The Truth About Oscar

Joanne examines the case.

joanne fedlerJoanne Fedler 

No, there is no going back

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over the grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

Wendell Berry

As the deadline for my new book Love in the Time of Contempt: consolations for parents of teenagers hammers down on me, I’ve been derailed. It’s not that I don’t know my own frailties. If I watch the first episode of that ridiculous reality show, The Bachelor, I will waste precious hours of my life coming back week after week to see who didn’t get a rose hating myself a little more with each passing episode. So I have tried my best to stay away from the Oscar Pistorius trial. I didn’t want to get hooked. Also, who doesn’t admire the guy? He’s the dude who says in an interview when we all knew him as the ‘bladerunner,’ “I never saw a difference between ability and disability.” I did not want to watch him fall and crumble.

But then an image of June, Reeva Steenkamp’s mother on my Twitter feed, her face pinched in agony, got to me and the next thing I knew I found myself obsessed with the live streaming of the trial.

Oh Oscar. I wish I could believe his version – I have stretched the limits of my own incredulity to try and accommodate the possibility that he just made a terrible mistake. But his story is just bullshit. How do I know? Because if anyone came to me with his version as a plot, I’d say, ‘it doesn’t work, rethink it – no-one’s actually going to believe that.’ Despite this, I find myself aching for this fallen hero. How can we not be humbled by the tragedy of it all? Not just the needless death of Reeva; the shattering of lives all around (including Oscar’s and Reeva’s family), but by watching someone spin a web of lies that is slowly suffocating him?

We will probably never know what really happened that night, but here are some of the things we can all know for sure:

  1. Guns kill. If you own a gun, at some point you’re going to think ‘this is a good time to use it.’ Chances are, if you use it, it will kill someone. Americans in particular should take note of this.
  2. Valentine’s Day isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: Valentine’s Day is so over-hyped. It puts huge pressure on any relationship. There’s the expectations, the disappointment, the need to love and be loved as we cling to the romantic fantasy of intimacy and are left feeling empty.
  3. South Africa has a high crime rate and some people are paranoid about their safety. When I lived in South Africa, I was as  hyper vigilant as Oscar is. Six people I know have been murdered, and countless others have been raped, hijacked and robbed. I don’t find it bizarre that Oscar was paranoid about an intruder, or even that he might have shot through a closed door at a perceived intruder. But the fact that Reeva was locked in the toilet and didn’t shout out that it was her behind the door while he was screaming at the alleged intruder, make it impossible to believe he really made this mistake.
  4. If you’re scared of the person you’re in a relationship with, listen to that intuition. Reeva’s earlier message to Oscar that sometimes she was scared of him haunts me. He’s prone to outbursts and temper tantrums. These are the warning signs of an abusive relationship. I can’t help feeling perhaps Reeva told Oscar she was going to leave him that night. It would explain why he lost it with her. In feminist terms, this is what we call ‘separation assault.’ It is usually fatal.
  5. Cross-examination works. If you’re not telling the truth, your story will get pecked to pieces.
  6. You can’t cry your way out of an inconsistency. Emotions are messy. Facts less so. A court knows the difference between them.
  7. People who tell the truth don’t need to have a good memory. Gerrie Nel has shown that if you’re going to make up a version, you need to remember everything you’ve said previously. No wonder Oscar is so      exhausted.
  8. Celebrities are not superhuman, much as we want them to be. They are flawed, often spoiled, narcissistic, attention-seeking people who imagine they’re exempt from the laws of gravity, murder and karma as the rest of us ordinary folk. But see, they aren’t. Being a celebrity just means that your trial becomes other peoples’ reality TV and everyone gets to watch you vomit.
  9. Getting others to take the blame for our actions comes at a price. When Oscar got his friend to take the blame when he fired a pistol in a restaurant it was because ‘it won’t look good for me.’ When this evidence was led in court, it looked even worse.
  10. Our dignity may not hang on what we do – we all make terrible mistakes – but in owning up to our actions.  All I’ve wanted is for Oscar to accept responsibility for what he’s done. To show us his greatness of character – the same character that has taken him so far as a sportsman.

I feel contaminated by the whole wretched business, and am desperate to find some redemption in the brokenness. As we all wait to see what will happen, I find myself hoping Oscar might just come clean. I look at pictures of Oscar with Nelson Mandela, and imagine that if Madiba were alive right now, he’d put his hand on Oscar’s shoulder and say to him, ‘Ozzie, just tell the truth. It will set you free inside.’

It is terrible to watch someone suffer – not only physically but emotionally and psychically. Oscar is shattered inside – between what he knows to be true and the story he is trying so hard to hold onto, because he somehow believes that he’s ‘fighting for his life.’

His life as he knows it, is over. It is time to be a different kind of man.

My love, thoughts and prayers are with the Steenkamp and Pistorius families. RIP Reeva.

Joanne Fedler –  Women’s Voices
Joanne is the author of six books including the international bestseller Secret Mothers’ Business. During her years as a women’s rights advocate, she was made Asshole of the Month by Hustler magazine (one of her proudest achievements). She is a motivational speaker, writing mentor and facilitator and takes women on writing adventures to Bali and Tuscany with Womens Own Adventures. Joanne can be contacted at:
Life Balance = Exercise. Solitude. Cuddles.