Kim Jong Il is 65 today (no plans to retire)

Long ago, in a former life, I was cultural editor of The Guardian, the Left's fishwrap of record. As the gatekeeper of political correctness, the paper was the recipient of bales of propaganda generated by leftist governments around the globe. Cuban marketing was colorful, inventive, idealistic; Vietnamese humorless, plodding and dull; but the most entertaining by far was North Korea's: paranoid, batty, an open invitation to parody. I think the first inkling had by the dour Trotskyites who ran the tabloid that they might have erred in hiring on a bunch of New Lefties -- radical anarchist hippies, as they soon thought of us -- probably came when it dawned on them that we venerated with insufficient fervor the great Korean revolutionary leader, Kim Il-sung.

The Guardian's guardians eventually fired the lot of us for other crimes against History, but looking back I think the trouble started at the moment a shrine to Kim the Elder, inevitably called Kim's Korner, sprang up in the newsroom. Each day new iconographic images of the capo di commies arrived (the Chinese pr mavens were pretty good at turning Mao and the gang into cartoon characters, too, but there was something truly inspired about Big Kim's comix) accompanied by transcripts of perorations by the Great One that must have required days to deliver and certainly consumed vast swaths of forest to reprint.

In a world where a public figure can overstay his welcome in a weekend, how reassuring that we can still, forty years later, celebrate the birth of Kim Sr.'s They call me Mr. Kimroly-poly and unaccountably vain offspring and successor, Kim Jong-il, who may or may not be 65 today (in a tip of the hat to Sino-style mythmaking, Junior likes to say he was born in 1942 in Papa's fabled guerrilla camp atop sacred Mount Paektu, the North's highest peak, an event that was marked by the appearance of a double rainbow and the birth of an especially bright star, as if one omen by itself would not be up to such a big job). There'll be extra portions of gruel in the bowls of Kim's countrymen tonight as they wish him a long and happy life, a little hungry, it's true, but thankful nonetheless to be safe under the Protector's nuclear umbrella from the inclemency of Japanese and American aggression.

So Happy Birthday to Kim Jong-il -- "Lode Star of the Twenty-First Century," "Eternal Bosom of Hot Love" and "Guardian Deity of the Planet," a rampart of stability in an otherwise insecure and volatile world.

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