There are days when I have hope for the future of this world, times when I can believe that we will collectively rise above our history and learn to be the loving and rational creatures that we’re capable of becoming.
But today hasn’t been one of those days.
I was already down on the human race for other reasons, but I reached a tipping point this evening when I read about a Colorado man who has confessed to murdering his pregnant wife, Shannon, and their two little girls, Bella and Celeste, who were 4 and 3.
I know that thousands of people die every day. I know that many of them are murdered. But there’s something about seeing this smiling and apparently loving family — and knowing this man could murder those innocent girls — that stabs me in the heart and makes me wonder why God puts up with what his crowning creation — made in his image — have turned into.
I know there are stories like this all the time. I know there always have been. I know that humans do horrible things to each other. But something about this particular story shakes me.
I think it’s because these people seem so much like me. That’s not a very good way to judge the seriousness of a crime, but there’s something about them which makes them seem like people I could know.
With most murders, I can look at the people involved or the circumstances and know those people aren’t like me. I don’t live in an inner-city housing project. I’m not involved in illegal drug transactions. I’m not stupid enough to be friends with crack-heads who are going to rob me. I’m sorry for such victims, but I don’t identify with people in those sorts of circumstances.
But this was an affluent middle-class family whose lives look a lot like what I consider normal. The lives they projected on social media were so happy and normal. They showed a happy mother and father doing happy things with their children — and this might scare me more than anything else.
In almost every case I’m aware of, unhappy people project lies on social media about their lives and their family. In case after case, people’s social media lives are lies. When I know people’s private lives — and I know how much hatred and unhappiness there is behind the scenes — I’m stunned to see those people projecting something so different on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter.
One of the worst-kept secrets of modern life is that millions and millions of people are miserable and their lives are failing apart, but because we live in a media-driven culture where image is everything, we project lies. We project the fantasy which we desperately hope that other people will believe is true.
The few people who are willing to tell the truth about themselves — on social media and often in person — are frequently shunned. Others aren’t comfortable being exposed to the truth of their misery. So people who share about their loneliness or unhappiness or depression often retreat behind a mask, because they quickly get the message that their vulnerability isn’t wanted by anybody.
In this Colorado case, Chris Watts apparently strangled his wife and his two little girls. He then buried his wife, Shannon Watts, in a shallow grave. He dumped his little girls’ bodies into commercial oil tanks.
I know people who appear to be just like this family. I see their pictures on Facebook. I see their shallow projections of happiness. But the lies of social media are just a thin veneer on the ugly unhappiness lurking beneath.
It terrifies me to think how easily this could happen with specific people I know. My heart grows cold when I think of specific people who I think are capable of snapping and doing these sorts of unspeakable things. And I just don’t know how human beings can be like this.
I don’t understand how people continue projecting the lies that they do. I don’t know why people agree to keep living such lies. I don’t see why parents keep their children in such toxic environments, where they’re learning that this is what a family is like — so those children will grow up and bring another generation of misery into the world.
I know I’m projecting a lot from this one awful story, but the truth is that I’m always worried about this sort of thing happening with people I know. We’re all likely to see stories as evidence for what we already believe — and I’m no exception — but I see this as a chilling reminder of what could happen to people I know.
There’s so much that I don’t understand about the way humans live. It stuns me that people happily obey their childhood brainwashing rather than consider whether maybe they might have been taught lies. They never stop to think that maybe their lives need to change and that they need to throw off dysfunctional cultural norms.
I’m terrified by what politicians do, but the obedience and reverence of the unthinking sheep — blindly following their culture’s expectations — terrify me far more then the openly visible evil done by the politicians they select and support.
If aliens came to this planet and put the human race on trial — and they asked me why we deserved to exist as a species — I’m not sure I’d have a good answer.
There are days when I’m optimistic about our future. There are days when I see the good things about us and I see how we can sometimes be loving and creative — how we can grow and become better creatures than we were.
Those are the days when I see more beauty and experience more intelligence and grace and love from certain people. I don’t have enough of those days, but they’re the only ones that make me willing to put up with the ones such as today.
I don’t know what sort of evil could allow a man to kill his wife, but it takes an even deeper level of evil to imagine that a man could murder his own little girls. That chills me in ways that I have trouble explaining.
There is no role in the world that I want more than being a loving and caring husband and father. I cannot imagine any circumstance which could turn me — or any decent person — into this sort of killer.
I grieve for the murdered Shannon Watts. I grieve for murdered Bella and Celeste. I grieve for the unborn baby who will never take his or her first breath.
But most of all, I grieve for the living — for those who will never know these victims — who are living lives of unhappiness that could end up going down the same shocking path.
We humans must learn more emotionally healthy ways to live. Modern society feeds the toxic evil which makes it easier than ever to hide the evil that lies lurking in cold and dishonest hearts.