Saturday, July 1, 2017

A letter to a professor from Delaware.

So an American student thought he'd see North Korea with own eyes, thought to take home a

souvenir, and ended up paying for it with his life. In his wildest dreams, poor Otto Warmbier never imagined taking home a stupid poster would be the death of him; he probably thought, like most of us, that getting yelled at and send away would be the worst that could happen to him. He underestimated the psychotic viciousness of the regime.  

The fact is, the Kim Il Sung death cult will waste no opportunity to violate human dignity. Warmbier was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labour, and released only after N.Korean hospitality put him on death's doorstep - he died less than a week after coming home. 

It was a particularly horrifying example of extreme culture shock, a naive, just about unconscious faith in the sanctity of human life confronted with an almost cartoonish indifference to it. Rarely have two sets of values been more incompatible, and rarely has right and wrong been less ambiguous. 

One would think so anyways. Some folks here in the decadent West side with the regime.

Kathryn Dettwyler, a professor anthropology from the University of Delaware, thought Otto "got what he deserved". 

I provide her words in their entirety (courtesy of the rancid Daily Mail

“Is it wrong of me to think that Otto Warmbier got exactly what he deserved? 
He went to North Korea for f*** sake, and then acted like a spoiled, naive, arrogant, US college student who never had to face the consequences of his actions. 

I see him crying at his sentencing hearing and think 'What did you expect?'
How about the moments of thought give to all the other people in North Korea who are suffering under the repressive government there? Just because they are north Koreans, and not US citizens, we shouldn't care about them?  

I've spent my life teaching folks just like Otto (I'm a 62 year old college professor of anthropology) and Otto is typical of the mindset of a lot of the young, white, rich, clueles (sic) males who come into my classes. 

These are the same kids who cry about their grades because they didn't think they'd really have to read and study the material to get a good grade. They simply deserve a good grade for being who they are. 

Or instead of crying, they bluster and threaten their female professors. His parents, ultimately, are to blame for his growing up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. 

Maybe in the US, where young, white, rich, clueless white males routinely get away with raping women. Not so much in North Korea. And of course, it's Otto's parents who will pay the price for the rest of their lives.”

Kathryn Dettwyler

Now, I provide my own response to Prof. Dettwyler:


Yes Professor, it is very wrong and you ought to feel ashamed of yourself.

It is very wrong to think that anybody rotting and dying in a dictator’s dungeon is “getting what they deserve”. I am astonished that anyone needs reminding of this. Apparently you do however, so I will repeat it: nobody deserves it. Nobody, whether American or Korean or whatever arbitrary distinction we happen to give them. No Human Being deserves it.

It should go without saying, but it clearly doesn’t. There’s a callousness throughout your post which makes it necessary to repeat. It does make me question your concern for the “other people in North Korea who are suffering” whom you so disingenuously invoke; if one person tortured to death for a petty crime is so unworthy of your sympathy, what makes anyone else? They failed to obey the laws of their land as well (namely, offending their thin-skinned god-king); by your logic surely they “got what they deserved” as well, no?
            No? Then what is the difference?

            Furthermore, how does concern for the one preclude concern for the other? Compassion is not finite; it does not need to be rationed (though yours apparently is).

            I suspect you don’t actually give a damn about the long suffering people of North Korea (your sympathy in this case clearly being for the regime), but use them to dignify your own prejudices. You heap adjectives on this young man – “spoiled, naive, arrogant, white, rich, clueles (sic)” – whom you’ve never met, and is no longer here to defend himself. From what I gather, he was never enrolled in any of your classes (being a student of the University of Virginia I understand, many miles from your office) and never cried to you for marks. He certainly never raped anyone. These are projections that have more to do with archetypes of your own invention that with Otto Warmbier.

            Perhaps you’ve replaced him with a composite of annoying students from your own experience. Perhaps you have had bad experiences, and perhaps you have a right to feel bitter. But I would caution against letting your bitterness overwhelm your basic decency. Remember, this was a person you had never met, and who had not actually done you any wrong. Are you really going to claim that justice was served? (In which case, what of the “all the other” people of North Korea serving similar sentences for similar “crimes”?). Does that kind of student (which Warmbier may or may not have been) really anger you more than the regime that killed him? Would you look his mother and father in the eye and say to their face what you wrote: not only did their son “get what he deserved”, but it was their fault?  

            Think carefully of your answer: it will reflect far more on you than on them.

No comments:

Post a Comment