Not Politics – Except It Is

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It’s just a little over 20 years since O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. In a country of continuing homicides, we fixated on that murder of two innocent people, surely in part due to the celebrity of the accused. The verdict of innocent enraged whites and was celebrated by blacks.

A short time after that verdict was announced I asked a black friend to help me to understand how the American people could look at the same evidence and arrive at two polar opposite conclusions. I recall his worlds – I think – exactly. He said, “Black people aren’t stupid. We know he’s guilty. We just don’t want the system to beat down another black man.” I don’t think he could have been any clearer and I continue to thank him for opening my eyes.

The Simpson trial was also a turning point in how we Americans deal with reality. In a stunningly prescient article in The New Yorker by Adam Gopnik published at the time of the trial he wrote,

“Put simply, it is that we, as Americans, no longer believe in the integrity of events; that is, we are no longer able to accept events at their own value—horrifying or funny or just sordid—but must see them as episodes in a drama, by some unknown author. The growth of the paranoid style of explanation—the belief that the truth is hidden beneath the surface of events—has become absolute.”

Which is to say, we no longer trust ourselves to evaluate what is right before our eyes. We even rely on someone else to spoon feed us our opinions. If you doubt any of that, just watch any cable news channel. That makes success in calling upon people to think for themselves doubtful.

Yet thinking for ourselves is exactly what is needed right now.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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