Monday, July 11, 2016

OJ Made in America: Most Important Documentary Ever For US Citizens

I just watched all 5 episodes of O.J.: Made in America. Calling it extraordinary would be understatement. It's a masterpiece. It may be the most important documentary anyone can watch if attempting to understand and heal race relations in America.
Though the focus is on events in Los Angeles following the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and through the Simpson trials, the messages apply to the entire USA. The same themes reappear in Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas and so many other areas. Unfortunately the problems are far from ending because, apparently, we still haven't learned much. Maybe we don't want to learn? What happened back then and what's happening today are mirror images of tragedy stemming from a long history of racial insensitivity. Just as Black Lives Matter is an important concept to embrace, misusing it for motives of revenge is as short-sighted as the injustices that brought rise to the movement itself.

Roots of LA Racial Divide
The documentary shed so much light on my understanding of how a jury could find Simpson not guilty of a crime he most likely committed. Before then (or since), the public had never seen so much criminal evidence of a double-homicide that ended in acquittal. But this documentary recreates the atmosphere and mindset of African Americans living in Los Angeles during the 60's and beyond, which affected any ability to view a case that involved race with impartial eyes. OJ had to be acquitted under those circumstances.
Remember the times, the 60's, when people publicly discussed blacks as second-class citizens, even in American towns far away from the deep south. The LAPD had an established tolerance for racial doctrines of inequality, even employing high-ranking officers with connections to the KKK. Fast forward to the 90's and Mark Fuhrman, a lead detective on the night of the murder who found the famous bloody glove. Fuhrman eventually took the 5th amendment during the OJ trial due to fact that he was on record for being a well-documented racist.
In earlier days the LAPD clearly did not know how to handle a section of the city where poverty was rampant. Poverty leads to desperation. Desperation leads to crime. Just listening to the interviews of public officials makes it appear as if white police administration would have been happier if blacks had never moved west in the first place. The Watts riots in '65 occurred after successive murders of blacks went unpunished in the LA judicial system.

Before watching the documentary, I could not conceive that OJ could have been acquitted of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The mountain of evidence and his actions that followed made it beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it. After watching the documentary, I realized he had to be acquitted from that jury and those legal participants, and not because of any presumed innocence. It was karmic payback. It was a calamity, a circus, an American tragedy and lesson for us to dwell upon. Did we learn anything from this masterpiece that contains all of the pieces to why racial tension still exists in this country?
Probably not, and that's another tragedy. Most of us probably didn't learn a thing because our heads are already locked into perceptions of how things should be, or we couldn't put down the distractions of phones and social media long enough to pay attention. The duration of it, over 7 hours, will dissuade many from watching, but there's no other way to convey this much crucial information.
What will stick with me most are the dramatic changes OJ went through from the time he began his career at USC until the present. OJ was really a beautiful person in addition to being the most powerful, graceful and durable running back anyone had seen since Jim Brown. He was reserved and thoughtful, confident yet humble, and he put his team and teammates first. He was quick to credit others and to go out of his way to make people feel good. It's easy to see why America fell head over heels in love with him, white and black alike. OJ was the real deal.
OJ wanted fame more than money. He got it. Man, did he get fame. In fact, we haven't seen the last of OJ who should be among the most famous athletes of all time in the near future due to CTE (more on that later). His run is not over, not by a long shot. Just wait until more understanding comes about for things like NFL concussion related insanity or the effects of unbridled stardom and how society can help destroy a celebrity. Think Junior Seau. Think Robin Williams and Princess Diana. Those are great examples, but Simpson could trump them all. There has never been another athlete who has both galvanized and polarized America more that OJ. That's quite a feat. Eventually we'll need to understand our role in creating a madman.

Living the American Dream
Look at these incredible photos of achievement. Who else has been carried off on teammates' shoulders in both college and the NFL? We put OJ on a pedestal because he was a USC football phenomenon and a USA track star. In only two seasons at USC he led the Trojans to the national championship and won the Heisman Trophy by a ridiculous margin. In the NFL he eclipsed Jim Brown's single season rushing record and broke the 2,000 yards rushing mark back when they played just 14 games. Then he starred for Hertz rental car ads, arguably the greatest advertising campaign of all time. He went on to become a successful actor and businessman. All of those epitomized the American dream. On top of that, he transcended color. He was loved by all, perhaps more so than any person in US history. How can any of us relate to what that must take to accomplish, and how it must be to live in a world where everyone wants a part of you?

Love Hate
The passionate love affair between OJ and Nicole Brown was bigger than either could control or deal with responsibly. It's reported love at first sight, that OJ claimed he was going to marry her upon meeting her, even though he was already married with children. And Nicole, just 18 when she met him, is the one we know very little about (Ron Goldman too). It's not fair to speculate over how she could have gotten involved with a married celebrity with children or how she could have stayed with an abusive husband for so long, but in cases like this we speculate nonetheless. Did Nicole add fuel to an already volatile situation? One can assume she at least made poor choices since she willingly got involved with OJ knowing he had a family already and that he was a womanizer. This is not to blame Nicole for anything but to serve as more fodder for what became of OJ, a man who couldn't handle rejection or letting go of someone he coveted.

Bigger than Hollywood
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Hollywood writers could not have written this story better than it played out naturally. How could a slow speed highway chase have stopped the NBA finals while the game was happening? Who could possibly be in that white Bronco followed by all those police cruisers looking more like a Presidential motorcade than a pursuit of a fugitive from justice? Who is a bigger sports hero turned actor to have been accused of a despicable double homicide? Who better than Mark Fuhrman to represent the racism within the LAPD? What jury could have been better for the defense than 8 African American women from LA? How incompetent did the prosecution seem from the gathering of evidence to the fateful decision to ask the defendant to try on the gloves that everyone else predicted would not fit?
You can't make this shit up.

Insanity, Concussions and CTE
A madman is what OJ became, a certifiable crazy person who appears to believe the lies that originated from self-preservation and snowballed from there. Sure, it's easy to blame OJ himself as many do, but how much did society play into that? Probably more than anyone is comfortable admitting. When someone is given everything by everyone for so many years even when it goes against conventional wisdom, it's easy to assume the world is yours for the taking.
Perhaps more importantly, how much is football to blame with concussion related insanity and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)? During the trials nobody knew about CTE or how repeated concussions can cause a person to have explosive, impulsive behavior and judgment. If anyone was a candidate for CTE, it would be Simpson. He carried the ball for USC a record number of times in 2 seasons and is the only NFL player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season of just 14 games (in 1978 the NFL expanded the season to 16 games).
courtesy UPR
Although the miniseries does not discuss this aspect of the OJ case, it will be analyzed for years to come. OJ has said, “I was knocked out of games for such head blows repeatedly in the 1970's and other times. I continued playing despite hard blows to my head during football games.”

And yet, the documentary is much more than an explanation of how OJ got away with it. It's a deep and hard look into the divides of color along with an attempt to exist beyond those labels. In some ways, OJ's acquittal represents a forgiveness for so many documented and undocumented cases of racial profiling, abuse, murder and hate crimes from both the public and police.
The violent killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, followed by the acquittal reminds me of throwing virgins into a boiling volcano to calm the gods. No, it doesn't make sense and it isn't justice, for those people lost their lives in a horrifying manner; nothing will bring them back beyond their memories.
It's painful to see the crime scene photos when Nicole and Ron were so brutally stabbed to death. It pains me to see OJ so defiant in living a lie for the purpose of self-preservation. It pains me even more to think of the thousands of times blacks have been victimized by police and white America for hundreds of years to this very day. Kwame Ajamu (mug shot), formerly known as Ronnie Bridgeman, spent 27 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. How many other Americans, especially African Americans, has this happened to?
I watched every minute of the miniseries because I'm a sports fan and an American trying to understand and help heal racial tensions. I don't know if that can ever be healed entirely, but this documentary sheds enormous light on the situation. Even though it's hard for some people to think of OJ as much else than a delusional, egotistical murderer, he is also a product of society.
Please make the effort to watch O.J.: Made in America as soon as possible.

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