouted to get Rice's attention.
"Miss Rice, the North Korean people are dying and they are crying for your help," yelled the activist, German physician and former aid worker Norbert Vollertsen. He held up a poster that read "Freedom for North Korea: 50 Years Overdue," until a State Department employee ripped the poster in half.
As Rice took her seat for the news conference, security officers literally muffled Vollertsen while wrestling him to the carpeted floor. He had talked his way into the event before Rice arrived, but a U.S. Embassy public affairs officer recognized him at the last moment and demanded he be removed.
In replies to the Korean journalists, Rice described true democracy as the ability to "say what you wish, worship as you please and educate your children, boys and girls."
In contrast to the closed society of North Korea, Rice said, "you can come here and think what you want and ask me anything — the United States secretary of state — and what a wonderful thing that is."