An Open Letter to Sergeant Smith

Dear Sgt. Smith,

I hope you will forgive me for not knowing your first name. I never bothered to ask—and it has always been my impression that you military types never use first names, sort of like boys at private schools in England.

Sgt. Smith, this letter is in reference to a tour I took of the Demilitarized Zone (or DMZ, to use the parlance of your acronym-obsessed military) between North Korea and South Korea. You were my tour guide, though you might not remember me. I was sort of scruffy-looking, and blandly Canadian. I was a teacher in South Korea at the time. You must get a lot of those. You were an interesting tour guide, Sgt. Smith. You showed me many interesting things, like the mess hall and the gift shop, and you had a good strong voice that carried all the way to the back of the bus where I was sitting. But Sgt. Smith, I was confused about some things you said. I think you might be confused too. Although I didn’t speak up at the time, because you looked so strong, I’d like to point out some of the problems with what you told our tour group from the safety of my home. I’m miles away now.

1) Sgt. Smith, most folks don’t call Chinese people “Reds” anymore. It’s outdated. You mentioned “Red China,” for example, and also “those Reds across the border.” China is just about everybody’s friend now, Sgt. Smith. They are so nice. Plus, North Korea is “across the border” from South Korea, not China. You of all people should know that.

2) Although I have never traveled to Pyongyang, I am fairly sure that the good people of the North Korean capitol are not “eating children.” Yes, Sgt. Smith, you actually said that. Remember the large American lady that asked you about the shortage of food in North Korea? You said that people there are so hungry that they’re “eating children.” Someone asked you to repeat what you had said, and you said it again—they’re eating children. Communists may be evil, godless warmongers, Sgt. Smith, but they are not like marsupials—they don’t eat their young, even when they are very, very hungry.

3) The North Korean soldiers that peered in the window of the little shack where the peace talks happen didn’t look very scary. You told us all that they would peer in and try to intimidate us. They seemed pretty nice, actually. They were all smiling. Maybe they were hungry. Maybe they wanted some children.

4) Speaking of hunger, the food we ate in your mess hall, “The Sanctuary,” was disturbingly bad. You said it was like “mom’s home cooking.” Your mom must really suck in the kitchen, Sgt. Smith. Also, if you see any of the members of Renegade, the band that plays at your base sometimes, tell them that “Renegade” is a terrible name for an army band—even an army band that covers Kansas songs.

In closing, Sgt. Smith, I hope that you will take my comments into account. I think we can all be friends, but then I guess you’d say I’m a bit of a “Red,” right? In any case, I learned when I was young that when you complain in a letter, you should always say something positive at the end, so that the person you’re complaining to won’t feel so bad about him- or herself.

Sgt. Smith, you have the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. So blue! They are beautiful eyes.

Mathias Kom