O.J. Simpson and Doing Stupid Shit

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It’s time for me to make a confession: I have done some really stupid shit in my life. A vast majority of the stupid shit I’ve done—as well as the stupidest of the stupid—has always involved either women or money. And when I look back at some of the things I’ve done (not to mention said), there is a dumbfounded awe that overtakes my very being, and I ask myself, “What the hell were you thinking, you moron?”

I wonder if O.J. Simpson does the same thing with his life. Sitting in that Las Vegas jail as he is right now, facing a lifetime in jail on a variety of charges, I wonder if The Juice is looking back on his past actions and thinking to himself, “Wow, I’m a fucking retard.” Sadly, I suspect that Simpson’s moral compass is so out of whack that he doesn’t realize what an idiot he is. That’s the explanation I have to go with, because the other scenario—the one where O.J. is painfully aware of how stupid and fucked up he is—opens up this really disturbing line of discussion about moral ambiguity, the nature of evil, and just how crazy/cold-blooded someone can be, and I don’t want to go there.

Like a whole lot of other people, I believe Simpson killed his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman. I believed this long before he wrote that book everyone is now talking about. As evidence, I call your attention to the above photo taken of O.J. the moment after the verdict was read. Look at his face. His expression is clearly saying, “Hot damn! I got away with it.” Meanwhile, look at the face of Johnny Cochrane (right), the lead attorney in the Simpson case. Johnny’s expression is saying, “Holy shit! I’ll be damned, this crazy motherfucker got away with it.”

There are a lot of things I find interesting about the O.J. Simpson case. On the surface, I have always been fascinated by the racial divide that was created during the trial and subsequent acquittal. Most of the white people I knew were outraged by the verdict, claiming it was a gross miscarriage of justice. Most of the black people I knew felt that it was a case of a black man finally getting over on a criminal justice system that has historically treated black folks unfairly. I thought it was both, which made me both sick and perversely amused at the same time.

The other thing that interests me about O.J. is that I suspect there is a bit of him in most of us. I know this is not going to sit well with most people reading this, but just bear with me for a few moments. Let’s agree for a moment that Simpson is emotionally fucked up. Well, who among us hasn’t been emotionally fucked up at one point or another? Speaking for myself, I have experienced rage, jealousy, frustration, and the overwhelming feeling that everything in my life is slipping away from me and that I’m spiraling out of control. There have been times in my life—twice to be exact—where I was so angry that the thought of killing another person passed, fleetingly as it was, through my mind. And I’m willing to bet that most people with any true sense of honesty can admit that at one time or another they have reached a point of rage where they thought they were about to lose their mind. The key is that most of us never cross that line. We may think we are angry enough to beat someone’s ass, or even kill them, but at the end of the day, something inside of us shuts down the machine before we act upon those emotions.

O.J. Simpson’s fail-safe mechanism never kicked in, his machine did not shut down, and he crossed that line most people never cross. And when you stop and think about it—and this is assuming that O.J. actually killed Nicole and Ron—what he did has been done by many other people since the beginning of time. Some might call it a crime of passion, others call it cold-blooded murder, but he wasn’t the first, and sadly, he won’t be the last.

There have been killers who have committed far worse crimes than O.J. But the guy who kills his wife and kids in some homicidal rage is an anonymous stranger. What fascinates us about O.J. is that he was famous, and therefore it seems like we know him. Hey, he’s The Juice, the great football player from the Naked Gun movies! He is familiar to us and we have allowed him into our homes and hearts, and all of that makes us think on some weird subconscious level that we know him. Because of this assumed connection, it makes Simpson’s actions somehow more heinous. But that is not what really repulses us about O.J. The thing that repulses us is that he crossed that line most of us will never cross, he got away with crossing it, and then went on to continue with his life in a fashion as close to normal as you can get after you’ve damn-near decapitated the mother of your children.

O.J. Simpson is more than just a man who may or may not have killed two people and gotten away with it. He is a symbol of the potential of negative emotions running unchecked, the failure of the criminal justice system, and, perhaps most chilling, a reminder that living with the actions of the terrible things we have done is not impossible. O.J. is evidence that our humanity and civility are not nearly as sacrosanct as we may believe. The bloody hands can be washed clean, and guilt and remorse can be medicated into submission—and that’s merely for those who feel guilt or remorse.

In no way, shape or form do I condone or excuse what O.J. Simpson most likely did. But I think that perhaps it is time that we as a society, and as human beings perched so high up on the evolutionary ladder, really come to grips with what it is about O.J. that really bothers us. Are we disturbed by the fact that he killed two people? Are we disturbed that he was able to get away with it in a court of law? Or, are we disturbed by the notion that it is possible to kill people, and then settle into a life of playing golf?

When I see O.J. Simpson, thirteen years after the brutal murders, the thing that disturbs me the most is the reality that even after taking the lives of other people, and the damage it may or may not inflict on the human soul, people can just keep on keeping on. What scares me most is the possibility that no matter how stupid the stupid shit I do may be, and no matter how much I may fuck up my life and the lives of others, I can learn to live with myself. And if any one human being can learn to live with themselves after crossing moral lines that seem so crucial to us retaining our humanity, what does that say about us as a species?

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