Now that Oscar Pistorius has been granted bail, and we are no longer mesmerized with the latest minute-by-minute news of the bail decision, perhaps it is time to reflect on our own reactions to this tragic story. How many of us, on hearing the news of the famous South African Paralympic champion allegedly killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, took into account his life story and believed he was innocent?
What is it about human nature that we want to think the worst and believe someone is guilty until proven innocent? We can't help ourselves as we obsessively watch and track with eager anticipation every detail as to how the good and the great fall from grace. Do we as human beings begrudge meteoric success or is it simply the reversibility that satisfies our sense of symmetry? The faster they rise, the more self satisfied we are when they fall.
The verdict of this trial in Pretoria will ultimately reveal more about us than it will about the Paralympian champion. If proven innocent, those of us who assumed his guilt will have to look in the mirror and question just why we jumped to the conclusion that a young man born with no legs to overcome adversity and become the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics would kill his beautiful girlfriend on Valentine's Day night.
We have all watched endless hours of television and read millions of lines of newsprint tracking how other revered heroes have crashed and burned from dizzying heights. In sport: Lance Armstrong, OJ Simpson, Tiger Woods. Politicians: Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Cecil Parkinson, Jesse Jackson, Silvio Berlusconi. Religious leaders: Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Evangelists Jimmy Swaggart, Marvin Gorman, Jim and Tammy Bakker. Movie and television stars: Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, Jimmy Saville. Financiers: Bernie Madoff, Ivan Boesky, Raj Rajaratnam... to name just a few.
Yet, how many of our well known personalities or even successful entrepreneurs/industrialists who have tried to shun the spotlight have been wrongfully singled out, dragged through the scrutiny of the press, chewed up and left with reputations wrongfully destroyed or lingering doubts and hatred in the minds of the public without cause? Do you remember when the idea took traction that Madeleine McCann's parents, Gerry and Kate became the prime suspects in the disappearance of their beloved daughter after the Portuguese police could not find her kidnappers? Or, when Lord McAlpine was accused on the front page of every newspaper in the world of child molestation for it to be a case of mistaken identity?
The Lord Justice Leveson inquiry has not even scratched the surface as to how to control the poison the traditional press and 21st century new media spread. If you Google "Oscar Pistorius innocent" you will not find one mention of his possible innocence in the 1.2 million results. Are we all victims of summary trial by the media without the full facts?
Although we need role models to look up and aspire to, we have been taught through the Internet, tweeting and unethical and unrelenting investigative journalism to believe the worst. So let's not judge this Paralympic champion until we know exactly what happened in the dark of night when even a super hero can transform into someone simply human.