It was supposed to be a day of love and heart-smiles, not a day of loss and heartache.
It was to be a day to pass by in a blur of warm gestures and words, simple acts of loving kindness.
Yet for tens of millions of South Africans across the southern tip of Africa, and across the globe, Valentine's Day 2013 will forever be marked as a day when shock united one and all. Hearts were broken as a hero fell, taking with him the pride of a nation, removing the brilliant golden glow from the rainbow.
The tragic events of the morning of February 14th put South Africa's gold-medal Olympian in the global spotlight once more, just months since medal-winning Olympic glory gripped the nation, yet this time leaving a nation feeling deeply bruised. Millions today are feeling a sense of personal ache, a sense of mourning, a deep loss.
Suddenly, heroic efforts are having to be made by millions to find light in the darkness of possibility, faith in the face of fear of “could it be true?”, and in the case of one lovely South African voice tasked with speaking to the international news world, finding poise, perspective and professionalism in the presence of so deeply felt sadness.
The loss is not just for a beautiful woman now departed too soon, or a national hero and role model facing devastating questions that could leave him facing a lifetime behind bars. Tears are falling across a nation for these two losses, but also for millions more. The ’bladerunner’ has fallen, his blades cutting through the cloth of the nation’s flag, his fans and followers once proudly cheering his name and wearing their national colours united in a state of disbelief, now patiently yet painfully waiting to hear the fate of their patriot.
And deep down, they know. Their beautiful flag, the image of the country that so many have worked so hard, for so long, to stand and fly proud for all the world to see, now falls in hurt. At this moment, instead of striking a confident pose, the stance of South Africa has changed. Whether true or not, there is a feeling that the world once again stands in judgment of the nation, each and every one of its people, because of the acts of one person.
The disappointment goes beyond the one. It is the millions of consequences of that one moment in time.
As was the case when the life of a young woman was ultimately taken from her after she boarded a bus in Delhi, leaving Indians feeling shame and outrage.
As was the case when twenty tiny, young lives were taken by the gun-charged hands of a young man in Sandy Hook, leaving Americans horrified and demanding of new debate re. rights.
As was the case when a group of Spanish tourists had their holiday turned to horror in a beautiful Acapulco
beach house, leaving Mexicans once again exasperated as labels of violence once again crept into coverage.
As was the case when a kidnapping of a tourist in the Sinai, leaving hopeful onlookers of the Arab Spring questioning if the nation can indeed move on.
As was the case when the Swiss bank account details were revealed for Grecian politicians, leaving the people of Greece trying to regain national solvency and dignity feeling bewildered and betrayed.
As occurs across the world, especially in (re)emerging nations trying to rebuild their strength of national
identity, image, reputation, and so importantly, strength of spirit.
In our world on the move, through all of the often super-human efforts to break from the pack and move ahead of not just competition, but expectations and stereotypes, it is so easy to forget how much it takes, at so many levels, to remain hopeful, faithful, optimistic, idealistic. Especially when one person, one action, can break millions of hearts.
Yet, as much as in these times it can feel as though God too is crying, stuck in the ‘how could this happen’, it is the few, the few remarkably and fiercely determined, who find the strength to stand up and say through their words and/or actions, ‘this is not who we are’, that inspire a tomorrow that offers not only a Band-Aid, but a hope, to help us get past today.
The tears must fall, the ache must be felt, if we are to move forward with a burning determination to be more than simply this.
- This month’s article is dedicated with immense respect to Robyn, Miller and Jerry. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2013