In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning, former NBA star Dennis Rodman faced a harsh line of questioning after recently returning from a trip to North Korea in which he called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un awesome.
But Rodman should not face the level of castigation he has in a society that prides itself of free speech and thought.
While basketball diplomacy may not be the solution to hostile relations between North Korea and the U.S., Rodmans visit as an independent U.S. citizen should not be regarded as apologistic for the North Korean leader who has been condemned for violating multiple human rights in the country.
But if Rodman visited North Korea and he and Kim were able to bond over basketball or whatever they might have bonded over in their two-day tete-a-tete, Rodman should be applauded, for as the introduction to Stephanopoulos interview with Rodman states, Dennis Rodman has spent more time trying to understand Kims philosophy than any U.S. politician has thus far.
Rodman made clear that his friendship, however peculiar it may be, with Kim does not translate to his accepting of all of Kims practices as can be said of most friendships.
But for Rodman to face public scrutiny for visiting a so-called enemy leader who rules a country that had once been deemed part of the Axis of Evil, violates the spirit of the democracy the U.S. champions.
If perhaps all it will take to stop the 28-year-old ruler to launch a nuclear weapon targeting the U.S., as he has previously alluded to, is a phone call from President Barack Obama, as Rodman contends, or perhaps even a round of hoops on North Korean pavement, the U.S. should not let ego or pride come in the way of what appears to be Little Stick Diplomacy speak loudly, but dont follow through with actions.
While Kims human right abuses must be stopped, standing upon a pedestal and preaching values has certainly not proved the way to achieve this.
Rodman said he plans to revisit North Korea, and hopefully he will pack a few politicians in tow with him next time.