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Embracing O.J.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

(Author’s Note: I finished this article roughly six minutes before I learned O.J. Simpson’s new book had been canceled. Out of sheer laziness and the mild belief that this news only strengthens my point, I’ve decided not to edit it.)

O.J. Simpson has a new book called If I Did It, in which he explains how he would have killed his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.

The idea behind this book is not that he killed her—just how he would have, had the need arisen at any particular time while she was alive.

Predictably, Americans are outraged over this latest milestone in the history of publishing. Bookstores are refusing to carry the title. TV stations are refusing to air O.J. interviews.

As is often the case in the post-O.J. era, people need to calm the hell down.

Twelve years ago, Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were ruthlessly murdered. Until this book was announced, most people not named Brown or Goldman had long since gotten over it.

Instead of getting outraged about Simpson’s book, we should be outraged over our outrage. We’re missing the point of what If I Did It truly represents.

Ever since the Trial of the Century ended last century, Americans have eagerly devoured every bizarre news story the media tossed in their direction. From Michael Jackson sleeping with kids and thinking nothing of it to Paris Hilton’s whole career being based on a sex tape she claimed she never wanted released, everything about America’s missing-white-girl culture has stemmed back to O.J. Simpson somehow getting away with murder.

If O.J. used this book to confess to the killings, it wouldn’t be a story. Pete Rose wrote a book a couple of years ago in which he confessed to betting on baseball; we already knew this, and the book sold roughly four copies.

Instead, for what’s probably the first time in history, O.J. is doing what most free and legally redeemed men would consider unthinkable: He’s asking us to make-believe he’s guilty… even while believing he’s innocent.

This is amazing.

This turns twelve years of news on its head.

O.J.’s theoretical approach to If I Did It is like Michael Jackson finally admitting he understands why people think Neverland Ranch is creepy. It’s like JonBenet’s parents saying they understand why most people don’t dress their daughters like whores.

O.J.’s self-seriousness twelve years ago marked the start of a very strange time in American history. And his self-awareness now represents a chance to finally change course. The man who started it all is putting the genie back in the bottle. He’s flying backwards around the Earth to undo the death of Lois Lane.

If I Did It won’t bring back Chandra Levy, the kids who died at Columbine, or America’s status as a constitutional republic. It won’t make celebrity marriages last. It won’t make democracy work. And it certainly won’t give us back the year we wasted trying to kick Bill Clinton out of office. In fact, this book will do nothing if we treat it as just another outrageous news story. It will be to the world of print what Robert Blake, Scott Peterson, and Joe Millionaire were to our TVs.

But if we treat this book for what it really is—a confession not of guilt but of the fact that the last decade has not been normal—it can be the first step on our long, winding road back to normalcy.

Ronald Reagan once said it was morning again in America. Is it morning again, again? You’re behind the wheel of this white Ford Bronco, America. Why don’t you tell me?

Jonathan David Morris is the author of Versus Nurture. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/readjdm.

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