Friday, December 5, 2008


It's not about emotion. It's barely about justice. What after all is justice? A theory, an unprovable theory -- that would make it a religious idea. And what does religion have to do with the courts? There are no ecclesiastical courts in America. Nope. The courts are about order, and about process, and about careers. Justice? Please. All those other things are certainly important to the well-running of a society. Things must be predictable. Witness our current economy, the result of uncertainty, which breeds something worse than uncertainty. But they don't have much to do with this doctrine of justice.

I'm talking about OJ. Sentenced today to up to 33 years. Parolable in nine. So process finally caught up with him. He was subdued, hushed, hoarse as he spoke preamble to his sentencing. He said he was "sorry and confused." He said he "didn’t want to steal anything from anyone ... I’m sorry, sorry." No doubt. And sententious queries such as sorry about what? -- no point in wondering. Emotion is a physiological response to some mental state. Why ought we care about his physiological responses? Dead muscle tissue twitches under sufficient stimulus. What is that to us?

He was convicted of killing his wife and Ron Goldman. There's a more technical term for it, wrongful death or alienation of civil rights or some such, and the penalty had only a fiscal application, aside from any social disapprobation. But, ahem, justice was served. No expiation in it, since it's no sort of actual offering. A penalty is not an offering. He'd already made his slaughter offering, to the god of himself. Burnt and sin and guilt and trespass and meat and consecration, all to and against himself. It's not our business, what his religion is. It only matters what he does, and how we respond.

"Don't let nobody out of this room!" we hear him command in the recording. The shady characters with whom he was having intercourse knew enough, apparently, to record all interactions with OJ. It might prove necessary. We hear him order his cohorts to scoop up the baubles he so righteously seeks to reclaim. He is not confused. He is not sorry. He is suffused with testosterone.

My father reminded me powerfully of Robert Blake in his trials. Or rather, Blake reminded me of my father. An aging muscleman, so much surface, the substance so very secret. What can we do? Shake our heads and hope that our own sins don't find us out.

But they will. If we are not humble, we will be made to be humble. The very infinitesimals of the universe tremble, in and out of existence. Such is the rock of our existence. We must diligently search the smallest parts of our lives, for blessings. Because something worse can always happen, and our gratitude is not a protection, but it is a salve.

OJ? We need have no emotion about his fate. The fact that we know his name doesn't make him our business, any more than any of the faceless billions who live and who have died, anonymous and having upon us only the remote effect inherent in statistics. We care, if we do, only because some details of his story have been made known to us. Details are to the mind what oxygen atoms are to the blood -- they pass through us, make some transient change, and pass out, somewhat changed themselves, to be recycled. They hardly matter, in themselves.

Details don't matter. It's something larger that matters. People, I suppose, and how they treat one another. An obvious conclusion. But it's never about what we know. That's just details. It's what we do. Don't be sorry too late, or for the wrong reasons. Don't storm a hotel room wielding guns. Don't cut your wife's head nearly off.

It's not about justice, what has overtaken OJ. It's about the inevitable. Character is destiny. This offers us very little hope. Justice? It is a grim affair, more the shadow of a crime than a counterpart. It doesn't really make anything right. It just provides a contrast.

Ah well. I just this very moment received a phone call, with some more very bad news. Very very bad. Very. Anyone want to send my poor foolish mother three thousand dollars on a very open-ended loan? It just doesn't end. Funny, though, because I was going to wrap this up, somehow, with a plea for mercy and for grace. But now I'm just afraid, and a little nauseous.


Seven hours later. I've taken care of it, sort of, for a while. Other people's fear shouldn't affect our perceptions. But hearing an aged mother crying in desperation can almost unhinge a man. It's frightening, how bad some people's decisions can be. I include everyone, almost, in that "some". Upshot is, mercy, and grace, amount sometimes to not having our fears overtake us immediately.


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