“Maintain Our Humanity”

Perhaps by now you have seen a portion of the video posted below, but I would encourage you to watch it all.

Claire Esther Davis, a 17-year-old senior at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado, was shot in the face on December 13. She died eight days later. A fellow student, angry at losing his spot on the school’s debate team, entered the school that day with a shotgun and home-made bombs. Claire, for no reason at all other than chance, quickly became a victim of a deranged mind in control of a deadly weapon.

Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, Claire’s father, with his wife by his side, spoke at a memorial service in Denver. You may not agree with all of his sentiments. You may argue with some of his reasoning. But you can’t help but admire his absolute devotion to what it means, what it must mean, to live in a civilized world.

“Unchecked anger and rage can lead to hatred, and unchecked hatred can lead to tragedy, blindness and a loss of humanity,” he said at one point. He added a bit later:

To citizens of our community, the state of Colorado, our nation, and the world, we must strive for kindness, compassion, peace, and love to maintain our humanity.

I will here confess that Claire’s father, Michael Davis, and her mother, Desiree, are far better human beings than I will ever hope to be. I have three kids. If any one of them became a murderer’s victim, I’m afraid I would not be able to say the words that Michael Davis says so eloquently. I’m afraid that the last thing on my mind would be kindness, compassion, peace and love. I’m afraid that I wouldn’t talk about maintaining “our humanity.”

Yet somehow this amazing man was able to say those words, and as you will soon be able to see, he meant every single one of them. And as a tribute, not only to Claire Davis and her remarkable parents, but to the idea of maintaining humanity itself, you should take the time to listen to him:

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16 Comments

  1. That is a standard to which we all should aspire. Even by failing, we will be better for it.

    Thanks, Duane, for focusing us on this remarkable man and woman.

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    • Nagarjuna,

      I like the way you phrased that: “Even by failing, we will be better for it.”

      I totally agree. Thanks for that amazing insight.

      Duane

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  2. The sentiments Michael Davis expressed are unnatural. The fight or flight reaction to danger is a part of human nature, and rage is its peak. Like Duane, I too could not forgive such senseless crime.

    It is apparent from the setting of his speech that Davis is motivated by religious faith. I find it puzzling and, as someone nearing my final years on the planet, sometimes I’m envious of such people, even as I marvel that they could believe on such thin evidence.

    Rage of course is not limited to short-term actions. It can play out over months and even years or a lifetime. The national overreaction to 9/11 was, and is, powered by anger. Spirituality can also be lasting. Mandela was celebrated for such, as was MLK (despite his moral flaws). Then I think of Lincoln, that kindly, moral and compassionate man who resolutely led the North through the most bloody war in the nation’s history. What complex things they are, these human brains! I wonder what is to become of us?

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    • Jim,

      I also wondered about the religious motivation on the part of Mr. Davis. I wondered about it because of the careful wording he used, almost none of it in tune with the kind of things we have grown accustomed to hearing from very religious folks in this country. It is because of that lack of overt acknowledgement of the blessings of belief, the kind that we usually hear from bereaved folks at times like this–“God must have had his reasons” or “God had a higher purpose”–that I found his comments so captivating. His emphasis was humanity, not God.

      And I, for one, appreciated that very much.

      Yes, we are complex creatures with strange brains. I suspect, if we find a way to subordinate our notions of “God” and superordinate humanity, as Mr. Davis seemed to do, we may do okay. Otherwise, I’m not so sure.

      Duane

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  3. Janice Reed

     /  January 3, 2014

    This is the first I have heard this and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. I, too, believe these folks truly remarkable. I wish their philosophy was worldwide, but it certainly is not. I wish everyone of us had the strength and generosity that these folks show. But, unfortunately, none of us know until the day a tragedy like this happens to any of any of us whether we might have some of the fortitude of these parents. Let’s hope none of us ever has to face similar situations and find out how strong, or not strong, we really are. There are some things I would rarely not have to learn.

    My thoughts and prayers are with these folks. And thanks, Duane, for making me aware of the kindness and generosity of these people.

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    • Janice,

      As much as I value knowledge, I, too, hope there are things I never have to learn, like what I would do if confronted with the reality that this family faced—is still facing. I like the sentiment you expressed very much.

      Duane

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  4. Sedate Me

     /  January 3, 2014

    You know civilization is on the edge of collapse when disgruntled debate team members (repeat: debate team members!) are resorting to gun violence. Let the implications of that settle in for a moment. Sadder still, this is the very first I heard of this shooting. I guess such things are so commonplace now that they are no longer that newsworthy.

    On the silver linings side, the Davis family showed something exceeding rare in this day & age, class, forgiveness & real humanity. Sounds like they have the proper reaction to acts of senseless violence. As Jim Wheeler touched upon above, if only post 9/11 America had a similar attitude. Instead, it has declared global, preemptive, total-war on everything that it considers even just a potential threat to the Empire’s hegemony.

    One need only to do a cursory study of history to see that vengeful violence only begets vengeful violence. It’s time to seek a cure for this disease.

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    • Just what that cure might entail, I am all ears.

      I look around at the world, especially from Africa to the Middle East and beyond, and I see much of the trouble with violence related to competition between religious zealots of one sort or another. If we could wave a wand a make religious fundamentalism disappear, that would solve a lot of problems.

      But it still wouldn’t solve the even more basic problem of a troubled mind, like the one in Colorado, who had access to a weapon and the warped will (such as we can call it “will”) to use it.

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      • Sedate Me

         /  January 8, 2014

        “Just what that cure might entail, I am all ears.”

        The killing of all those who disagree with me on anything. (If only!)

        Let’s face it. Much of the world operates on this premise -the destruction of enemies- on one level or another. How many times has the world been promised peace through war? Just where the hell is this peace the warriors keep promising? Well, it’s always just around the corner…just as soon as they defeat the next enemies they’ve conjured up.

        It’s a simple case of job security for the warrior class. The warrior’s best friend is actually their enemy. The enemy allows them to redirect attention from their own corruption, incompetence, abysmal failure and/or lack of interest in the general welfare of citizens and toward the threat posed by the enemy. “Why should we worry about health care, education, or jobs, when we’ve got enemies out to kill us all?”

        It’s up to everyone to ignore the warriors in their own culture. All they do is perpetuate war by capitalizing on the desire for revenge (and making a nice profit in the process). Religious based, or not, these Davis folks seem to have the right idea.

        “But it still wouldn’t solve the even more basic problem of a troubled mind, like the one in Colorado, who had access to a weapon and the warped will…to use it.”

        It’s getting kind of hard to keep track of all the warped Colorado minds accessing weapons and using them. Perhaps the legalization of Marry Jane will allow more Coloradans to mellow out. Stoned folks don’t get into too many shooting matches and, when they do, their aim is really bad.

        But, once again, the warrior mentality is a big part of the problem. It helps warp those minds. Generations of folks trained to see war & violence as legitimate solutions to problems are far more likely to buy guns to solve their problems. The “solution” to crime is being armed to the hilt. The “solution” for being dropped fromthe debate team is to win the debate the way all disagreements are settled, by the gun. Might makes right.

        If drone-striking anonymous teenagers in Yemen can win a war on terror, then surely shooting the teenagers on the debate team will open up a spot on the team for you, right?

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        • Okay, let’s start with your excellent observation that pot-smoking in Colorado may contribute to the public good by mellowing out murderers. Hadn’t thought of that, I admit.

          Oh, and you connect the shooting in Colorado to drone strikes in Yemen. Even if there were a connection in the mind of that disturbed kid in Colorado, that would tend to indicate a distinct mental problem on his part, not a larger cultural one.

          Now, to the basic point you make. I couldn’t help but think of what Robert Gates said (as excerpted in the WSJ) on the subject:

          Serving as secretary of defense made the abstract real, the antiseptic bloody and horrible. I saw up close the cost in lives ruined and lives lost.

          Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents.

          Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort. On the left, we hear about the “responsibility to protect” civilians to justify military intervention in Libya, Syria, Sudan and elsewhere. On the right, the failure to strike Syria or Iran is deemed an abdication of U.S. leadership. And so the rest of the world sees the U.S. as a militaristic country quick to launch planes, cruise missiles and drones deep into sovereign countries or ungoverned spaces. There are limits to what even the strongest and greatest nation on Earth can do—and not every outrage, act of aggression, oppression or crisis should elicit a U.S. military response.

          Alluding to drone strikes, he goes on to criticize “systems analysis, computer models, game theories or doctrines that suggest that war is anything other than tragic, inefficient and uncertain.” But he makes a point that I think tends to at least partially refute what your premise is:

          The people who understand this best are our men and women in uniform.

          I don’t think he is referring to those in the upper command structure, or those you might refer to as “the warrior culture.” And if he is right, if those who do the actual fighting are the most reluctant warriors, then I think that runs counter to your “the destruction of enemies” doctrine of human nature.

          I subscribe to the belief that humanity has made some large amount of progress from the days when things were almost always settled by warfare. We are better than that now, in so many ways. Having said that, though, I think you must account, in your theory, for the fact that if there are people in the world who mean us harm, and have the means to do so, it is necessary for us to try to do something about it. Unless you believe in national surrender to some form of tyranny, religious or otherwise. That doesn’t excuse, of course, the misapplication of warfare by us or anyone else. If the recent reports are accurate about the civilian damage done by last month’s drone attack, then such an attack deserves our full condemnation.

          I just hear a disturbing note of abject pessimism in your overall comments, and I refuse to embrace such pessimism, especially when there is so much evidence suggesting that we are becoming less militaristic, less violent. As Steven Pinker says,

          Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.

          Perhaps “the desire for revenge” is still raving in human minds, but, as you suggest, perhaps “these Davis folks seem to have the right idea,” and perhaps so do more people than you are willing to admit.

          Duane

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          • King Beauregard

             /  January 8, 2014

            “Having said that, though, I think you must account, in your theory, for the fact that if there are people in the world who mean us harm, and have the means to do so, it is necessary for us to try to do something about it.”

            I admit I have my doubts about the drone program. But then I look at casualties caused by al Qaeda in Iraq — anywhere from 3000 to 5000 in 2013, depending on the source — and it occurs to me that, while the odd granny who gets killed by a drone makes front-page news, we hear precious little about the thousands that al Qaeda kills when left to their own devices. So we’re in this uncomfortable position where, on the one hand, we’re probably making it at least more difficult for al Qaeda to go about their business in Yemen and Pakistan, but on the other hand it’s at a price of some number of innocent lives and it’s impossible to calculate the “savings” (if any) over those who would have been lost to an al Qaeda operating at full capacity.

            I do know, though, that I reject basing decisions on “whatever keeps the blood off my hands specifically”. That is moral cowardice, and I have to be honest, I see more than a little of that on the Left. I also see a lot of taking solace in knee-jerk demonization of the US — you’ll still see some (idiot) Lefties praising Putin for keeping Obama from invading Syria, which is like praising Charles Manson for keeping the Beverly Hills police too busy to club hippies.

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            • You pretty much expressed my sentiments on this, my friend. Nice. Especially the point that journalists rarely mention these days the deaths that these terrorists are causing wherever they are holed up.

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              • Sedate Me

                 /  January 17, 2014

                And it’s America’s job to kill them all, even if it isn’t sure who they are, what they’re actually up to, or if the threat they pose is anything more than purely theoretical. America: judge, jury, executioner.

                Of course, this same ultra-low standard doesn’t apply to Syria’s Asshat, a confirmed WMD user who has killed over 100,000 of his own people, a confirmed torturer and ruler of a state that supports terrorism. He’s free to continue because…uh…I guess he has some kind of high tech drone shield that keeps the American “justice” system at bay. (KGB powered?)

                But since when does the American media pay attention to the deaths of insignificant for’ners, especially the tinted variety? I don’t want to get into the sliding scale of life evaluation in the American media marketplace, but millions die every year without so much as a obscure reference.

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                • King Beauregard

                   /  January 17, 2014

                  “He’s free to continue because…uh…”

                  That pause is where you’re supposed to kick in with actual questions. What DOES happen if Obama takes over Syria? Will we make things vastly worse even if our intentions happen to be as pure as the driven snow? Beyond the damage we do to Syria, what about the damage to America?

                  I swear, you people bitch if Obama stops civilian massacres, then you bitch when he doesn’t conquer a country. You really don’t know what to do with yourself if you can’t find something to bitch about, do you?

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                  • Sedate Me

                     /  January 17, 2014

                    “You people?” That’s a rather racist comment -eh?🙂 But what does it say about somebody who bitches about people bitching? Or, for that matter, somebody bitching about somebody bitching about their own bitching? (Uh-oh feedback loop!)

                    No, I wasn’t talking about Obama taking over Syria at all. That bears no resemblance to my point. I was merely making a comparison to the standard used to excuse the drone striking of folks

                    1) in supposedly friendly nations
                    2) based upon no evidence we’re ever allowed to see
                    3) on targets the trigger pullers often have no idea who they are, what they’ve done, or are capable of doing.
                    4)Innocents will die.

                    If we’re told anything at all, we’re told “they’re bad” and killing these people will somehow make “us” safer because, apparently, nobody is capable of replacing them. (For similar logic see: War on Drugs) Maybe those “What happens next?” questions you asked ought to be asked about every drone strike, not just the one I theorized.

                    Meanwhile, the whole world knows what Asshat has done. It’s far worse than all Bin Deadass’ men and all his little coattail-riders combined. So let’s compare.

                    1) Syria is well established on America’s Enemies List
                    2) based upon decades of evidence presented by both American governmental and 3rd party/NGO sources. Asshat & Assahat Sr. are responsible for decades of terror, torture, mass murder, attacking other nations and now WMD use.
                    3) We know exactly who he is, what he’s done and continues to do. No speculation required.
                    4)Innocents will die.

                    So why no drone up Asshat’s ass?

                    Because he’s important enough to be missed. Unlike those other drone strike targets, something will actually change if he dies, something the World’s Policeman might have to deal with. So, unlike places like Yemen or Pakistan where Al Kinda kills people in the dozens and it doesn’t matter much if Uncle Sam’s Joystick Jet Squad gets it right or wrong when they kill people, “Sucks to be you, people of Syria!”

                    After the Iraqi example, where Iraq started with NO al Qaeda In Iraq and (Thanks George!) now has a fairly respectable one, I totally understand the hesitancy to meddle within foreign nations. I’d just like the policy to be applied with more consistency and in both the Macro & Micro.

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          • Sedate Me

             /  January 17, 2014

            1) I wrote the comment regarding Coloradans becoming less violent thanks to the legalization of The Herb while thinking of this great little tune from the early 90s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qKCDJAFkWo

            2) “Even if there were a connection in the mind of that disturbed kid in Colorado, that would tend to indicate a distinct mental problem on his part, not a larger cultural one.

            Ah, the Lone Crazed Gunmen theory rears its ugly head again -eh? Great way of isolating the culture from the scores of defective products it cranks out.

            It goes without saying he has a mental problem. He’s part of an insane species, mankind. It operates as if hellbent on its own destruction. Time & time again, tribes have risked their very existence battling over shiny metals, black gooey stuff, useless rocks and even whose philosophy is better. We spent most of the last century one button-push away from complete annihilation just because two nations didn’t like the way the other one handled its finances.

            But Steven Pinker somehow thinks this shows how close we are to a non-violent world. In other news, a unicorn flew out of my butt today, bringing with him world peace and a global end to poverty. Pinker’s theories may have some relevancy for common crime, but simple cultural changes can completely nullify centuries of supposed progress. One lederhosen wearing dude with a funny moustache shows up, gets popular and suddenly more people get killed than existed for most of human history.

            That debating team douche was raised in a culture dominated by naked self-interest and saturated in violence. It’s so omnipresent, so normalized, it’s all but invisible to anyone in it. Want some oil? Tell some lies and blow shit up! Can’t get laid? Join a gang, put some snitches in stitches and earn the status to get bitches. Got cut from the debate team? Use your 2nd Amendment rights to create some openings on the team! It’s all part of the same logic continuum. Win at all costs using any means necessary. Every man (& country) for themselves.

            Modern America is the most fertile ground there is for Lone Crazed Gunmen. You can’t walk to the nearest convenience store without tripping over a gun and seeing an ad telling you to “just do it”. Yet part of the culture’s mental illness is the complete inability to see how the outlying individual’s actions grow out of that fertile cultural soil. One can deny and rationalize all one wants, but just because some mucky-muck in a suit & tie in DC orders a professional to do it nice & tidy-like, out of sight & out of mind, doesn’t make it any more rational or defensible.

            It seems that debating dude actually had folks that really were out to get him (aka take his spot on the team). Perhaps his big mistake was not striking preemptively. If only he tapped everyone’s phones and tracked their every move. He would know who posed a threat to him, or might pose a threat to him. If only he had drones to “surgically strike” the individuals (and everyone else standing nearby) he considered threats. If only he could only have acted in secret, or at least had the ability to reclassify all he killed as “enemy combatants”, then he wouldn’t have any “innocent” blood on his hands. He wouldn’t be in jail and he might even get elected!

            3)That Robert Gate’s quote is probably the most accurate, intelligent and honest thing to have ever come out of his mouth. It has become FAR, FAR, too easy for violence to be the first option. It’s so easy to see everyone everywhere as threats, or at least a potential threat. This culture of violent, paranoid, control freak-ism has become America’s default position. In today’s America, Chicken Hawks can howl for bloodbath after bloodbath with no repercussions whatsoever because “might makes right,” even when it’s wrong. If one round of violence doesn’t work or causes blowback, well, launch some more violence to solve the problem! Chicken Hawks and armchair Patriots have nothing at risk and everything to gain from war. Thanks to a “volunteer” army, modern weapons technology, the enemy’s incredibly low capability of retaliation and the profitability of Military Industrial Spy Complex stock, the risk-versus-reward of engaging in violence continues to shrink. This situation will only get worse as those running the Empire detach themselves from humanity and drift further from it.

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