Clarification -- my last post on the "conspiracy."

On my previous entry, I received this response from my late professor's niece. It is important for me to respond thoroughly, so I'm placing it here.

"Wow! Our worlds collide again! I was bored and thought I'd check back in to see if you heard that Bennington was doing a memorial service for Steven on May 17th.

My office overlooks Rebel Hill and Clement Park. I work for the Jefferson County Public Administrator here in Littleton. Since April '99 I have learned 3 things about Columbine.

#1 - the grief remains prolific! Students and Parents of students who died are experiencing something completely unimaginable. Their grief manifests itself in many ways... conspiracy theories abound....anything that will ease/justify/explain the pain of the horror they will live with every day. Who can judge this unless we've experienced it?

#2 - There are valid reasons from within the community to believe cover-ups, lies, lack of due diligence and other possibly negligent activities took place in the investigations and prosecutions of Columbine. There was immense pressure for answers and for someone to blame. 10 years out and I think we have more questions than answers.

#3 - no matter how much research is done, no matter how much investigation was done, those who experienced Columbine first hand have a story to tell. We'd be wise to listen to it. We may learn something. If nothing else, it might help them heal from an unimaginable trauma.

Best Wishes,

First off, Cara, I want to thank you for informing me about the memorial service for Steven. I had been told by one of my fellow alumni when it would be held, but traveling to Bennington is regrettably not a financial possibility for me at the moment. The impact of missing it is lessened by the many people who also cared for Steven getting in touch with me through Facebook, or this blog. Still, not being able to attend weighs no less on my mind.

I also would like to point out that our worlds collide in a third way, as when a great deal of information was released about the Columbine shooters, it was with Steven's help that I was able to request digital copies of some of the files and transcripts on the two shooters at Columbine. I had very little clue how to go about getting such information, and Steven gave me a great many tips, as well as allowing me to search a few directories I would have had to pay for if he had not "loaned" me access to his accounts. Rarely was there a time when I showed interest in something that he wouldn't encourage me to follow as far as I wanted or could. That excitement at the pursuit of knowledge was just one of the many things that made him such a wonderful teacher.

That said, you bring to light some excellent points, and I in no way wished to belittle the grief and pain the survivors of the Columbine shootings went through. After experiencing something so traumatic, it is natural that coping methods would vary wildly, and many would turn to alternate explanations and conspiracy theories in order to make some sense of the violent upheaval of their lives. I would never dare deny any of these people the right to seek their own truth, and come to their own decisions about what happened. I make no judgments on them or their decisions, beyond saying that, within reason, anything that can bring them comfort or allow them some sense of normalcy is absolutely acceptable. In fact, it is paramount.

I also want to say I understand the inclination of the community to lean towards these conspiracy theories. The cover-ups during the investigation, like the Open Space meeting, were terrible. And it is difficult, after being lied to, to then have the truth revealed and not immediately ask "but is this just another lie?" Faced with the evidence I've seen, I've chosen to believe that the information revealed after these cover-ups that were cracked by independent investigators and the media are true. But I am not a part of the Jefferson County community, and in a community like that what is or isn't as true may not be as important as the trust that was violated.

Furthermore, we would nearly all like to find greater purpose and meaning for the whys and hows of the world, and nothing calls for an explanation more than tragedy. However, and it is difficult to say this without sounding cold, there is what people experience, and what actually happened. My intention was never to belittle any one's perception, only to emphasize the conclusions the evidence available points to. If I did the former by attempting the latter, I can only apologize, with all my heart.

The reason that I chose to defend these conclusions that I, and many who are far, far more informed than I have thus far come to on this series of events with such vigor actually has to do with something you said in your comment with an elegance I could not -- that "those who experienced Columbine first hand have a story to tell. We'd be wise to listen to it." I believe this sentiment to be absolutely true, and though I realize to some it may look like it is I who am dismissing numerous eyewitnesses while the conspiracy websites hold up the survivor's accounts as sacrosanct, I think it is actually the other way around. The pain and perseverance of the people of Jefferson County is greater than anything I've ever experienced, and when reading accounts or interviews, I do my very best to be thoughtful and open. To my eye, the conspiracy addicts are the ones who could care less about listening, and only want information to support their wild claims that the government is out to take their guns, or are quietly working behind the scenes to establish some New World Order. I find this kind of exploitation angers me, and my previous post was a response to those feelings [as well as a deep want for my few visitors to not think I agreed with the claims of a website who's URL was posted in my comments section].

Cara, I really want to thank you for such a thoughtful response. I had noted you living in Littleton earlier, but it slipped my mind while writing these entries. As a member of that community, I hope you didn't find anything I said to be offensive. It was not my intent, but I certainly understand that any "outsider" purporting knowledge of something that hits close to home should be careful to not overstep, lest he become as callous as those he takes issue with. And worse, hurt those who should never be hurt again.

There are still many questions, but I don't think we should disregard the answers we have because of them. On this subject, that is my belief. But beliefs can be dangerous things, and because of that, it is my hope that this will be my last post about Columbine for awhile. This is merely a production diary and brain dump for a humble artist, and if I ever hope to be productive again, I should probably not take up arms against every crackpot on the internet. Some things are beyond my means.

Still, the comments section to this post is open for anyone who wishes to leave a response, be they thoughtful and illuminating like Cara's, or merely curt and dismissive like a few of the others. The only warning I offer to that second group pertains to the conceit of my blog, which is that I will have the last word. My certainty in an uncertain world.

Best wishes to all.

2 comments :: Clarification -- my last post on the "conspiracy."

  1. None are so blind as those who will not see. The eyewitnesses were right. There were more shooters. Face it, dude.

  2. The quotation you've hijacked there to support your point in lieu of anything but the same misquoted internet conspiracy "logic" is familiar to me -- not so much that I could say exactly who originated it [I think it's come down to just an "old saying" these days], but I see it often used in conspiracy theorists' writings, in reference and defense of every subject from 9/11 "truth" to stem cells to the secret reptoid invasion. Before I ran into it in those instances, I was exposed to the "none who are so blind..." cliche in Christian writings, typically when referring to those who saw Christ's miracles, and refused to accept him as the messiah.

    Now, honestly, I'm not the most religious guy in the world, but if we're going to talk in ecclesiastical terms, there is a set of Christian writings I was always very fond of when I was younger, and one passage from them I think is particularly fitting for your resistance:

    " “Aslan,” said Lucy through her tears, “could you — will you — do something for these poor Dwarfs?

    “Dearest,” said Aslan, “I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do.” He came close to the Dwarfs and gave a low growl: low, but it set all the air shaking. But the Dwarfs said to one another, “Hear that? That’s the gang at the other end of the stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don’t take any notice. They won’t take us in again!”

    Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised the golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.”

    But soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at least they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding nose, they all said:

    “Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

    “You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. "

    -- C.S. Lewis, "The Last Battle."

    At least you haven't let anyone take you in.