“Lawyers acting for and against South African athlete Oscar Pistorius agree that Reeva Steenkamp was killed on 14 February between 04:00 and 05:00 local time.
But they agree on little else.” (BBC News)
We may never know what really happened between Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s day. Only two people were there and one of them didn’t live to see the end of the story.
I’m not sure I can handle that.
I feel like I have to know what the truth is. In fact, I’m becoming obsessed.
The prosecution and defence have laid out completely different cases, both of which have their own plausibility, in my own amateur-detective mind.
I was brought up in a house where lying was the absolute worst thing you could do – far worse than coming home drunk, taking drugs, stealing or bunking off school. This has bred in me a kind of naivety that assumes because I am, consequently, the world’s worst liar, everyone else is probably also telling the truth. Pistorius’s defence team have put forwards a thorough explanation of the night from his point of view. Could Pistorius be lying? Part of me can’t believe the possibility that he, or anyone actually, could make up such a well thought-out lie.
The pictures of Pistorius weeping in court can’t help but invoke an immediate empathic response. The same man who threw his hands in victory just months ago right here in my home town now covers his face, overwhelmed by emotion. Yet rightly, hidden from the cameras, are the grief-stricken faces of Steenkamp’s family. I must remember that an intelligent, young woman has lost her life. The gap in the story is her. My ability to balance out the facts of the case is skewed by the emotive presence of Pistorius and the physical absence of Steenkamp.
Whatever the outcome of the case, the thought of a terrible carriage of injustice occurring makes me feel sick.
Maybe it is about Pistorius more than I think. Blade-runner, the Paralympian hero, toppling off his medal podium – he could fall so very from grace. Do talented people tell lies? Do good-looking people commit violent crimes? The face of deception and violence as depicted to me by the media is ugly, dirty, dark, foreign. It doesn’t look like this.
I like celebrities, I admit it. I loved the Olympics and Paralympics. I have heroes I look up to and admire. I don’t want them to fall. I need them. I believe them.
My truth-seeking is not always as hard at work as this. When I flick through the newspapers, what do I think of the anonymous people who are accused of admitting serious and violent crimes? Does my compassion stretch as far for the underdog as it does for the hero because X hasn’t won a gold medal, isn’t a worldwide superstar and therefore I haven’t seen X break down in court? Do I become as obsessed by having to know what really happened?
Ultimately, even though we may never know it, a truth does exist about that night in Pretoria. In my post-modern world where I embrace questions and complexities, this tragic story is reminding me that there is an absolute truth. Maybe deep down we all know this and that’s what makes us crave the real answers in this case. Maybe justice, too, runs through our veins; some kind of innate sense of what is right and what is wrong and a desire to see those who cross the line brought to account. In the light of day and the darkness of night, we need to fight for truth and justice for all peoples, at all times.
Jesus goes even further than saying ‘I am the truth’. He states: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Ultimately, unearthing the truth brings freedom from lies, deceit and manipulation. Truth inherently takes us to a higher, better way of being.
I hope the courts do find out what did happen not purely for my own nosiness or mild addiction to celebrity gossip but for the greater cause of justice. Whether Pistorius is found guilty or not; whether he intended it or not, he will have to live with the fact that he killed his girlfriend for the rest of his life. I pray that somehow the truth will set him free and bring healing to all those involved.
Image by Jim Thurston via Wikimedia Commons.