One Girl’s Escape From Hell On Earth
The following is a full transcript of the Bunbury Report. Listen here.
Over the Thanksgiving holidays I was doing a lot of thinking, realizing that as much as we fight over the definitions of certain words: what does it mean to be conservative? What does it mean to be really liberal? I hear libertarians all the time arguing what does it really mean to be a libertarian and a lover of liberty? What should the laws be? How should our society come together? How should we define ourselves?
And the more I think about it the more, if I had to define what I believe in politically, I would say my mind and heart scream out: Liberty, Equality, Solidarity for all people!
Not just for my fellow countrymen, not just for my family, not just for my friends, not just for any particular race, not for even for any particular creed. Liberty, equality, and solidarity for all people who wish to hold these ideals and who long for freedom.
I’m personally of the opinion that people long to be free; that they long to not have somebody imposing some point of view on them in ways big and small.
I have the feeling that people believe in equality in the way Jefferson talked about equality in the Declaration of Independence: equality of political authority. Not just equality before the law. Not just a equality in opportunity or outcome. But no, true political equality in the sense of political authority. We’re all equals when it comes to the right to have political say so.
And solidarity; well, solidarity in my mind against unjust authority, unruly power We have it here in this country, and there are many my heart sings out for.
But I came across something, well, this morning I wasn’t planning on talking about this because I’d never heard of it. But I saw a video thrown up on facebook, and it, uh, almost brought me to tears. I didn’t actually cry. I’m not that big of a baby. Sometimes I do, but this was absolutely heartbreaking because I know I have my own struggles. I’m going through a lot of personal battles right now. I know a lot of you out there have your struggles and your cross to bear so to speak.
But you hear some stories in the past and you hear all these legends about people–whether it’s in the Bible or whether it’s the legends, you know, of China or the Arabian Nights legends, legends from all over the world, the myths of the ancient Greeks or the Japanese– there’s all these origin stories and you think of these people in these stories as heroes that we don’t have on earth today.
All the opportunity to be heroic and to stand up against such unjust authority, all this big talk of liberty, equality, and solidarity for all: that’s just talk. It’s just wind. There’s no more big fights to fight anymore!
Well, when I saw this story earlier today, I realized those words aren’t just wind. Those words mean very much so that all people long to be free, all people wish to flourish, we all want happiness. That desire is innate.
It goads us to take our first steps. It precedes our words and motivates us to create language in the first place. All this fighting over definitions, all this fighting over what the law should be really gets deep down into things that we feel and can barely described. It is found deep down in the bone marrow, in the miraculous yet sloppy nature of our bodies, emotions, and experiences.
So what is this story that has me so worked up?
Well, before I reveal this young girl’s name, I would entitle this story, “One Girl’s Escape from Hell on Earth.”
Imagine, if you will, a place where there’s only one authority, and all day is spent praising that authority, that dear leader, and you are born into this. You’re surrounded by famine, by people scraping up the dirt to eat.
And yet, because you are born into this, you are told lies your whole life. Everything you know about the world and the universe has been fashioned by this ruling authority, this dear leader, to always bolster his own power to the point where you start thinking this authority is omnipotent, omniscient, can charge you with thought crime.
So when you see people dragged into the public square and executed for saying things against the dear leader, the great authority, for thinking things against that person’s version of events, you think to yourself, I’ve seen lots of executions. I don’t have much feeling about it. I justify that what the dear leader tells us is true–that these people that are being executed before us are bad people–because you don’t know any better.
You’ve been taught that the dear leader is always right. He knows everything; he sees everything; and he will get you if you even think one single thought against him.
But in this place at this time there is vast famine. The government, the authority, though it claims to be all-powerful and all-knowing can’t even provide the basics of life.
So, this young girl who was born into the situation…well, her father acquires some gold, silver, and nickel from middlemen and begins to smuggle the basic necessities of life into this faraway place.
Her father is arrested and sentenced to a 17-year sentence in a concentration camp.
When this girl and her mother hear about their father’s arrest, they start to think, well, maybe the dear leader isn’t always right; maybe, even though I’ve been told this day in and day out that what my father did trying to just help us was wrong because it went against all the dictates the leader, of the authority, still it doesn’t seem right.
It seemed my father was trying to help us. I mean, I always thought our dear leader loved us. He was trying to protect us from the evil countries, from the evil Americans, 24 hours a day.
And then, another smuggling really just drops the scales from your eyes.
You get your hands on a movie. You’ve never seen anything like it before, and it makes you realize that there can be love independent of the dear leader. Not all love must be given up to the dear leader. In fact, a man and a woman themselves can hide away and have their own love secret from anybody or anything else. It’s a tale from this far away land that you’ve always been told is evil.
And then you go to another one of the public executions after seeing this movie, and it’s not some bad guy; it’s your mother’s friend who has been charged with selling like a smuggler another foreign movie that had taught you so much about love, and you realize these people running things are full of it. They’re evil themselves.
In the concentration camp, you realize your father is diagnosed with cancer, so you figure out everything you can. You eventually bribe the authorities running that camp to set him free so he can get his medical treatment to treat his cancer, and when reunited, you join together. You say we’re going to escape this place or going to escape this hell on earth.
Your sister leaves early and goes on her own for some reason.
So you go off with your family–with your father and your mother this girl does–and two smugglers help you get across the border but you have to watch out for the other countries’ authorities too because it turns out, well, authorities even if they think the other one is evil tend to work together to justify and bolster their own rules.
You cross the border, and there you find a smuggler who’s helping you across threatens to report you to the authorities if you don’t have sex with him. Your mother steps in and says no take me, and the smuggler does ungodly things to your mother right in front of you.
Your father, through another path, joins you after this struggle, and you find out that his conditions are getting worse and worse with his cancer.
And on the other side of the border, still hiding from the authorities of both countries, your father dies, but you can’t say anything because if you make too much of a fuss, if you try to have a proper funeral or proper burial for him, well, you would be discovered by the authorities.
So you find a local cremator who destroys his body, and you bury his remains in a mountainside that you’ve never seen before. There is no funeral. Nothing.
“I couldn’t even do that for my father,” this girl says, “I couldn’t call anyone to say my father had passed away. We couldn’t even give him relief in the form a painkillers at the end of his life. He died suffering, but he died helping us escape this hell on earth.”
You find yourself finally going into a place where you are told there are Christian missionaries that can help you get to true everlasting safety, and you cross a desert.
Your compass breaks, so you begin following the stars to know you’re going in the right direction.
When you reach the border of another kingdom, the border guards stop and threaten to deport you back to hell. You say you are not going back to hell. I’ll end it myself. And the mother and daughter make plans to a suicide pact.
The girl says, “I thought it was the end of my life. We were saying goodbye to one another and on our terms.”
This bold and extreme action persuades the guards to let them through but under custody.
That’s when you discover some missionaries who lead you to certain authorities: to a group of folks who say, you know what, your life is yours and we will respect your basic human dignity. You long to be free, and you find yourself saying oh my god they haven’t stopped me. We’re actually safe!
It’s the story of a young girl who is now 21 named, Yeonmi, a Korean name, of course, a North Korean name because that’s what North Korea is: hell on earth.
What’s the story of Satan? He wanted his own kingdom. And he got it. And his kingdom became known as hell. Well, that same thing has played out in North Korea.
That family and that dynasty has gotten their own kingdom and has created a hell. Starved people. Told them they can’t see the outside world. They can’t watch movies.
The movie that changed the girl’s mind was Titanic. You know, we think of Titanic here as Americans and probably as Westerners, Europeans and others of the like in free countries: you know, you know, it’s Titanic; it’s kind of a sappy love story; it’s a little long in the tooth, but it seems fairly good. I must admit was the first time I saw a naked woman. I was young when I saw that movie.
But that movie, just at little glimpse into the world outside of the dear leader and the workers party’s control revealed so much.
Yeonmi is now an activist in South Korea, a celebrity. I highly encourage everybody out there to go look her up. Yeonmi.
The most beautiful part of her story is after she finds, along with her mother, the Christian missionaries who lead her to a South Korean embassy that gets her into South Korea, they had long thought her sister, who had left North Korea before the rest of the family, was dead.
Couldn’t be found.
In April of 2014, the South Korean intelligence service discovered her sister, Eunmi who is now 23, living in South Korea along with the rest of the family.
Like I said, I have my own personal trials and tribulations going on this very day. I know many of you out there have your own struggles, and when I think about going into the holidays, especially the Christmas holidays, the season of giving, and leading out of the season of thanks, I wonder about what I really want for Christmas.
It’s changed from being material things. I mean there’s plenty of stuff I would want. I would love a home recording studio to broadcast from. I would love a toilet made out of solid gold that molded to my backside.
I would love many material things if you got me sitting here musing about them, but if I had to be honest about it, what do I really want this Christmas season, it’s completely immaterial.
It’s to break out of the of awful lies and burdens and find peace of mind for not only myself but my family and my friends. That’s what I really want.
I’m not sure what will happen to Yeonmi now that she’s in South Korea. She seems to be doing pretty well, has taught herself the truth of the world. She’d been living out a sick, incestuous leader’s fantasy world from birth, had been taunted by the North Korean’s propaganda machine, so she had to get quick into studying what the world was actually like.
Not all the world is a North Korea, but in this country, the United States of America, across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, there are still unjust authorities, unruly power that sometimes we aren’t even aware of.
If not for this young girl’s amazing courage I would’ve never have known about her story. She very well could have given up or found comfort even in the sick and twisted suffering the Kim dynasty imposes on the people North Korea–could have just gave in to this is how the world works, I’m not going fight it.
But she did fight it. They did escape, so I hope everybody out there within the sound of my voice leading into this holiday season here in 2014, understands that sometimes you do have to break the rules, sometimes you do have to be a little bit uncomfortable, go through a little bit of suffering in order to attain what you love the most.
What really matters in his life is not all the little definitions we give, what really defines life is not the words we use but it’s these unknown things. The best joys of our life and the worst lows: they usually can’t be put in words. I think everybody out there knows what I’m talking about.
But for me, to say it again, the best way I can put what I want this Christmas and this holiday season is liberty, equality, and solidarity.
Not just for my family, not just from my countrymen, not just for my friends or any particular race or creed or people, but all people who long for freedom and who long to stand up and escape the self-made hells here on earth.
If a young girl can escape the evil of men in China and the evil men in North Korea and the authorities of Mongolian and cross the desert with only the stars to lead her and finally come and be able to tell her story and testify to us here across the world, don’t you think you can fight whatever his ailing you?
I think so.
And I think it’s worth trying.
"The fool doth think he is wise..."