I met your family these last two months. I met your sons: smart, strapping, strong and silent. You have left a legacy of industriousness and courage which is as rare as yours was. It is a cliché to say you must be proud. But talking to someone who has been dead for two months is a cliché so there is much you will yet need to forgive.
Your pride is matched by our hope. We worry for their safety and hope they worry too. But not too much to stop them honouring you and representing your memory as they have done so capably these last two months. They have learnt all the lessons in propriety and protocol you taught us when pointing out the mediocrity and boganism of others. But more importantly they have learnt that propriety and protocol are not covers for hypocrisy and ingratiation.
In their elegance and poise is a fierceness and anger that casts fear in liars, in careerists, in people carrying too many masks and wearing too many hats to even remember what they stand for.
I met some of your friends and I heard some of them say that about you. That they loved you and respected you. And even as they did, they feared you a little because you would brook no compromise with consistency. You were a moral force people would test their decisions against what they thought you might make of them.
I met some of your readers. I saw in them the panic and loss of people who lost the last book on earth. I was reminded of Bradbury’s world where all books are burnt and people are orphaned of knowledge and opinion and left alone with doubt and fear. Then your readers started reading back through the mountain of legacy you left on your website and again I was reminded of Bradbury’s world when people memorised books and recited them to each other, to keep a fragile flame burning in the hope of a future when they could have books again.
Your readers cannot hope you will start writing again. Not reasonably anyway. Sometimes they hope someone else can prove to be some reincarnation of at least your writing persona, the one they knew, admired and read every evening or morning or both and all the time in between. Sometimes they hope you can write through my fingers.
I am touched every time someone comments on my blog about how you would have dealt with a topic differently, compared with how I did. As you have known I too am a great admirer of yours. So a comparison with your writing, even unfavourable, is high praise for me.
You will remain the benchmark of journalism in Malta. Although, to give you a complete picture, Tim Sebastian flew in and sodomised Chris Fearne this week. You would not have done that job but most of his research is to your credit. Tim Sebastian gave a great show of quick thinking, faultless logic and devastating questioning. An incredibly intense 25 minutes that rested on 5 years of hard work, mostly yours.
Because you see 2 months since you were taken from us and you’re not just a vivid memory or someone we miss. Nor are you just a murder investigation and a whodunit. We want very much that your killers are found and punished. But saying we will not rest until then suggests we would rest when it happens.
We can’t. Like your sons we have inherited your restlessness. We have inherited your impatience with the impropriety that surrounds us. We are angry, as you were. And despondent and more than a little scared.
You never meant those words to be your last but their unintended significance is now inescapable. You were very much alive when you interpreted the situation as desperate. The crooks you saw everywhere were not all out to kill you. You weren’t as we are, burdened by the darkness of your loss when you reached that last logical conclusion of your life.
Therefore the great challenge of healing this country is not one and the same thing with ensuring justice is served to those who took you off. The situation did not become desperate the moment you were killed. The fact that it felt that way for us is ultimately the indictment we are charged with. You had to be killed before we could see what you had been trying to describe to us for so long.
These last two months I met many of your colleagues from around the world. Great specialists of your trade who came here for a day or two that week you were killed but when they flew back to their head offices they decided they needed to come back here and spend some time trying to understand what has been happening.
Just last night I was speaking with a seasoned world correspondent for a global news organisation. He told me when he first flew in two months ago he flipped through your website and thought ‘this is over the top’.
Not that the thought would occur to anyone that that would diminish in any way the complete horror of your assassination as Joseph Muscat tries to argue when he reminds everyone of how much he suffered at the hands of his “harshest critic”. But at first sight this journalist thought that the emotions you invested in the logic of your writing jarred too loudly with the picture postcard image of a serene Malta.
Now, he says, on closer deeper inspection of what Malta’s public life is made of, he finds your writing perfectly proportionate to the ugliness that he has seen. He finds he shares your anger completely. From the prime minister down everyone dodged his questions, slipping behind corners and finding all sorts of excuses not to answer questions that should not be uncomfortable to anyone seriously believing what they have been saying was true.
In all great democracies, scandals happen. Sometimes it’s inappropriate sexual behaviour. Sometimes it’s misuse of public money. Sometimes it’s the use of office to help a friend or someone in the family. Sometimes, even, it’s taking a bribe or some other promise of favour in exchange of a political decision. There will always be bad people or at best some good people who do bad things.
They try to hide what they do but when the press find it the game is up.
The anger is that too few here could make the synaptic connections to understand what was really going on. Indeed so few, that your revelations could be dismissed by the politicians you indicted, to use a painfully ironic metaphoric verb. They tried to hide what they did, but when you found it they went on as if nothing happened.
This has been the government’s line since you left. Your allegations remain just that. They have never been proven in court. Never mind that no one has tried them yet.
Counting the days since you were taken away reminds us now that every day passes without changes to the ugly reality you described for us. They say time heals and we should at some point expect to start feeling differently about your loss.
Perhaps at some point for the people for whom you were a mother, a wife, a daughter and a sister, the tears of loss will turn to wry smiles as they remember your quirks and what you would have said or done in a given situation. So the theory of grief goes, anyway.
But every day that passes for us who knew you only as the chronicler of our times, the absence of any form of consequence from your work is a reason to get more, not less, aggrieved. To see hypocrisies triumph, sins rewarded and crimes ignored, even two months after your death, rankles and pokes at our conscience.
Which makes you more than the benchmark of journalism, in our mind. It makes you the benchmark of the pursuit of truth and of holding power to account. When we go out there to speak out about this they say we go over the top. We know that over the top is perfectly proportionate to what we are really up against.
When we go out there to speak about this they say we are so few. Two months ago you were alone. Us few are multitudes in comparison.
Thank you for your example. Long may it pour fear into the hearts of the evil.