Grief sucks, and what’s sadder than a person dying young? My life has changed, and I have seen my parents change since my 23-year old sister died 14 years ago. There’s nothing good about it, and almost nothing instructive. Or certainly not so instructive that it’s even remotely close to worth going through. There’s no moral to the story.
Which brings me to Columbine. 10 years later, there are still a handful of dead kids and a lot of sad people. I guess there’s some moral to the story; it was wrong for 2 kids to walk around murdering people. But there’s even more to learn from the aftermath and its bum details like the hysteria about Marilyn Manson, of whom the killers were not fans.
Especially telling to me is the book She Said Yes by Misty Bernall. The author’s daughter was killed by Eric Harris in the Columbine library. As the story goes, Harris asked if she believed in god, and her response made her not just a victim but a martyr. The Christian musicians Michael W. Smith and Flyleaf even recorded songs about her commitment to her faith in the face of certain death.
I am not in the business of shitting on the bereaved, but I do have a bias toward truth and grief is no substitute for fact-checking. The Harris/Bernall exchange never happened. In one sense, this doesn’t matter too much. The poor girl was by all accounts a devout believer, and Harris did murder her. No one doubts that her mother, Smith or Flyleaf believed that she professed her Christianity with her life on the line when they wrote their respective accounts. But now that the FBI’s investigation has long since debunked the story, plenty of people have chosen to stick by it.
But what does this say? Well, it leads me inescapably to the conclusion that these people are either credulous or mendacious enough to value a good story over the truth. Compounding the error is that they do so in the name of what they believe to be the very author of morality – the same god who commands his adherents not to bear false witness.
As a side note, this story bears a bit on my overarching critique of Christianity – that it’s untrue. Christian apologists often argue that the earliest Gospels were composed before 70 A.D. (of course they say A.D., not C.E. Can’t really fault them for that.) Early authorship means that they could have been written by Jesus’ disciples themselves; this is taken as evidence for the authenticity of the Gospels.
I beg to differ. Exhibit 1: the Cassie Bernall myth. This story began to circulate immediately after the massacre on April 20, 1999. It was debunked by a witness within months, yet it persists to this day. This goes back to our willingness to favor a good story to the cold facts. A guy getting tortured and killed for his beliefs qualifies as just such a story. Of course, this doesn’t prove anything, but if we can’t get a story right in 2009 about relatively straightforward events from 1999, why would a real whopper from the first century be any more believable?
Another side note: Christians seem to love Columbine and other school shootings. Sometimes a little too much. Like when they invoke the idea in their dissemination of total fucking nonsense.
Sorry for your loss,