Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Oscar Pistorius as South Africa's Rorschach Test

What do Jani Allan and Gerrie Nel have in common, besides both being South African?  They both project their fantasies onto Oscar Pistorius.  Jani Allan, a flamboyant borderline personality and South African journalist who apparently had a series of sexual encounters with Eugene Terre'blanche, thinks he's just like Oscar Pistorius.  She thinks they both cried crocodile tears, and insists Pistorius took acting lessons.
Could any two men be more different?  Terre'blanche's very name, "white world," proclaims his political position--a white supremacist politician* who drank hard, believed in violence to maintain white minority rule, waved a flag with a version of a swastika on it (he called it a triskelion, but no, it does not look like the one on the Isle of Man flag) and got hacked to death on his farm by a black man.  In looks, you might compare him to Santa Claus, but with a malevolent expression.
Now, Oscar Pistorius is, first of all, young.  He is not known for possessing opinions, political or otherwise.  And I would wager that If the kid took acting lessons, he's got an enormous amount of talent that never showed before.  
I think we can cross the slightest suspicion that he did so off our list.  But let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that he took them.   Or deportment lessons.  Does anyone really think he could be trained to remember to keep his hands from fidgeting, or his nose from running--or even coached to spout not just tears, but floods of them?
Then there's the prosecution, Gerrie Nel.  When I heard him say it was unbelievably unlikely that Pistorius could not have known his girlfriend was in the bathroom, I wondered if Nel had ever slept in the same bed as another human being.  Now, the record shows that Nel has fathered children.  I suppose that his having done so need not have entailed any act of slumber after the fact, with or without a partner.  He might even have achieved fatherhood in a vertical position.  But for your information, Mr. Nel, I have, on many an occasion, and not even in a pitch-black room, slept through my husband getting up and going to the bathroom.  And woken up to find the bed empty and thought, "Gee, is he downstairs having coffee already?"
A little alcohol, a few horizontal gymnastics, and you tend to sleep like the dead.  But even if all you've been doing is running as fast as Pistorius every day, you do tend to sleep hard.  
So I look at Pistorius and ask myself, not for the first time, what's going on.  Was it an accident, and if it wasn't, was it a murder?  Or an impetuous rage fueled by sudden taunting from a beloved woman?  Now comes my own personal projection:  Pistorius makes me think of the North Carolina ballad, "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley," about a crime of passion, in which a young man stabs his beloved to death because she refuses to become his wife:

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang down your head and cry,
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,
Poor boy, you're going to die.

Met her in the morning,
Said she'd be my wife
But the gal deceived me,
So I stabbed her with my knife.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley . . .

My father hailed from North Carolina, and sang such ballads, and knew the impetuous, hot-tempered ways of a self-denying, hyper-religious folk.  My hunch is that Pistorius is guilty after the fashion of Tom Dooley; he barely knew what he was doing and he could not honestly tell anyone.  I think it possible he didn't know he was shooting her and I think it possible he fired knowing she was right in front of him but not being able to take in the fact that she would die.  Flip a coin.  The poor boy regrets it, but he's not lying.  The poor girl's mother is lately quoted as saying he "smirked."   If he did, I think William Blake has an explanation for that:

Excess of sorrow laughs.

*He said "separatist" and believed that was different.

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