A closing argument against Oscar Pistorius

2014-09-03 16:45

You campaigned so tirelessly to run at the 2012 London Olympics, to compete against the able-bodied best in the world. You fiercely wanted to transcend Paralympic sport and to compete against male athletes considered whole.

With reference to your childhood, forgive me for taking you back to a place of struggle, to your broken family, to turmoil. But I continue to wonder what it must have been like to have been ruthlessly teased at school, what it was like to have your prosthetic legs stolen as a prank and hidden from you? On a deep and fundamental level the bullying must have been humiliating, the rejection must have hurt like hell.

Yet you made a life for yourself. And what a life! You became a champion! A world figure! An international role model! And now that life lies in ruins at your feet. I can understand that you might try desperately, in whatever way possible, to gather together the pieces.

You are young Mr Pistorius. You are reckless and impulsive as many young people are. I am sorry for you Mr Pistorius. But you have done a terrible thing, of that there is no doubt. A beautiful woman is dead. We have seen photographs of her bloodied body over which you wept. We have heard your testimony.

As you realized you had shot her, the irrevocable consequences must have hit you with the very force the bullet hit Reeva. As she died in your arms you must have been shocked at the permanence of death and known, without a shadow of a doubt, that your future life would be nothing like you had ever contemplated.

Your defence has insisted the shooting was a consequence of your personal paranoia heightened by South Africa’s crime rate and the ever present threat of the swart gevaar.

In my opinion, Mr Pistorius, although your background and gun culture undoubtedly play a part, more than imagined criminals or white South African heritage, the failure to recognize and deal with the turbulence within is a more influential factor.

When you were beaten into second place in the 200 metres by Alan Oliveira at the 2012 Paralympics, your on-field petulance was televised world-wide. The headlines screeched, ‘Pistorius furious after loss of signature race’. I would guess there must have been off-field rage as your accusations flew that ‘Oliveira had grown taller’. You were not as perfect as you wanted to be. You were not as perfect as the world expected you to be.

Fast forward to you allegedly firing a gun in a Johannesburg restaurant, at a dinner party, just weeks before Reeva’s death. Perhaps we forgive too easily the self-centered behaviour, the narcissism of celebrities. We co-create celebrity by fawning, we let celebrity off the hook when it should be brought to book as your friends know too well. Not only did Kevin Lerena sustain injuries to his toes in the shooting ‘accident’, Darren Fresco foolishly took the rap for your carelessness.

Let’s jump again to that night, Mr Pistorius. It has not been proven, it is not something you admit to, but let’s imagine a prosecutorial scenario - you had words with Reeva. I continue to wonder what sort of an argument could escalate to you chasing, with a gun, the woman you loved?

You loved her so much you wanted to make your relationship a long-term thing. She was ‘the one’ even though she did not entirely conform to your ideal of perfection. You made fun of her voice. Did she have an accent you didn't like? Not quite top-drawer?

Of course she loved you, in as far as anyone understands love. She wanted to declare her dedication to you on Valentine’s Day. She organised a present. The framed photograph of the two of you, a good-looking couple. But even more meaningful was the accompanying card, in it her hand-written message: ‘I love you’. Such a romantic gesture!

This is what I wonder. What overture of love was made on your part? Did you have the roses ready? The heart-shaped chocolates? I imagine Reeva might have been upset as you watched porn late into the night, perhaps even as Valentine’s Day broke. Did Reeva, in love with Love, realize that night that the desired Valentine's trimmings were not part of your plan? Perhaps she realized at last – whatever happened that night - that your relationship had become, in part, an ugly power struggle.

Perhaps she realized that whether it was her voice or her actions, she would never quite be perfect enough and that this imperfection would somehow remind you of your own. And as she perhaps packed to leave and an argument between the two of you might have followed, she saw your anger spark to new heights and understood for sure that life with Oscar would never be a bed of roses, that when riled you would be prone to project your anger, your deep distress, on to an intimate partner.

Whatever was said, you might have felt increasingly abandoned. As Reeva turned her back on you, did it bring up for you the rage linked to previous rejection? After a life-time of struggle towards perfection, perhaps her action was perceived as another ‘unfair’ defeat. You reached for the gun.

Whatever the case, gun safety requires that you keep your finger stretched on the barrel till you choose to place it on the trigger, neatly, lightly, till you decide to squeeze that trigger. The choice is yours. Always, with each step closer to pulling the trigger, the choice is yours.

Many of us fail to embrace the damage within. Our anger, our prejudices, our frailties. We fail to make meaning of ourselves as human beings. Perhaps, Mr Pistorius, should you languish in prison, you might discover what makes a true champion. Certainly innate talent counts, and the ability to persevere, and the strength of character to accept defeat with dignity.

In the wider scheme of things a true champion takes responsibility for his actions. Though it is certain extenuating circumstances exist, the morass of self-interest weighs down your case. There can be only one verdict...

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