The silver lining
North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it makes any more threats to the United States, President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang during a meeting from his golf club in New Jersey. Kim Jong Un responded with a counterthreat to ignite “enveloping fire” of ballistic missiles aimed at Guam.
The neurotic exchange of fire-for-fire shenanigans between the two leaders escalated for over a week. Journalists from national and international media organizations swarmed into the island, anticipating to find a terrified, panicked population, hoarding Spam and bottled water, rioting for gas supplies and building emergency shelters to prepare for the apocalypse. They found nothing of that sort. Instead, they met smiling locals who offered them kelaguen.
I met a few veteran war correspondents who wound up filing stories about Guam’s sunset and white beaches — no fire and fury — a disappointment for any hardcore big city editor who otherwise gets thrilled by news copy with details of gore and human anguish.
What tourism bureau needs a marketing scheme or media fam tours when you have two bellicose talking leaders who unwittingly serve to pull the world’s attention into an obscure island often mistaken as a mere military post.
During his phone conversation with Gov. Eddie Calvo, President Trump predicted Guam’s tourism to go up “tenfold” as a result of North Korea’s threats he had provoked, thank you very much. Gasp!
Anyone would be taken aback by such a coldhearted remark about a tiny island caught in the cross hairs of a possible nuclear attack. But no matter how cavalier it may sound, it was the bizarre truth. The fiery and furious days of August piqued the world’s curiosity that made “Where is Guam?” and “What is Guam?” a trending entry on Google search.
During a cruise in the Caribbean last year, I met a young woman from Detroit who had never heard of Guam before.
“You’re just making it up,” she said.
I laughed and explained that Guam is a small island in the Pacific.
“It sounds like Guacamole,” she added, and then went on with a barrage of questions.
“Is it a poor country?” she asked.
“Not bankrupt like Detroit,” I said.
“Do you live in homes or huts?” she asked again.
“Our homes are hurricane proof,” I replied.
“Do you have McDonald’s?” she asked again.
“Among other forms of modern decadence,” I replied.
“Do you have Internet?” she asked.
“Faster than most places in the world,” I bragged.
The circumstance may be deplorable but the North Korea episode opened a window of opportunity for Guam to showcase its tropical charm and hospitality, and to enlighten the world about this tiny community, where visitors are met with warmth and glee like the world has never seen.