Friday, February 15, 2013

South Africa: Oscar Pistorius: Looking into the Dark Side of People We May Not Really Know

According to The New York Times, Oscar Pistorius, 26, the double amputee track star accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 30, yesterday (February 14) appeared in a Pretoria court room earlier today (February 15) and faced a single charge of premeditated murder.

Both the prosecution and the defense asked magistrate Desmond Nair for a postponement of the bail hearing and the case was adjourned until Tuesday (February 19).

During most of his court appearance, Mr. Pistorius was overcome by tears, as was his family.

In the interim, the defendant will remain in custody until next Tuesday, although the prosecutor is expected to oppose bail.
COMMENT: Most people, regardless of nationality, upon hearing the news that Pistorius had shot and killed his supermodel girlfriend, are left with a dull sense of emptiness, even an ache, that never seems to go away. 

Clearly, our condolences and sympathies go out to the Steenkamp Family and all those who cared about her. 

As most of us read media reports describing how shocked Ms. Steenkamp must have been when she went over to Pistorius' well-protected home, only to be met by a man she thought she knew, who shot her not only once, but four times. 

Hardly, this does not seem to be an "accidental shooting." 

What possibly could Ms. Steenkamp have thought about during her last moments on Earth?  

Who was this man and why did he do what he did?

Did he never go to Ms. Steenkamp's home?

Although so many questions beg to be answered, one question prosecutors no doubt will raise is who, if anyone, failed to teach him the basic precepts in the safe handling of firearms? 

When Ms. Steenkamp went over to Pistorius' home on Valentine's Day, thinking they were going to share the day together, why in the world would he shoot someone he cared a great deal about...FOUR times? 

Indeed, South Africa's prosecution of Pistorius is going to be painful for the country's national character, but it will prevail and it will do the right thing. 

What makes this violent crime particularly repugnant is that Ms. Steenkamp was seemingly completely unaware of the dark side that her new boyfriend possessed, considering that her tweets and emails appeared as if she was totally happy with Mr. Pistorius, even though they had only been dating a short time. 

When taken into custody yesterday, new sources were already making reference to the fact that domestic calls at Pistorius' home were well-known to the police. Thus, prosecutors no doubt will be examining possible behavioral trends toward domestic violence. 

Sadly, everyday of the week we are reminded all too graphically that people we believe to be "normal" are not that at all. 

If there is any lesson to be learned from life, it is that each of us needs to assess very carefully the emotional health of everyone that we meet for the first time, as most of us operate from the premise that everyone is "normal," at least outwardly. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. 

We learn to trust people based upon predictable patterns under a variety of conditions. Yet, even as we build an ongoing relationship with people, intimate and otherwise, we must constantly validate our trust level with them, while at the same time being alert to characteristics that may prove to be "red flags." 

From news accounts that have unfolded since yesterday, it is clear that Ms. Steenkamp did not truly know the "real" Oscar Pistorius, particularly as it related to his seemingly obsessive relationship with firearms and his apparent belief that there may have been a "symbolic assailant" out to get him. 

Media reports of the manner in which Pistorius responded to false alarms on his home's electronic security system, running downstairs "gun in hand," are of particular concern. 

Recently, Pistorius, a heretofore South African national hero, was honored as one of TIME MAGAZINE's 100 most influential people in the world. Hopefully, this distinction will be rescinded if he is found guilty of murder. 

Sadly, our hearts go out to all South Africans, who at this moment must feel betrayed, not fully understanding why someone they revered, suddenly "snapped." 

For the sake of Ms. Steenkamp's family, one would hope that Oscar Pistorius not be released on bail until such time as the charges levied against him are fully exhausted in the courts. 

In the coming weeks, the public will no doubt learn why Oscar Pistorius shot and killed Ms. Steenkamp. Then, again, they may never really, really know. 

At a very minimum, the Steenkamp Family deserves justice, closure and time to grieve.