can’t imagine the sheer torture Otto Warmbier was put through in the last days of his young life or the agony his family was made to endure. But there’s one thing I do know – we must remember him. By all accounts, Otto was a sweet natured kid, who loved his family…a brilliant student at the University of Virginia with a maturity that belied his years. When he signed up for a trip to North Korea with the Young Pioneer Tours travel group, it was with the intention of stepping out of his comfort zone – experiencing something unique…a true adventure. The company described their service as offering tours to “destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.” When I was his age, the idea of such a trip would have been about as compelling as a long weekend in a gulag, but not Otto. Why would a young man make such a decision? Looking at his photos, and the heartbreaking video as he begged that bloodless tribunal for forgiveness, my gut instinct is that he was a trusting soul. There was an innocence there, you can see it in his eyes.

Otto Warmbier went to North Korea to have fun. His tour mates all described him the same…a good, decent person. They all enjoyed their time together, reveling, I imagine, in their youth and independence. Five days of freedom…a sightseeing tour. It all sounds so very old-fashioned when you think about it. These days, innocence is a rare commodity to be sure. Yes, I believe Otto was an innocent…and he died for that sin. The North Korean government took him to a room and threw away the room. And for what? He stole a poster off a wall.

It’s a waste, it really is. His parents don’t want that to be his legacy – a pointless death at the hand of an unfeeling, steel-jawed machine. I don’t blame them. They say they would rather “focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person.” Still and all, there’s no other way to view what happened to this sweet, young man as anything but tragic.

We need to remember Otto Warmbier as a symbol of how we used to be…what we used to have…the things that once made America great — love of family, decency, that pioneering spirit and yes innocence. We’ve become so divided, twisted…craven. We don’t do what’s right most of the time, either out of fear or inbred ignorance. Is it too late for us as it was too late for Otto?

When he was finally sent home, it was not a result of diplomatic pressure. Absolutely not. It was solely because Kim Jong Un didn’t want him to die in his country. That was the reason…not Rex Tillerson or the coterie of impotent stooges claiming credit for his release.  Seventeen months he suffered unspeakable horrors in that hell hole. Doctor’s said he came back in an unresponsive state, but I believe he knew what was happening to him…I believe he felt every bit of the fear.

His family said, “When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13 he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable — almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed — he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.”

Six days later he was dead…he waited until he was safe at home.

We all saw the expression on his face when he stood before that tribunal…it was indeed a look of pure anguish. I felt helpless witnessing it. This young fellow, trapped in the evil maw of those hateful bastards. I felt anger too, but mostly helplessness. We can’t forget that image…we need to remember Otto Warmbier. He was eaten up by the monster that lurks in the shadows. It lurks here too…in America. You better believe that. The secrecy…the lies…suppression of the media…bunkering up…promoting a rabid divisiveness – us against them. Are we North Korea? No. But ask yourselves this question, when you look at Germany now, do you see a people that were capable of exterminating 6,000,000 Jews? Even more to the point, when you think of America, can you comprehend that it was built on the backs of slaves and the virtual genocide of the Native American Population?

We must never forget Otto Warmbier because he represents us all…and how easily freedom, decency and innocence can be extinguished in a seeming blink of an eye by the evil of men…the relentless quest of the entitled powerful few to subjugate and manipulate the weak in the name of abject greed – the monster that lurks in the shadows.

We must never forget him lest we forget who we were…who we are…and what we are in danger of becoming.

Jesus, that poor, poor kid.

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About Author

Lives in Manhattan around the corner from a diner which serves poisonous tuna melts and adequate java. My dissections, commentaries, and occasional rantings have been published by a wide range of online sites, pulpy outposts, and fugitive rags.

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