by David Sisler

On June 12, 1994, Ronald Lyle Goldman, a 25-year-old waiter at a popular California restaurant, and Nicole Brown Simpson, a 35-year-old mother of two children and a former waitress, were knifed to death.

Five days later, the soon-to-be-charged suspect, huddled in the back of a white Ford Bronco, a gun pressed to his chin, was cheered by his fans who sat in lawn chairs along his anticipated route. After 266 days of sequestration jurors deliberated three hours. They had sat through 99 days of testimony and heard 72 witnesses. Their "Not Guilty" verdict, on October 3, 1995, set O. J. Simpson free 474 days after he was arrested and charged with the brutal double homicide.

On September 17, 1996, a wrongful death suit began in civil court against Orenthal James Simpson. This week that jury reached a different verdict. Guilty.

The "star" status of Mrs. Brown's ex-husband saw to it that the deaths of two people became a disgraceful exhibition. The distorting and deforming capacity of the media contrived to make the double homicide a ghastly national spectator sport.

"Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!"

Ticker tape parades for heroes, adulation of celebrities, idolization of the life-styles of the rich and famous is almost as American as apple pie. It started a long time before Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were murdered. But their murders and the trials which followed epitomize our obsession with celebrities.

Another, equally tragic, case-in-point. Just minutes after close-up video footage of Bill Cosby's murdered son aired, anchorwoman Bobbie Battista said, "There was some tape that aired that showed a close-up of Ennis Cosby, and it was inappropriate to air that. We apologize for that, and to his family." God has blessed me with two sons (and two daughters). I can not imagine what it would be like to lose one of them, and from the simple viewpoint of being a father, I grieve with Mr. Cosby. Nevertheless CNN's apology was self-serving and hypocritical. Every murdered boy is someone's son, and I have yet to hear an apology for the footage shown of all of those dead sons whose fathers are not celebrities!

Somewhere we have forgotten that the particular skills which may bring an individual to our attention do not define that person. People are more than their athletic or artistic abilities. The achievements we admire do not represent the entirety of the individual. Talent, ingenuity and dexterity do not certify integrity and character. The qualities which define the real person are not determined by hall of fame votes, touchdowns scored, tournaments won, or trophies awarded. Media hype and public adulation clouds and covers that fact.

"When the blazing sun is gone,

When he nothing shines upon,

Then you show your little light,

Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!"

"A preponderance of the evidence" is a phrase which is no longer merely a line from a television drama. Preponderance, the noun. Preponderate, the verb: "to incline downward or descend, as one scale or end of a balance, because of greater weight." Disregarding Mark Furhman, disregarding the DNA evidence, disregarding the dried, shrunken gloves, disregarding the colossal egos of the attorneys on both sides of the criminal trial, who frequently projected the attitude that the whole spectacle was about them, and even momentarily disregarding the fact that she was murdered, the preponderance of the evidence said Nicole Brown Simpson was a victim of abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, O. J. Simpson.

According to the "Child/Family Interactive Network," battering is the greatest single cause of injury to women in the United States, more than by car accidents, rapes, and muggings combined. Many statistics exist which point to the severity of spousal abuse, some verified, some unverifiable, but that makes the problem no less real. One battered woman is one too many. By a preponderance of the evidence.

Spousal abuse is such a harsh reality of our modern lives that we should have been paying attention long before the torment of Nicole Brown. But until it happened to a celebrity, wife-beating was a dirty little secret which seldom made the front pages, let alone the national news night after night.

Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were murdered. Murder, the Bible says, is an attack upon God's image. When murder is made a spectacle, with the twisted reasoning that "the public has a right to know," the tragedy is trivialized and the lives taken are lost in the side show which results. Our supposed "right to know" (which is too often nothing more than a flimsy disguise for irresponsible journalism) dishonors the victims and it violates their families right to not to have their privacy penetrated and their grief besieged. In a climate where celebrity status is elevated over common decency, that is a lesson we may never learn.

"Then the traveler in the dark

Thanks you for your tiny spark;

He could not see which way to go,

If you did not twinkle so.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!"


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 2/8/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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