Oscar Pistorius is the man who made us all extremely proud. We rooted for him at the Olympics. I screamed at my own television, I begged him to get into first place. I even secretly hoped that the other runners would run at their worst.
I am patriotic; I don’t think I ever wasn’t. I have loved South Africa through the strikes, the crime, e-tolls (my faith might have wavered at this), Nkandla (and this), poverty (this, too), and even corruption. I still believe in our future. I know we criticize and we joke; it’s a coping mechanism. It’s our reality; it is our home and our history. I still unfortunately cannot handle criticism from anyone living anywhere else about this country.
As a South African citizen, I am a little apprehensive knowing that every camera, social network, and country around the world is watching us. The media is currently blasting through Twitter, Facebook, and television about a relationship between two people that ended in an utter tragedy.
I am no judge; I am no member of high authority. I am merely a bystander entranced in the perhaps overly publicized trial. We are not used to having such access to any kind of murder trial; media has never been allowed to be so intimate with such a large case. Embarrassingly, there were issues with the translator. There have been pictures of Reeva Steenkamp’s body accidentally shown on the screen in court (a little disrespectful to her family). I cringe at these mistakes, but it is not why I am writing this.
My main concern is the backlash Oscar is receiving from the public. I understand the anger, the domestic-violence angle, and the hotheaded, ill-tempered celebrity who carelessly took someone’s life. Then there are the jokes and the name-calling—all of which I have seen too much of all over Twitter.
What I don’t entirely understand is the satisfaction the majority of the country is experiencing at the expense of someone’s life and our fellow South Africans’ misfortune. Why are we so eager to find him guilty? Why would we want it to not have been an accident? Maybe it truly was an act of criminal intent; maybe it was not.
All we know is that he shot her. We’ve heard the physical evidence, but we don’t have any idea why it happened. He was in the wrong, but why would we, as a nation, want someone to be punished instead of hoping that no one could have been cruel enough to end someone’s life?
This is not entertainment, it is the fall of an icon, a life of a beautiful young woman that is now lost. It is our judicial system at play; it is a way for us as the public to observe the happenings of the court proceedings.
It is so good and great that we all have our own opinions, but there is a fine line between an opinion and an ignorant and nasty comment while a family is mourning the loss of a loved one and someone is about to lose his freedom—deserved or not.
Should this not unite us as a nation?
I don’t want to find any enjoyment in the fact that one of our great athletes, with all his setbacks, who represented our country, will never again reach any goals he had set for himself. What a terrible incident; it shouldn’t have happened. We shouldn’t be victims of crime, we shouldn’t feel the need to sleep with guns near our beds, and we should be able to open our windows at night and feel safe.
It has happened and he is now facing the repercussions of his actions. But if we cannot feel any compassion with regard to the families, Reeva, the witnesses—and the accused—what kind of a country are we? What kind of an example are we setting for future generations? What kind of future are we heading toward?