Otto Warmbier in North Korea custody

When You Die For Being A Risk-Taking 20-Something

North Korea is the tourism version of daring to leap over Niagara Falls

A 53-year old daredevil named Kirk Jones died after jumping into Niagara Falls a couple weeks ago, and we collectively shrugged our shoulders. We thought, some of us who heard the news, “Yeah that’s sad, for any loved ones he left behind. But what did he expect? There were warning signs everywhere. Oh, and presumably he ignored common sense and self-preservation too.”

Here’s the thing, mortality statistics show that 20-something white males die from injury-related deaths (like motor vehicles crashes or other preventable events such as poisonings, falls, or drowning) more than any other way. And alcohol or drugs use contribute most to these risky behavior deaths.

Did you know that the earliest American university hazing death is listed as 1838? I could not choose for you the stupidest hazing death from that macabre catalogue of misjudgments gone awry, even if I tried hard for three days. That’s because they’re all equally stupid and tragic for having all been avoidable if boys hadn’t been such asinine risk takers.

I say this because Otto Warmbier at age 20 chose to go to North Korea, a country that the US warned American tourists to avoid at all costs. But he rushed past all caution for the sake of a reputation for bravery.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what Otto said of his choice to go to North Korea: “Growing up in the United States, I was taught that the DPR Korea is a mysterious, ‘isolated communist nation’ from the mass media and education. This made an innocent-minded adventurous young man like myself want to show my bravery to improve my reputation and show a western victory over the DPR Korea.”

His confession certainly could have been written by someone else, or spoken under duress. But the truth is that young Otto Warmbier became a mortality statistic as much for being a foolish risk-taking 20-something white male as he died because of North Korean maltreatment behind bars. I mean, people die in police custody here in the US all the time. Hell, they don’t even need to be in custody. You can have your hands in the air, or be running away, and still get blown away. Die faster than botulism.

All I’m saying is Otto Warmbier chose to go to North Korea, the tourism version of daring to leap over Niagara Falls. So it’s cool if you make it through alive. But don’t expect me to weep much if you don’t survive your devil-may-care fall.

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