Oscar Pistorius: The Story We Don’t Know

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.)


Not All Facebook Shares Are Funny

I have something to gripe about today. What can I say? I woke up feeling cranky this morning – it seems like the perfect time for me to vent about something that’s actually been bothering me for a few days now.

Unless you’ve been orbiting outer space along with that thing that just landed on Mars, you will know that on July 20th, a man walked into a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58. Although I know the name of the perpetrator (sorry, alleged perpetrator, to satisfy any legal-minded readers), he will forever remain nameless on my blog. Identifying him by name would feel too much like acknowledging him as a regular person, and I don’t feel inclined to give him that level of respect.

Yes, I know. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. But come on. The guy rigged his apartment with explosives with the intention of killing whoever happened to walk in. I keep hearing talk of possible mental illness, and stories about how everyone including the perpetrator had unrealistic expectations of him and made him snap. So what? Am I supposed to feel sorry for him? Let me just mention something to put that idea into perspective.

12 people dead. 58 people injured. God alone knows how many people who will struggle with heart-wrenching grief and/or PTSD for the rest of their lives.

Anyway. I find myself digressing from my original gripe before I’ve even gotten to it.

The media published pictures of the perpetrator making his first court appearance. We all remember the shot: a dazed-looking man with inexplicable hair seated beside his public defender.

That picture does not bother me. However, the knock-off picture that has started making its lightning-quick rounds on Facebook does. In this picture, the perpetrator is Photoshopped out, and a children’s character with standing-up red hair is Photoshopped in. As troublesome as the picture are all of the “LOL”-type comments that have been added to it.

I’m sorry, is this supposed to be funny?

It probably would be funny if this guy had shoplifted, or been involved in a protest, or been caught driving down the highway at 200 miles an hour.

But he didn’t. He killed people in cold blood.

Here’s the thing about Facebook: just about everyone is on it. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that most of the people who were in the theatre that night have seen that picture. So have friends and family of the deceased.

What goes through their minds when they see what amounts to a caricature of the person responsible for causing such devastation in their lives? How does it make them feel to know that people are seeing said caricature and having a giggle over it? Sure, it could be argued that the laughs are at the expense of the perpetrator, but I wonder if the people affected are capable of seeing it that way.

What do you think of all this? Am I right in thinking that this is all somewhat insensitive to people who have already lost so much? Or do I need to just lighten up a little?

(Photo credit: B.Frahm. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)