Some very humble pie

February 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm (Uncategorized)

I just got a call from a friend to say that it was really taken completely out of context.  Bono was cornered by a journalist at a conference who asked what he thought of the “kill the boer” statement, and he was kind of reluctant to answer.  So it’s not like he was making blatant statements at his concert, apparently that was all hippy love for Mandela etc.

I can go to this concert in good conscience and I think I had better change the title of my last post!  What a waste of a sleepless night spent in anger…

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Bono’s blups

February 15, 2011 at 8:04 am (Uncategorized)

I need to warn you, especially if you are sensitive, this is a dark post.

I’m not such a huge music fan, but I love, love, love U2.  Always have.  Even attended one of their concerts twice (in two different countries).

For the past six months, I have been looking forward to the U2 concert we are having here in Cape Town on Friday, I mean looking forward as in the pounding heart and excitement of a teenager.  I briefly considered sleeping outside the stadium to get my ticket upgraded to VIP (on Thursday a couple of random ticket holders will be treated to this).

On Sunday night, at the concert in Johannesburg, Bono made a very stupid statement.  Our ruling party’s youth league is fond of singing a song called “Shoot the Boer (farmer)”.  There is absolutely, under no circumstances, any time or place for this kind of song, any more than there would be for a song called “Shoot the black man”.  It is wholly and completely unacceptable.

We live in a country where 18000 people are murdered a year.  Bono, very clearly, has never had to identify his father’s body in a state mortuary, on a metal table, in a pool of blood.  And then walk out feeling a tiny bit of relief, yes, relief, that there was no torture involved.  You see, the biggest fear in this country, is not of being murdered, but of being tortured and then murdered, for no reason, by people you have never met before.  Most of these murderers are aged between 18 and 26, some younger than that.  Many were not even born yet during apartheid.

And now it gets dark.  You’ve been warned.  Stop reading if it’s going to prevent you from sleeping at night.

All of the stories I am about to tell you, are one person removed from me (or two, depending on how you count it).

My friend’s great uncle was murdered a few years ago.  This 80 year old couple were asleep in their retirement village.  Armed robbers entered their home.  I don’t know all the details, but I know this.  They poured boiling oil down this man’s throat.  Then they gang raped his wife in front of him.  Then they shot him and left her there.

My mom’s next door neighbour’s friend (a woman in her 60′s) was murdered by having kettles full of boiling water poured over her for hours and hours.

Two years ago, we went on a family holiday to a little village in the country.  The woman who runs the guest house came to make us breakfast one morning, clearly very shaken.  Her next door neighbour, a 70 year old woman in the village, had been murdered.  She was a very popular, very kind lady.  This is why she was murdered.  Her gardener had been ill, and so she had been paying some money to his family while he was unable to work, to help them survive.  When he got better, he came back to work and she started paying him wages again instead.  The gardener’s son felt hard done by due to the fact that the family was no longer receiving the “free” income, so he strangled her with a shoe lace and then sauntered down the road to the local pub and boasted about it (the only reason he got caught).

Most of these stories never make it to any newspaper, why?  Because there are 40 or 50 of them a day.  And when a family member walks into this kind of carnage, few of them have the presence of mind to phone the press (which is actually an important step because publicity = convictions, and only 7% of murderers are ever convicted).

South Africans don’t talk about this aspect of society much, because it’s negative.  We all have some kind of first hand experience of it, but it doesn’t help to harp on it.

What helps, is how Mandela sees the world.  With positive visions for a happy future together.  The man needs to be sainted.  Only a South African can truly understand what kind of tension he walked into when he became president, and how he calmly and gently talked everyone out of their anger, and taught us to live together peacefully.  Which the majority of us, by the way, do.  When I think of Mandela, I want to cry, that’s how much love I feel in my heart for that man.  His message then (and now) was to stop harping on the past, stop singing songs inciting murder (on both sides).

I have to say, I feel quite conflicted about going to this concert now.  People around the country are calling for boycotts.  I guess it’s all a little bit close to home for me.

The bottom line is that I believe the chanting or singing of anything repetitively, affects your subconscious mind.  Chanting songs about murder cannot ever, under any circumstances be healthy for anyone.  Not even when you are alone, in the bath, cutting your toenails.  End of story.

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Violent Movies

April 4, 2010 at 8:49 am (Uncategorized)

Last night we curled up on the couch together to watch a movie called P.ineapple Ex.press, which had been recommended to me as a good laugh.  And it was until the first gunshot, a guy got shot in the abdomen, twice, and then was able to get up and drive around etc.  My Dad was shot in the abdomen and died almost instantly.  I cannot watch anything with guns in it, even two years down the line.  Everyone that gets shot in a movie is my Dad all over again, it’s far too real.  It feels like the bullet in the movie is tearing through my body, tearing through my life all over again.  I want to scream at the movie makers – “so you think this is funny you ba.stards?”

It isn’t funny.  It’s my personal opinion that we have become too desensitized to violence on TV and that is what causes young criminals to go out and casually take a life.  Although probably 98% of us see it as toy guns and tomato sauce, and we know it isn’t real, there are those that base their reality on what they see on TV.  They have nobody to look up to in their real lives, and they choose these guys as their heroes.  I never thought I would be one of those people who fusses and moans about the stuff on TV, but I am now officially someone who cannot casually watch violence anymore.

It’s making me feel alienated, I feel really angry with the rest of the world for watching these movies, supporting the people who make them, but worst of all, for being OK with it.  Even my husband can quite easily still sit down and watch a violent movie and it infuriates me.

I’m sure if you wanted to analyse it, you could say I’m suffering from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder.  Something to be cured, so that I can slide back into my place in society again, fit in nicely, and comfortably watch violence with the rest of the world again.  Surely though, it’s society that should be cured?  What on earth are we feeding into our minds with this junk?

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Could it really be true?

March 26, 2010 at 10:04 pm (Uncategorized)

There are days when I think I’ve made it through the worst of the grieving, and then sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think, has my Dad really died?  Has he really been murdered?  Surely not?  And fear shoots into my heart, I lie awake for a few hours, and then talk myself out of it, like a mother soothing her child who has had a nightmare.

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Embracing Bob’s killer

January 30, 2010 at 6:50 pm (forgiveness, murder) (, )

I’ve just seen the tail end of this documentary on TV.  It’s about a woman who finds it in her heart to forgive the man who killed her husband, to the point that they start giving presentations together about the dangers of alcohol etc.  I can’t say I’m taking a definite stance on this one.  Could I forgive my Dad’s killers?  Not today, no.  It doesn’t help that I have never seen them and probably never will.  Would I like to one day?  Yes, I think so.  Not for their sakes, but for mine.  Right now, they have a hold over my life, a huge question mark exists in my mind about them, why they did this, and what kind of people they are.  There are moments where I experience intense anger towards them.  I fantasise about what I would tell them, about how they have destroyed our beautiful family.  I imagine myself visiting them in prison, MAKING them listen over and over again to the story of our devastation.

But none of that is as powerful as forgiveness.  I don’t think anyone can face anything as intensely as they have to in the face of forgiveness.  First and foremost, forgiveness serves the forgiver.  It is for giving.  Two words.  It is a moment in which you release the hold that the anger has on your life.  You leave it behind and move on.  Of course it doesn’t mean that it is an acceptance of what that person did, there can never be acceptance of a murder.  It’s just a choice, I would imagine, to no longer feed the anger.  It’s empowering, because in fact, it allows that person to start living again.  It is a completely one sided decision.  It’s so one sided, it’s almost selfish.  It’s like saying, here, take it back.  I no longer choose to live with your decision, it was your decision, you live with it.  Hitting the release button.

Secondly, it is a gift to the person who is being forgiven.  That person, will very likely in that moment, very possibly for the first time, feel intense remorse.  That is very apparent from the last few moments of the documentary, Ryan feels remorse.  He has the courage to fully stand up and take responsibility for what he did.  That includes being present and partaking in these presentations, which over and over again, recount the worst possible thing he ever did.  Repeatedly, he lives this moment, one which he can never, ever change.  He can only continue to show lots and lots of remorse.  But for the rest of his life, he will be a murderer.  It’s very apparent that Ryan is still living under a heavy cloak of guilt, he has not forgiven himself.

There are those amongst us who might think, well good he should.  He should suffer, what he did can never be reversed, why should his guilt be reversed?  We feel that murderers should be branded on the forehead with a big black M and cast out of society.  Or put to death.  I’m not sure what I think should happen to him.  I’m not sure I would be comforted by his suffering.  I am sure of this though, he is doing great penance.  He is absolutely facing and confronting his worst fears every time he attends one of those presentations.  He has the courage to stand up in front of total strangers and let them know he murdered.  He opens himself up to the intense reactions that evokes.  I admire the courage that takes.  Surely there are murderers living in prisons, who are not suffering this much?  Who will never confront their own crimes with this much courage?

I do believe that the only thing that has allowed this to happen, is Katy’s forgiveness of him.  She opened the door to both their healing, a process which for him is not complete yet, but it’s possible.  Hugely controversial – that much is very apparent.  Her own friends and family are intensely unhappy with the move.  I can’t speak for Katy, but I can speak for myself.  Let it be very clear, that it is not OK to murder.  Let it be very clear that no amount of forgiveness can change what happened.  In the moment that your loved one’s life is taken, your own life changes forever and completely.  Nothing under the sun can ever bring you back to who you were before it happened.  Forgiveness is not about changing the past, because you can’t.  It’s a very brave move towards changing the future.  Because those of us that are left behind still have some time left on this planet to live our lives, and we must make a choice about whether the rest of our lives will be lived in the shadow of the horror, dwelling in the unfairness and feeding the anger, or whether we will allow ourselves to heal.  Murder is a big one, there’s no middle road after a murder.  There are no half hearted, mediocre choices.  There’s only the choice for intense lifelong sadness or the choice to make your life count.

I’m not in the same place as Katy yet, I haven’t yet hacked a hole in the anger big enough to let the light in.  But I’m working at it, and every day I hope and pray that I am working to wards making my life count.  I will always be the daughter of a murdered man, but when my time is up and I meet up with my daddy again, I want him to be proud of me, to know that I faced my challenges head on.  And maybe that will include forgiveness, who knows.

I admire both Katy and Ryan.

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The Cupboard

January 22, 2010 at 10:15 pm (grief, Uncategorized) (, , )

I’ve just come home from a week at my Mom and Dad’s place. Yes, you read that correctly, my Mom and Dad’s place. Just because my Dad is no longer with us in the physical world, does not mean that it’s no longer his home. Just like the cellphone number that is still in my contacts list 18 months later is still his. I will never delete it. I can’t use it anymore, but I will never delete it.

After he died (I hate it when people say “passed away”, there was no gentle passing involved), I was able to be so clinical. Somebody had to do it, and I was the eldest daughter, so I took it on myself. That’s not to say that my sisters and mom weren’t strong and tough, we all were. But I made a career of it. My sister, her boyfriend, my husband and I identified his body in the mortuary, then I pulled the Pathologist’s assistant aside and made her email me the autopsy report (apparently we received it weeks before the police did). Seeing what used to be your Dad lying on a metal table behind a window, it’s truly something that never leaves you. Especially when it’s in a third world mortuary, where they haven’t quite taken as much care in preparing the body for the relatives as they might have in other countries.

We took the report to the GP and made him explain it to us. I hassled the police, until I got the ballistics report, and then I made the guys that I work with explain everything to me about guns (they had been in the army, in those days everyone had to go). And after a few days of reading that ballistics report, I pointed out to the police that there was a serial number on a gun that they had failed to trace. “Which serial number would that be?” “The one on page seven, half way down”. Silence. “Oh I see.” (sounding surprised) “There is a serial number to be traced.” I contacted a private investigator and went over the crime scene with him, and together we reconstructed the events that took place. And all of these things, I could do as if I was filling in my tax form (OK, the mortuary scene did cause a shriek and a momentary collapse to the ground, with some hyperventilating before being helped back onto my feet). It’s just the way I chose to deal with these things, because they had to be done.

Last weekend, as I arrived at my parents’ home, my mother (who also had other guests) put my husband and I in her bedroom. And she’d made a little bit of space in my Dad’s cupboard for us. And it broke me. I can’t put it any other way. Here was this man, who had life. He had all these clothes, boots for walking in the bushveld, a hat for the sun. And all those things are still here, and he isn’t. How on earth can these arbitrary material goods still be around when he isn’t? How can the atoms in a piece of clothing still exist as if nothing happened, but his body is gone?

It might strike you as strange that 18 months later, his clothes are still in his cupboard, but it is these physical things that actually take such a toll on the people left behind. My friend’s mom was able to clear her husband’s cupboard a week after he died, and that’s OK too. Everyone deals with it differently. But for my mom, putting away his razor, just into the bathroom cupboard, was almost more than she could bear. That was the first thing she moved. And each time she has a bit of strength to cope with it, she moves another little thing.

But because I only visit her every few months, there’s more of him missing each time. I sobbed for a night and a day, on and off. Of course it’s not the first time I’ve cried, really, I’ve cried buckets, but it still catches me by surprise when the Grief Monster taps me on the shoulder. Eventually, after a day or so, I pulled myself together enough to hang some of our clothes in that sacred space, my daddy’s cupboard. And life carried on again, I could eat and sleep and breathe again.

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