It's like when I get pains in my thumb joint and I know that rain is coming. Every few years O.J. Simpson — the person, the trial, and the franchise — bubbles up from the Florida muck with a new scheme that places him front and center, and manages to hold a mirror up to where we are as a nation.
Twelve years ago his acquittal of two brutal murders was a terrible reflection of racial, class and judicial divisions in this country, past and present. It was a televised and titillating trial-as-soap-opera. Of course race and sex were part of the story: Would the case have been quite so sensational if Nicole Simpson had been black? And did the idea of a black man murdering his white ex-wife inflame deep-seated feelings on both sides? Fifty years ago, Emmett Till was brutally murdered for merely whistling at a white women. He never had a chance. And what about the many trials, convictions and prison sentences given to innocent black people by all-white juries? Was the Simpson trial some sort of karmic pay-back for past racism? And between a bungled prosecution and a brilliant black lawyer for the defense, did a guilty man walk?
Last week, Newsweek magazine published an exclusive look at O.J. Simpson's now-dead book project, "If I Did It." What the heck — double jeopardy means he can't be tried for those murders ever again. So O.J. relaxes, and pretty much confesses to the killings, but won't give details other than he was carrying a knife and then covered with blood, and they were both dead, okay? I'm getting how much? Plus a TV special? Where's my check? And publisher Judith Regan and media mogul Rupert Murdoch actually made the deal for a rumored million+ dollars, until they were embarrassed into pulling the plug. But O.J.'s deal lets him keep the money and sidestep the $33 million he still owes to the Goldman and Brown families for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones.
And why exactly are we shocked? Look at our society and culture, 12 years later: News as entertainment, pundits posing as journalists, a "reality" free-fall. Look at how law enforcement treats the privileged class. A mug shot, maybe, but no waiting in line. YouTube has a "girl fight" category that gets thousands of visitors. Nancy Grace and her scary lashes dole out her brand of "justice" five nights a week. Trials make stars. The "N" word still stings. And O.J. Simpson, a celebrity double-murderer, takes his blood money, plays golf, and walks free.