Another Fallen Hero.
A Valentine’s Day tragedy of epic proportions.
I can’t get out of my head the image of an athlete exalted and hero-worshipped by many, breaking down shattered in tears—a frenzied fallen idol shattered by his own rage.
Why did this happen?
In the middle of the night, Oscar Pistorius (the athlete known as “Bladerunner”) got up from his bed, allegedly put on his prosthetic legs, grabbed his gun from under his bed, and walked seven meters to his bathroom door, where he fired several rounds through the locked door where his girlfriend sat on the toilet.
Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius’ career lies in tatters. Yet far more tragic is his late girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, whose life was cut short just as it was starting to sprout with promise. Her good looks and bikini body has become a media favorite posthumously. All the more perverse.
Oscar, another fallen hero, following in the footsteps of cyclist Lance Armstrong; yet Oscar’s fall from grace is more like a collapse into an abyss deeper than is imaginable. It harks back to the notorious OJ Simpson who, under similar circumstances, escaped jail time somewhat fortuitously and amidst continuous scandal.
The first double-amputee track athlete to run at the Olympics, Oscar is alleged to have used an unlicensed firearm to fire the shots, before breaking through the door and then carrying his dying girlfriend downstairs.
The question remains. Perhaps one of the bravest Olympic athletes ever, how could “Bladerunner” do this? The myth of stardom blown to dust in a few short moments of infamy. We have certainly seen some spectacular falls from grace of late.
Celebrity idols celebrated by the media portray an image of infallibility, promoting unrealistic expectations. Often their success is sexy and addictive for them and the press. They become consumer icons selling success. Almost non-human entities.
Suddenly, we discover that they are very real, too real, in fact. Oscar Pistorius and Lance Armstrong are both fallen heroes with very human foibles, very serious character defects, and both have in common an all-consuming ambition which fueled their success.
We celebrate success, yet cruelly judge those who reach the pinnacle by nefarious means. However, it takes a drive and addiction to reach the top, and then to stay there, a “win at all costs” mentality. Lance Armstrong becomes the fall guy for the whole sport of cycling, when most people know that the whole sport is dirty.
We love success, yet we hate the means necessary to get there.
We want our athletes clean even when deep down, we know they’re not.
How many Olympic gold medals have been tinged by drugs, athletes celebrated as victors—modern-day gladiators conquering all before them—with a little help from performance-enhancing drugs?
Returning to the story of Reeva Steenkamp—for she is the only true victim—a 29-year-old model and reality TV show contestant culled by excessive violence all too soon. What now for her family—to accept such a waste of life, such a loss. Why did she choose Oscar? Why did she not run away when she had the chance? Unfortunately, we will never know all the answers.
Innocent until proven guilty?
For someone to shoot several times through their bathroom door and then claim to have made a mistake, is somewhat bizarre. Yet, if you were caught red-handed, would you admit to being a murderer?
Oscar’s claim is all the more preposterous considering in the time it took for him to wake up, get out of bed, grab his gun and then go to the bathroom door and shoot several rounds, did he not notice that the girlfriend he claimed to have loved was absent from their shared bed? The whole scene is too ghastly to imagine.
What sort of love is that?
If there is anything we can learn from this, is not to be taken in so easily by media messages.
Growing up in war-torn apartheid South Africa, I am not completely surprised by what happened. I remember hearing at age seven that my classmate and her mother had been murdered in cold blood by her father. I had attended her birthday party just a couple of weeks before. A shocking and unforgettable act of violence that must come from a diseased mind. It left an indelible impression on me as a seven-year old. I will never forget the sense of loss, confusion and sense of futility. A beautiful child stolen away by violence.
A violent society produces ugliness that is not understandable, nor can it be understood or fathomed. Nor should it be. We do not need to promote violence in any way. Associations like the NRA have an agenda that exploits fear.
Those who promote their right to have guns see their right to “defend themselves” at all costs, to be more important than the cost of innocent lives that result from using guns. If we take away guns from the equation, we are left with a much safer society.
Which would you like for your children—a society where violent arms proliferate, or one cleansed of deadly weapons?
Oscar Pistorius now stands accused of premeditated murder.
The TV and film industry stand accused of glorifying violence.
We all stand accused of allowing violence into our living-rooms.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel