Editorial by John Ziegler

The Juice is Loose, Again

4/10/2002 1:07:40 AM

The Juice is Loose, Again

This past Saturday, for the second time this year, our region was graced with the presence of O.J. Simpson. In February, the former double-murder defendant was in Philadelphia for the NBA All-Star weekend. This time around he was invited to Trenton to help promote a "hip hop" nightclub and film scenes for a documentary on his post-murders life.

In Philadelphia, Simpson was driven around South Street in a Rolls Royce convertible while being mobbed by a crowd of mostly well-wishers; some of whom even asked him to sign dollar bills. The Philadelphia Inquirer actually had the gall to print an extremely large and flattering photo of the scene under a headline that put Simpson in the same category of "celebrity" as Allen Iverson, Julius Erving and Muhammad Ali

In Trenton, much the same exasperating sight was repeated as Simpson was treated like a conquering hero. According to news reports, there were only minor protests of the club that paid Simpson to appear and hundreds showed up in an enthusiastic effort to get a glimpse of one of America’s biggest “celebrities.” One 73-year-old woman thanked “God Almighty” for the opportunity to hug Simpson.

The Quaker Bridge Mall, where Simpson was originally scheduled to eat that day (he dined at Denny’s instead) denied urging the event's planner to keep the "controversial" Simpson away from their grounds, claiming that it was only the extra security procedures that prevented him from visiting their public place. Hopefully, canceling the trip to the mall was not a major setback in Simpson’s seemingly stalled search for the “real killers.”

If the two trips to our area are any indication, Simpson is slowly succeeding in his ultimate goal of regaining some semblance of his former stature. The fact that he can even consider doing so speaks volumes about the decline of our culture. It is clear that, at least to the media and a massive portion of the public, the distinction between fame and infamy has almost completely eroded.

If you think that public tolerance for O.J.’s recent antics is generally low and isolated, think again. Last week on CN 8’s “It’s Your Call” an astonishing 83% of a record number of poll respondents indicated that they supported an “O.J. comeback.” It seems that, no matter how pathetic the message that it sends to our youth, Simpson is just far too entertaining for us to not let him hang around in public. Quite simply, we would rather all be horrified than risk ever being bored.

My problem with this attempted comeback is not just that this "man" slaughtered his ex-wife and friend and left them where his sleeping children could find them. If that were "all" that Simpson had done and he happened to get off of murder charges it would be disappointing that he was being accepted by any group of people, but would not be nearly as exasperating as it is.

The real reason that it is so very important for our society to never allow Simpson to shed his "outcast" label has little to do with his murders. Rather, it was Simpson's lies and cries about racism that exacerbated a divide in this nation in a way that caused far more damage than even the deaths of two innocent people.

For Simpson, arguably the first African American hero to become completely accepted across color lines, to claim that he was framed for murder because of his race provided a new definition of absurd. For him, after he had spent most of his pre-murders life being an “Uncle Tom,” to be the one to a get "pass" because of all of the legitimate injustices that others in his race had endured was maddening.

For him to now rebuild his image on the backs of Blacks who still largely support him (apparently out of either out of blissful ignorance, blind faith, or a thirst for racial revenge) goes far beyond what any of us should be willing to accept.

Unfortunately, while our eagerness to endure a Simpson comeback may be the most dramatic example of how far too forgiving we have become, it is hardly the only one.

Al Sharpton, Bill Clinton, Tonya Harding, Robert Torricelli, Ray Lewis, Marv Albert, Don King, Mike Tyson, Marion Berry, and the Catholic Church, among others, have all maintained at least some media viability despite varying degrees of criminal activity. Jesse Jackson, Mike Barnicle, Joe Klein, Stephan Ambrose, Doris Kerns Goodwin, Geraldo Rivera, and the National Organization of Women all somehow remain “credible” despite public lies and blatant hypocrisy.

Heck, Halle Berry just won an Oscar despite having been charged with a felony in a hit and run car wreck and "A Beautiful Mind" won for best picture even though it is an extremely inaccurate portrayal of John Nash's life.

How must the long forgotten Gary Hart feel when he realizes that had he just waited a few more years to commit his minor transgressions, no one would have even cared? My guess is that even he wishes we were still in an era in which being a respected public figure was privilege that could be lost due to bad behavior and not a right that only gets strengthened by the increased fame that crime too often provides.

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