A lot of true crime, and especially true crime commentary, is about playing Monday Morning Quarterback. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. We can sit here and pontificate and prognosticate from our thrones or avatars on what Shan’ann thought or felt, and we may think that means something.
But it’s very easy to go through life picking on and preying on the wisdom of the fallen. Some may argue that it’s a futile exercise to begin with: to try to find meaning in a fallen world.I would argue that that is true unless we aim to rebuild ourselves and this world with this knowledge.
We gain nothing when we look at these crimes and criminals and use distancing language and psychologies to separate ourselves from it. We’re all familiar with it. It’s the default setting for 99% of the commentary that is out there:
He’s a narcissist!
He’s a covert somatic narcissist!
He’s a sociopath!
He’s a psychopath!
He’s a monster! He has no feelings whatsoever!
This speaks volumes not about the Watts case, and not of Watts as a man, but the shallow perceptions of those wallowing in the victim mentality of the case. The mob would have us believe that the monster is Watts. But until the moment he committed these crimes, everybody loved him. What does that say about everybody? What does it reveal to us about society?
At TCRS we don’t want to form tribes of allegiance, or to take anyone’s side. While we try to be sensitive and compassionate to the victims, our real loyalty is to the truth [whatever that may be]. And the truth that connects us to true crime is that all of us, in some shape or form, are living a lie. We’re all Pinocchios wherever we are in our lives, trying to get by without our noses giving us away.
All of us, in some way, are criminals in our lives. Some are simply bigger liars, more made of wood, than others. It’s when we – like them – acknowledge our crimes, our traitorous hearts, our criminal minds, that we redeeem ourselves. It’s when we show contrition and remorse for who we are, what we are and what we’ve done, that we can begin to build ourselves into better people. That’s how we build a better world, from the inside out, not the outside in.
We ought to approach true crime with the same work ethic, discipline and humility. Instead of wagging our fingers casting our judgments, we ought to reflect on our own private connections to these people, not so much how we differ from one another, but what is far more troubling – what we have in common. For example, Shan’ann’s use of Facebook. What does that say about us, and our use [or possible overuse] of Facebook]?
To really get something out of true crime, and there are vast treasures of meaning if we care to look, but to get there we have to get over ourselves and into a place where we can see the crime as it is, and criminals [and their victims] for who they are.
Getting over ourselves starts by doing something no one wants to do. Admit that we make mistakes. Face the abyss in ourselves.
I’ve been feeling much more kindly towards Shan’ann recently, too. Although she didn’t do things the way I would, she comes across as sweet, genuine, and very earnest in her Facebook Live videos, (which I have begun watching for some reason. ) A beautiful young woman, in between the ages of my own daughter and my older son, and so full of enthusiasm and life. (Literally, with Niko.)
I’m about 80% through Drilling Through Discovery, and I love a certain quote of Nick’s, something to the effect of “murder is a natural artifact of lying.” That quote took me back to a very dark time in my marriage and family life, wherein all I did was lie. I lied to everybody; I put false names with fake numbers into my phone, blatantly lied about my reasons for traveling to another state, and felt total contempt and disregard for my husband. (I still loved my kids, and they are a huge part of the reason I pulled out of that free fall. )
I never considered murder, not at all, but I had horrible thoughts about how “easy” my life would be if my husband were just to disappear. No custody fight over our young son, no more of him blowing my cover to my family and telling them what was *really* going on, no more of his nasty drunken mouth.
Like Chris, I had almost an entire summer to myself, as my husband moved south to our new home before I did, and our son joined him there on the fourth of July, courtesy of my parents. So, for about five weeks, until the middle of August when I relocated to our new home, I had a lot of freedom, and I liked it. Yes, there was an affair partner, and I’d met him at work. The parallels are just too crazy.
I made other choices. By the grace of God, I did the relocation, and was miserable at first, but then something miraculous happened. I started to build a life there, and rebuild my family. That was the choice I made. Like myself, like Shan’ann, my husband is a good but flawed human being, and a decade plus later, we are still working things out. We have money issues, relationship struggles, and we sometimes forget to be kind to one another. But, it is with a whole new attitude. We thank one another for things, and we are about to embark on our first road trip together since our son was born almost 22 years ago.
Divorce would have been another legitimate choice, but financial problems mainly kept me from pursuing that avenue, and I’m grateful I stayed.
My husband isn’t perfect, but I made other choices. Shan’ann wasn’t perfect, but Chris, too, had other choices. And for the love of everything holy, what in fact did those children ever do to deserve their fate? I’m sorry for Chris that he felt so trapped, but I’m way sorrier for his wife and children that their choices were taken away needlessly.