Benghazi: Remembering Chris Stevens

My favorite composition teacher in college exhorted us to know and always remember whose story you are telling, and then to get out of the way.

One of the many reasons I backed away from talking about Chris was exactly that: I don’t know if the story is mine or his when you write a remembrance. Now that the benghazi! Benghazi! BENGHAZI!!1! freakout has concluded (again) without any evidence of malfeasance on the part of the US Government (again), and Sen. Rand Paul’s conspiracy theory that Chris and the CIA were selling weapons to Syria has been debunked (again), I feel that we need to remember the person and not the tragedy.

When writing and laughing about Wingnuttia’s Freakout over benghazi! Benghazi! BENGHAZI!!1!, I’ve sometimes mentioned that I knew the late ambassador Chris Stevens. We went to high school together and travelled in the same circles. His probable best friend, Austin Tichenor, was one of my amigos (Hi Austin!) and so often we ended up at the same place at the same time. And at a public school that had less than 500 students total, the same place and time happened often. I guess it would be fair to say we were tertiary friends, we had some classes together (mostly music) and I remember that we played tennis at least once.

Chris was a nice guy. I don’t remember him ever saying anything bad about anyone, even me and my terrible tennis game. He had that look that I will always associate with the early ’80s, an all-American boy that makes you think of Ivory soap; today we would call him preppy, but this was in the days before that was a term. But mostly when I think about Chris, I see a scrawny kid wearing a horizontally striped rugby shirt, his mop of blond hair hanging low on his forehead.

So much of my memory of Chris is of a pleasant fellow who was always sort of around, he was a background player in my world, not a featured player. So my memories of him tend to be vague, that is, until something definitive happened.

I recall for the Christmas concert, Mr. Harvey (the music teacher) had coached us that when singing Gloria in excelsis Deo (Latin for “Glory to God in the highest”), that excelsis was pronounced egg-shell-sees. Chris had some sort of solo (I think), and as he sang the dreaded word, his voice cracked, and he belted out a falsetto EGGSHELLSEES!

Chris’ face burned cherry red and with his blond hair he looked like a dessert topping come to life. He very gracefully took a bow and remained composed. That’s the kind of kid who becomes an important ambassador in a difficult region of the world.

I’m a sentimental man, more so as I age. My childhood and adolescence memories are probably not to be trusted, but I’ll be damned if I will let Fox News rip away my memory of a nice kid to make him some sort of boogieman useful for bringing down the sitting president and to torpedo a potential candidate in 2016.

Chris’s death was not an abstraction, as the news would have us think. He’s not shorthand for an incompetent government, sorry Sean Hannity. Chris had hopes and dreams (and got to live many of them traveling, working, and living in foreign lands). He was a real person whose voice cracked just like the rest of us, and we need to remember that.

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10 Responses to Benghazi: Remembering Chris Stevens

  1. A moving remembrance… May his memory forever be a blessing.

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  2. Big Bad Bald Bastard says:

    Beautifully done, TG. The real disgusting thing about their treatment of him was the pendulum swings between making him a martyr and attacking his character. Some very ugly things were said by some very ugly people.

    A guy I grew up with was killed while serving a warrant on an order of protection violator, and Jeanine Pirro, then DA of the county, started grandstanding while the resultant siege, staffed by at least twelve police departments was ongoing. This sort of political posturing on the bodies of the valiant slain makes my blood boil.

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  3. moeman says:

    Nicely done TG.

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  4. Jim H. says:

    Yes, Chris was the story. Thanks for remind us that it really is about him, and that politics is an ugly business. Very moving. Thanks for posting.

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  5. Bruce388 says:

    Americans are lucky to have this type of person working for us.

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  6. Susan says:

    Thanks for helping all of use climb above the political nastiness and remember the person. I don’t think any one will ever apologize for any of this, but they should. The Chris you describe would have done so.

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  7. HarpoSnarx says:

    TG, In this disgraceful era of Frauds, Bullshit and Liars, you always keep it real.

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  8. pissed in NYC says:

    Well done, Ten. The media whores, I wonder whether they feel anything or whether they are all sociopaths, playacting at being human (rhetorical).

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  9. Jado says:

    See, sentimentality is only useful for persuading gullible rubes to vote for your party of thugs and charlatans. The memory of your “friend” is only to be used as a club. People are not valuable – concepts or rumors of people as metaphors for the insidious march of something wrong is the only allowable interpretation.

    Get with the program, Ten, or the Republicans will never let you join their Glorious Overlord Party.

    Out in the real world, thanks for sharing. We all need to remember that these “code words” the conservatives use as clubs are actually real people. It’s easy to forget in the fog of contempt and scorn that listening to the GOP drivel can create

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  10. Weird Dave says:

    May Ambassador Stevens be remembered as something more than a political talking point.

    He was a far better man than me.

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