Otto Warmbier went to North Korea with a tour group as an adventure-seeking 21-year-old. He was taken by security at the airport waiting to board his flight back to Beijing and never seen again by his family until he was released last week, in a coma. He died Monday. afternoon.
Josh Rogin, of the Washington Post, interviewed Danny Gratton, Warmbier’s roommate on the North Korea tour.Gratton was the last westerner to see Warmbier as he was taken away.
“Otto was just a really great lad who fell into the most horrendous situation that no one could ever believe,” Gratton told me in an interview Thursday. “It’s just something I think in the Western world we just can’t understand, we just can’t grasp, the evilness behind that dictatorship.”
Gratton didn’t think Warmbier took the propaganda poster he was accused of stealing. Certainly, stealing a poster isn’t worth 15 years at hard labor. That sentence would fail the test by concept of the punishment fitting the crime.
Yet some liberal publications have made hay for a year over Warmbier’s “crime.” They’ve portrayed him as a white “frat boy” type who thought he could get away with something in a foreign culture and now got his comeuppance.
They thought he deserved what he got.
How ghoulish and disgusting can they be? Are they sociopaths or just evil?
Affinity Magazine is a teen publication covering “social justice + politics + culture.” They tweeted “Watch whiteness work. He wasn’t a ‘kid’ or ‘innocent'” and “respect their laws” in reply to Rogin’s tweet linking the WaPo piece.
Is this really the opinion of the teens who write Affinity? Are they really such awful people that they’re okay with another young adult dying in a foreign country because he allegedly (there was no fair trial or evidence presented) stole a piece of paper from a wall in a hotel?
Affinity wasn’t the only group mocking Warmbier. Salon cruelly called him “America’s biggest idiot frat boy.” They convicted him of an alleged crime he may not have even committed–a prank really.
Comedy Central’s “Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore joked “It’s just tough for me to have much sympathy for this guy and his crocodile tears.” Maybe that was a joke, and maybe Wilmore meant it. I’m not sure which is worse: joking about a kid’s languishing in a dungeon at the hands of a despotic cruel regime, or actually believing he deserved it.
Warmbier got a death sentence, and they joked about it.
Meanwhile, last March, HuffPo published a truly hateful piece on white privilege. Self-described revolutionary La Sha described an 18-year-old who was caned in Singapore for vandalizing cars, quoting her mother “He earned that.” She went on in a shameful tirade…
As shocked as I am by the sentence handed down to Warmbier, I am even more shocked that a grown man, an American citizen, would not only voluntarily enter North Korea but also commit what’s been described a “college-style prank.” That kind of reckless gall is an unfortunate side effect of being socialized first as a white boy, and then as a white man in this country.
I suppose Dennis Rodman has nothing on Warmbier. He pals around with Kim Jong Un and gets whatever he wants. Black privilege? Rodman voluntarily enters North Korea and who knows what gifts he brings out? But Warmbier was judged guilty by La Sha because he’s white, and that’s okay with her. (Because he’s white, he must have done it.)
No thought was given by any of these hay-makers to the fact that other U.S. citizens have been taken by North Korea as hostages. They simply wanted to make their points and leave it.
Where’s the compassion? Where’s the concern for other people’s lives?
If Black/Muslim/Palestinian/Hispanic lives matter, why mock the millions of North Koreans who live until a repressive regime, on the edge of starvation, while their political bosses live like royalty? Why give a pass to a man so evil he had his own step-brother assassinated by deadly poison?
What is wrong with people that they can live with themselves after aligning themselves with Kim Jong Un?
Let me address the reader directly here.
If you react like most people, with shame and disgust over these remarks, and with horror at what Warmbier and his family went through and are continuing to experience, I’m not talking to you.
But if you really think North Korea played by some cosmic moral code and delivered justice to Otto Warmbier, I might suggest you have a psychological problem. You might even be a sociopath. Or you might be evil–take your pick.
There is no excuse, no cause, no higher purpose, that justifies the mental and physical torture of a young man whose biggest potential crime is best described as a prank. The North Korean government is brutal and efficiently so. They’d have put a bullet in Warmbier’s head right at the airport if they were ordered to. They’d have massacred the entire tour group if Kim gave the command.
No shades of grey, or moral equivalence can be found here. Either you agree with the barbaric dictator or you care about people’s lives. There is no middle ground.
Warmbier is dead. If you laughed, mocked, joked, or celebrated his arrest, you need to walk that back, hard. If you don’t, you’ve made yourself into something truly horrible and cruel. You need to go back and rethink your life.