The Trial of the Century

I confess, from its beginning I was transfixed by the “Trial of the Century.” When the drama began I was living virtually next door to it. I drove home from work that night on the very same 405 Freeway in Orange County, California, earlier traversed by Al Cowlings in his white Ford Bronco, carrying the man who was soon to become the world’s most famous defendant.

What began as a heart wrenching tragedy (two precious human beings had their lives savagely taken from them by a monster named OJ Simpson) ended as a circus. The so-called “Dream Team,” Simpson’s defense lawyers, a raging collection of circus clowns, charity case burn-outs and scam artists, were finally out-clowned by arguably history’s most incompetent prosecution team plying their ineptitude in front of the dumbest collection of jurors ever assembled. Led by an egotistical, star-struck, moron named Judge Lance Ito, the so-called “Trial of the 20th Century” began as tragedy and ended as farce.

We are on the threshold of what will in all probability be known as the Trial of the 21st Century, or, (perhaps) more technically, the criminal trial of the people of the State of New York versus Donald John Trump. It’s hard to imagine it, but that’s because we are now living in the calm before the storm. If it happens (and many in the media now acknowledge that “if” is rapidly becoming a “when”) it will dominate the news cycle like nothing else before it. Nothing will come close to a drama where the President of the United States is on trial for his life.

There are differences and similarities between this century’s trial of the century and the last. I still recall reading the June 13th, 1994, article in the Orange County Register detailing the murder of OJ Simpson’s former wife and sighing with relief when I read that he’d been contacted in Chicago. I really, really wanted him to be innocent. I had long loved and admired the man and was shocked when he was arrested and doubly shocked when it came out that a monster lurked behind that million dollar smile.

This time around, there will be no shock, no surprise, no feeling of disappointment. This time around there will be savage elation for justice finally accomplished. It will be a pleasure to see Trump arrested, a pleasure to see him tried, and a pleasure to see him found guilty — if, of course, he is found guilty. I’m only too familiar with the disappointment I felt from the outcome of my last Trial of the Century. It’s going to be white knuckles right up to the reading of the verdict this time around.

This time around the outcome will again divide the nation, not along racial lines but political ones. Last time the divide was understandable, even excusable. I was sympathetic to the elation of my brothers and sisters of color at Simpson’s acquittal. Centuries of oppression and hate can be powerful, almost insurmountable agents for bias.

This time around there will be no excuse for anyone advocating Trump’s innocence. Elation at Trump’s acquittal or rage at his conviction will symbolize (to them) vindication or repudiation of centuries of white privilege. It will be ugly either way. It will divide the nation for a while, and there will be incessant chants of “FREE TRUMP” for months to come before he’s tried and after if he’s found guilty. But it will fade.

Today, the vast majority of Americans of all races know that OJ Simpson is a murderer. (See: “Two decades later, black and white Americans finally agree on O.J. Simpson’s guilt,” Washington Post, March 4, 2016.) The same conclusion across political lines will probably also be reached about Donald Trump — eventually.

There’s historical precedence for this. I still recall a time (barely) when it was not uncommon to meet defenders of Joseph McCarthy. Today, of course, McCarthy’s name is anathema on both sides of the aisle. Trump will almost certainly suffer the same fate. Like OJ Simpson, sooner or later, possibly sooner, history is going to catch up with Donald John Trump. And history’s final verdict will not be pretty. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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