A Forgotten Principle: How Otto Warmbier’s Death Highlights a Common Problem

Almost two weeks ago, Otto Warmbier, the man who visited North Korea and committed a crime while there, died due to injuries sustained in the North Korean prison where he was being held after being found guilty of his crime.

By now, we all know that the white American public, including the acting POTUS, Donald J. Trump, has expressed sadness, outrage and offered their sympathy to his parents. Trump and Warmbier’s father have even gone as far as to blame former President, Barack H. Obama for Warmbier’s fate. Many white amaericans were even angry at people who refuse to care about Warmbier around the same time that many of them sat stone-faced as the officer who killed Philando Castile (Jeronimo Yanez) walked away with a “not guilty” verdict after shooting him for doing nothing wrong – really.

This entry, however, is not about the bright pink elephant defecating in the corner of the room. This blog is about the forgotten principle that most of us (should have) learned in our formative years: actions have consequences.

I don’t know how Otto Warmbier was raised and I don’t know what kind of person he generally was, but his situation gives me a base to form a series of presumptions about both issues. Maybe he missed the lesson on reading and following directions (the poster was on a floor for employees only). Maybe he missed the lesson about not touching what doesn’t belong to you without permission. Maybe he missed the lesson about not stealing. Maybe he missed the lesson on respect for other people’s property. Maybe he missed the lesson on respect for other cultures/societies’ rules. Maybe he missed the lesson on thinking before you act. Or maybe, he missed none of those lessons but just didn’t care to take them seriously while he was under the jurisdiction of another country’s laws. Who knows? It doesn’t matter.

 

Otto Warmbier’s story is a great example of the fact that once a decision is made and acted upon, all the consequences that come with that decision are set in motion. Perhaps the hardest part of dealing with that fact is that we never know all the consequences that are attached to our actions and we don’t know if or when they’ll play out. According to a fellow traveler, when Warmbier was arrested, he had a “semi-smile” on his face. He never thought that what he thought was a benign action would lead to arrest, conviction, imprisonment, likely torture, and ultimately, his death. Oftentimes, we dance around that truth in the name of political correctness or in the interest of self-esteem, yet it’s still one of the inalienable laws that govern the universe.

Otto

In a larger context, we should all be able to see how our choices often determine our trajectory. Many of the people who have taken the “he shouldn’t have done that then” stance have areas in their own life where they are making wrong turn after wrong turn and try to blame their undesirable location on some wicked overlord destined to crush them. While it may not lead them to Otto Warmbier’s fate, they are still going nowhere fast.

I will neither dance nor mourn the death of Otto Warmbier, but the people blaming former POTUS Obama or Kim Jong-Un or the tour company or anybody else but Otto Warmbier for his death are missing the part where a grown man elected to misbehave and paid the ultimate price. If only we could all consistently apply that simple principle.

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