As the parent of a child with a disability, I am always inspired by people who overcome all kinds of odds to accomplish amazing things. We need something to hold onto, us special needs parents. Specifically, we need hope. We need to know that given the right opportunities and encouragement, our kids have the potential to succeed. We don’t expect them to win the Nobel Prize or win gold medals at the Olympics, but we want to know that they have it in them to lead happy and productive lives.
When a South African athlete by the name of Oscar Pistorius became the first disabled man to compete in both the regular Olympics and the Paralympics in London last year, I was awestruck. Dubbed as the fastest man on no legs, Pistorius has been breaking world records left, right and centre.
I have been very vocal in my admiration for this man. As a runner, I am impressed with his sheer athletic talent. As a human being, I have been inspired by his spirit, and his nothing-can-stop-me attitude. I’ve never had a sense of him feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he’s just accepted the fact that he doesn’t have legs, and he’s kind of gotten on with things.
I have placed him on a pedestal and regarded him as a kind of hero.
This morning, I woke up to the shocking news that Pistorius has been arrested, and faces a murder charge in connection with the shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. The incident happened in his house at about three in the morning. Neighbours heard screaming and shouting followed by gunshots. The couple were the only people in the house at the time, and Pistorius is the registered owner of the gun that was used to kill his girlfriend.
Around the world, companies are trying to decide how to manage their professional relationships with Pistorius. Some are pulling ads featuring the athlete; others are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Public reactions are all over the map. Some say this tragedy was a terrible accident, while others are referring to Pistorius as a cold-blooded killer. Distressingly, some tasteless jokes – yes, jokes in the wake of this terrible incident – are circulating on the Internet.
And what of bloggers like myself? Over the last few months, I have posted several things in support of Oscar Pistorius, not only here on my blog, but on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed. I received an email from a reader today asking if I intended to remove those postings or speak out against what Pistorius did.
My answer, quite simply, is that I don’t know what Pistorius did. I’m not even willing to venture a guess or express an opinion – not until more is known about what happened. I do not intend to glorify him and insist that he couldn’t have willfully murdered the deceased, nor am I going to demonize him and say he must have done it. I just don’t know. None of us do, and I am not willing to join those who are already starting to try him in the court of public opinion.
Like some of those international companies, I am going to follow this story as closely as I can, and I am going to just wait and see.
(Photo credit: Nick J Webb. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)