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Watching the News

Updated on October 27, 2010

So I'm flicking through the channels the other night and I come across this 'special broadcast', (The Fifth Estate, ), on CBC. Real, live footage of a real, live monster confessing his guilt in really live and brutal detail. I watch true crime shows, albeit no more than the average, occasional TV watcher but watching this was different. Russell Williams, 47, was recently apprehended and found to have murdered two women in Ontario, Canada. A respected military officer and commander, Williams' sexually deviant double life had led him to kidnap, torture, rape and kill the two innocent females on separate occasions.

We've all seen snippets of criminals recounting their crimes on many TV reality and true crime programs, and though it seems like the number of these shows increases along with the demand for them as the days go by, this clip just felt more penetrating. Perhaps it was the 'special, commercial-free' aspect this one offered that held me, a student of life, a dabbler in psychology, philosophy and all things related to the human condition, somewhat more transfixed than the sadly commonplace other tastes of criminal minds I have ingested since reality TV became so prominent on the airwaves.

Perhaps it was because the atrocities that befell these two vibrant women had happened here, in Ontario and close to home, relatively, figuratively and literally speaking, that I continued to watch through minute after chilling minute of silence as Williams remained unwilling to speak or answer the questions posed to him by the interrogating officer. I kept telling myself, I'm not even watching a confession. What confession? He's mute. I'm watching him and I hate myself for it. He'd been silent for a mountain of time, it seemed. And although I had zero desire to continue watching him, his arms crossed defensively and displaying a frightening lack of regret, watch I did for close to half an hour.

Each softly spoken question asked by the officer (who worked brilliantly at extracting Russell Williams' confession, by the way), was met with still more silence, still more frozen refusal to speak by Williams. Yet as a viewer of this back and forth piece of police work at its finest, I felt incapable of tuning out. I felt unable to turn away to the reality of my own warm, peaceful life before soaking up Williams' horrid display of guilt and calculation in its entirety. With my children popping in and out of my space and finding myself quickly and automatically voicing mundane replies, I succeeded in putting them off for a few minutes longer, not wanting them to be privy to the evil I was letting pervade my world at the time.

Eventually my patience, along with the rest of the nation's, I'm sure, paid off. Williams admitted his guilt and it was obvious that he was only doing so because he had finally come to terms with the fact that there were no options left to him. More than likely, his silence afforded him the time to realize that his hope of keeping his wife protected from his shameful and vicious acts was a silly wish, absolutely at the moment and forever after unable to come to fruition, in light of the circumstances.

At one point during the footage he referenced his wife in what would seem to an unknowing onlooker a valiant attempt at preserving her honour, but in what was essentially a peek into his own humiliation at having kept his many victims' underwear hidden in his and his wife's home. He was concerned about her having to deal with the police searching their home and finding the garments and what that would do to her. And I wondered how anyone could feel any form of care for another after having snuffed out human lives so selfishly, so callously. Where had the thread become frayed in this man's mind, to allow him even one dignified thought of his wife's personal plight through this nightmare she must be living, because of him, while simultaneously conjuring up in himself the memory of his violent beating of women he didn't know, or respect the basic human rights of, or keep alive?

How can one thought survive alongside the other? And I thought to myself, there must lay the monstrous reason, the missing key as to why it happened at all. That disconnection must be the pivotal happening that separates the psychopaths from the rest of us. It's what causes them to choose their victims and how it's made okay within their own sense of right and wrong. This sense of right and wrong that holds no semblance of truly civil justice nor any sense of moral righteousness is the same voice of conscience that ultimately prohibits a killer from killing on one occasion, and yet still rationalizes a killer's choice of victim on another.

As I listened to Williams matter of fact rundown of how his killings transpired I felt nothing but contempt for his very existence. I thought that if ever there was warrant for capital punishment then this man must be it. But a miserable grief for the victims' families ran deeper through me than any hatred and there came with it a steely hopelessness for the rest of the world, a staggering percentage of which, I'm sure will be touched by this type of tragedy sometime. And all of these emotions ended in that general, infinite worry that parents deal with on a daily basis. I have children that will one day soon be cast out into the world on their own, to fend for themselves and to make their way toward fulfilling their own dreams and journeys.

Then as it's sometimes prone to do, the worry crept into fear. I fear his type. I don't fear ghosts, or dying, or uncertain predicaments but I fear his type. I, as a mother, fear his kind of lashing out. As a mother I fear harm done to my children in absolutely any way and often, but those fears are grounded somehow. I fear they will be hit a car when they are not paying attention to their surroundings. Unlikely, but rational. I fear they will be abused by someone who has the upper hand at some point in their lives. I fear they will struggle with happiness rather than embrace it. I fear they will grow up to be people I have nothing in common with.

I fear that should that be the case I will feel it's because my words of wisdom weren't loud enough. So I tell them, all the time. More than I should, probably. More than I should, definitely. I try to calm it down, let them go easy into the stages of their lives, but when I hear or watch something like Williams' unfeeling descriptions of his crimes, I'm reminded of my own private concept of hell: My kids in pain. And I fear losing them before they realize, in one way or another that I'm always thinking of them, and that they are the making of me.

Killers like Williams are born of our world and wonderful creatures are born of our world. I sit here writing and listening to the rain made louder by the open door and I strangely at the moment am not afraid of the tangible. I can turn on the TV or radio and watch or hear of horrible, disheartening things happening to people all over the world and more importantly, in mine. Yet right now, I'm more afraid of a broader nastiness than one twisted mind. Okay, so I have a 150 pound Mastiff sleeping at my feet. Naturally his presence aids in my feeling of security, when at home.

But the fact remains that two beautiful, lively women were here on this earth until one fateful moment at Russell Williams' hands they ceased to be. Their story is a reminder to me, the mother, the fierce protector of my young that the bad guys are out there, and they are unflinchingly bad. So what do those of us do that wish our lives to be peaceful? How do we keep the panic from becoming obsessive?

We go to sleep in our warm beds. We set aside for a spell the images of lacerations and bruising, and the mental conjuration of what happened to those women, to all victims and we hug our kids. We continue to look for the good in everyone and we appreciate it when it's found. We try to give to the world the best of ourselves untainted by the fears we share. We live well, laugh lots and have faith that more often than not, good will prevail.


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