Clay A. Duke

A Florida gunman held up a school board meeting before opening fire on several people, missing all of them, and finally being taken down by a security guard.

I’m sure most people have read something to this effect if they’ve been watching a recent news cycle on CNN or other nationwide news channels. But here’s the thing, it’s nightly news so it makes sense that they’ll go for soundbites rather than tell the whole story. That’s not their fault, but it is a hazard of the industry. Here’s a video of the entire event playing out, up until the gun man is taken down.

I may be alone in this, but watching the whole video completely changes the story for me. Now I’m gonna cover my own ass here and say I do not condone what this man did but I understand why he did it. I cannot emphasize enough that taking another person’s life (or trying to anyway) is never the answer, but what the news stations don’t tell you is that this man has a story.

Clay A. Duke, the gunman, was there on behalf of his wife who had been dismissed from the school. He was there to tell the school board of how their decision to let his wife go had impacted their life. They had no more savings and either way, Duke was set on dying when he entered that room, as he says several times in the video. Duke represents an extremist “solution” to a problem that is becoming increasingly common.

Several people have expressed confusion at Duke’s choice to draw the V for Vendetta sign, but there seems to be a fair amount of logic there. After all, V stands against a government that has wronged him, much like it seems Duke believes he is doing. It’s difficult to make sense of what he did, but most articles I’ve seen have characterized him as a “crazed” gunman.

I hesitate to use such words to describe him. He was certainly sick, but at the same time, what he did had a purpose. Sure, it wasn’t the right way to handle things, but you can’t dismiss him as some lunatic. He is a victim, a tortured creation of circumstance and our government. This isn’t meant to rationalize away his actions or place the blame elsewhere. A fair amount of it lies squarely on Duke’s shoulders for lashing out as he did, but it’s distressing to see a man’s life and even his purpose reduced to a soundbite. If there was one thing that it seemed this man believed (judging from this video at least) it is that his life and even his death had purpose.

It is clear that Duke’s actions and his subsequent death are a result of a myriad of things. Of course it is Duke’s own doing, but he had purpose. personally, I think that this reflects more on the failings of our government than the instability of one man, but that can’t be expressed properly in a soundbite. However, watching the events unfold in the full video sets the horrific actions in a very different light.

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2 thoughts on “Clay A. Duke

  1. C-
    I really appreciate your perspective on this sad incident.

    One of my biggest concerns with our culture is the 24-hour news cycle and our seemingly hypnotic reaction to it. Something like this is always reduced to a soundbite, black/white, good guy/bad guy situation, as if this is all we could possibly understand about a nuanced, complicated, tragically systematic situation.

    Is it? That’s my question.

  2. That’s a very good question!
    Unfortunately, I’m not sure I have the answer, but I think it’s something worth discussing. I think this shooting is an excellent example though. People wanted to reduce its complexity so we know who to hate or who is the enemy, although both are pretty much always unknowable.
    Thanks for reading!

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