MINOT, N.D. — In 2000, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, the pudgy progenitor of currently reigning despot Kim Jong-un, announced that he had invented a new food.
He named it the "Gogigyeopbbang" and it was described as "double bread with meat." While the North Koreans claimed this was a new culinary innovation, observers living outside the Kim dynasty's cruel regime couldn't help but notice that it had "the uncanny appearance of a conventional hamburger."
That story has stuck with me through the years because of its absurdity and because I can't help but think about the people working for the Kims who propagated that lie and enforced belief in it.
Denying the cultivated mythology of the Kims in North Korea was and still is a good way to find yourself in a labor camp. Or maybe dead.
The ugly truth about tyrants is that none of them have ever acted alone. Every one of them had the help of others to create the ideology justifying their tyranny. They had generals and soldiers, politicians and propagandists, and even popular mobs of true believers to enable them.
Kim Jong-il could pretend to have invented the hamburger, and to have authored 1,500 books as well as six operas "better than any in the history of music," and to be above such ubiquitously human indignities as the need to defecate, and it was all possible because powerful enablers surrounded him.
Without them, he would have just been some corpulent creep on a street corner shouting at clouds.
Where would Donald Trump be without his enablers?
The one-time president was cast out of office by voters and should by now have waddled into the irrelevancy of former presidents, except that his Republican enablers, motivated variously by true belief or political calculation, are still out to enforce loyalty.
As I write this, Rep. Liz Cheney has been removed from her leadership position in the House Republican caucus for refusing to condone Trump's lies about the election.
The state governments that turned in those Electoral College votes, including some controlled by Republicans, don't believe them.
Credible public opinion surveys show most Americans (if not most Republicans) do not believe the election was stolen.
Not even North Dakota's congressional delegation, as pro-Trump as they are in their rhetoric, believe the election was stolen. Congressman Kelly Armstrong and Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer all voted against overturning the election results.
Yet Trump persists in his lies. Cheney refuses to be silent about it.
When asked to choose between Cheney and truth, or Trump and a lie, most House Republicans chose Trump.
I spoke with Armstrong about the Cheney situation recently, and he said the problem wasn't her criticism of Trump, but that she'd become a distraction for House Republicans, but doesn't that cut both ways?
Who is the distraction? Cheney, who won't accept the lie? Or the Republicans demanding that she does?
Kim Jong-il claimed to have invented hamburgers. Trump claims the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Both claims are backed by mobs of loyalists willing to enforce reprisals on dissenters.
The two situations aren't entirely comparable. Those dissenting against the Kim regime's hamburger myth faced persecution and death. Cheney is suffering the indignity of removal from a House leadership position most Americans, at any other time, probably didn't know existed.
And, of course, she's getting the de rigeur rhetorical abuse from Trump himself, who is taking a victory lap after her demotion.
Still, we tread on dangerous ground when so many are committed to the lies of a single person.
Feel uneasy, my fellow Americans. This is not a good time.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.