Musings on a Monster I was in the Waverly diner reading Las Noticias when I choked on my hamburger. It happened when I sucked in my breath at the news that the Juice goes to trial for trying to rough up two memorabilia dealers who dared to serve him with a sliver of karmic payback. In any language, that means pop the popcorn: the mother of all reality shows again has bullied its way into the programming lineup. Who cannot get excited at the prospect of watching in morbid fascination another installment of the train wreck that has become OJ’s life? I mean, really--who has forgotten the exquisite opera of OJ making his getaway in the Ford Bronco with his myrmidon pal, as we all watched the chase, mile by mile? It was like one of those “stupid criminal” videotapes where the thieves crash into the front window of a 7-11 and fail to escape because the front bumper gets caught on a magazine rack.
I remember exactly where I was when the verdict was read. Do you? Those are singular moments, when the country stops and communally experiences a mouth-dropping, head-scratching blow to logic. I was on a Merrill Lynch sales floor, an admittedly all-white one, and the usual quotidian din went mute that afternoon. But after blinking a few times, I couldn’t say I was all that surprised. As a subject that has always compelled me--I minored in African-American history and was locked for years in spirited political & historical debate on every shade of the black experience with historian friends—-the elusiveness of true equality for black Americans, particularly in the justice system, is the one enduring blot on our culture that is assured of periodically erupting from the pressure.
And in a country that has just, in the past year, witnessed the Jena Six, nooses hanging off trucks, two men being dragged to their deaths on ropes from the back of trucks in separate incidents (my grandfather’s uncle suffered the same grisly end at the hands of British soldiers in Ireland) and the illogical ranting of a desperate Michael Richards, we all know the progress of race relations has veered off into a ditch somewhere. How improbable is it for a mostly African-American jury suddenly invested with the power to dispense justice to want to give the system a taste of its own medicine?
I could only wonder about the figure anointed to make the point, teach the lesson. OJ--a man that has never been known for giving back to his own community; who has been regarded since his football days as somewhat of an Uncle Tom; whose prowess on the field doesn’t count as breaking barriers--as professional sports, through which he enriched himself mightily, is the only arena where performance trumps the race card; and who could not articulate his way out of a paper bag, even if his life depended on it. (Lucky for him, it never did.)
But brutish lug-heads like him lash out instead of think, like when he vivisected the wife he had a history of physically abusing, along with her lover, in front of his home. (I think I can dispense with the word “alleged” here; we all--including the jury that set him free, in their little heart of hearts--know damn well that he did it.)
Any other idiot would thank the universe for the free ticket, grow a beard, and run a hundred million miles in the other direction. Sprinting and hurdling, even, like the football star did in his Hertz Rent-a-Car commercials, suitcase in hand. But like another famously egotistical blowhard (who, luckily can "fire" anyone that disagrees with him), OJ’s own self-perception trumps his awareness of his public persona. So he goes on autograph-signing junkets, speculates publicly about how he would have killed his wife had he done it, tries, along with a couple of gun-wielding accomplices, to strong-arm a couple of men making profit off his dubious image and generally flits around the flame like a moth--that drunken insect that is so easy to swat because it’s so stupid.
But I have supreme confidence in the universal intelligence. It does not necessarily operate on our timetable, or even in the manner in which we would wish it, but one way or the other, evil eventually get served—and with three times more sting. What goes around, comes around. And it will, because OJ didn’t just murder his wife. He killed her and her companion savagely, with visceral intensity, with extreme emotion, calling up energy in a universe that is now imprinted with that ferocity and bloodthirstiness. Those vibes are like a big bulls-eye to the force in the sky. And no matter how fast the Juice sprints, he won’t be able to elude that payback.