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For Those Who Die Too Young

Otto Warmbier. Nabra Hassanen.

Two young people who never met, who apparently had nothing in common except the state of Virginia (where Otto attended college and where Nabra lived with her family), and whom no one should have occasion to write about now. When I said they had nothing in common except Virginia, I was not quite accurate. They share a second thing: an early, terrible and completely undeserved death.

We all saw the news footage of a weeping Otto in a Pyongyang court, sentenced to fifteen years at hard labor for the grave crime of stealing a propaganda poster. The next thing we saw of him was seventeen months later, coming home to his parents' house in Ohio on a stretcher, just in time to die. The North Korean government disclaimed all knowledge of why Otto was in an irreversible coma.

"To make it clear, we are the biggest victim of this incident," North Korea said.

At least no one pretended that Nabra Hassanen was not the biggest victim in the incident that ended her life. Headed home on her bicycle with a group of friends from breaking her post-Ramadan fast at either McDonald's or IHOP (accounts differ), Nabra and her group were accosted by a driver who demanded they get out of his way. Words were exchanged; the driver gave chase; the cyclists rode away, but Nabra was just slow enough for the driver to kidnap her, beat her to death with a baseball bat, and dump her body in a pond. As the final insult, someone torched the roadside memorial Nabra's friends and family made for her.

At both incidents, the mind reels. We know, in a sketchy way, what happened to Otto; what of the millions in North Korean labor camps who have no diplomats to plead their case? Some are outraged that law enforcement officials are treating Nabra's slaughter as a road rage incident, rather than a hate crime. But what does that distinction mean when a thug bludgeons an innocent girl to death? And what of all the young girls across America and throughout the world who have suffered similar fates, with no one to protest on their behalf or even give them a name?

I don't know what more than be said, than that every era of human history is subject to its own version of murderous insanity, and that Otto Warmbier and Nabra Hassanen fell victim to the insanity of their time. It seems that every generation defends fresh examples; Anne Frank and Emmett Till were not enough, nor could anyone assume that they would be.

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Comments (1)

Les Marcott:

Well said Miles! No one should die like these two young people did and the unmentioned victims you'll never hear about who die in a similar manner.

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