Monday, June 13, 2005

Column on the Jackson Verdict

Racists or Just Sick of the Charade?

Tibor R. Machan

Before making some observations connected to Michael Jackson?s court room
triumph the other day, let me remind everyone that in Spain, today, in the
21st Century, if a 19 year old guy has sex with a consenting 13 year old
gal, it?s all legal. Is Spain some Neanderthal country? Or what?s going on

Many kids who commit crimes in the good old US of A?twelve, fourteen year
olds?are prosecuted as adults. What is that all about?they cannot vote,
sign contracts, get married without parental permission but when they do
the crime, they must do the adult time. Weird, is it not?

Michael Jackson has been weird for a long time but, hey, in a free
country it?s no crime to be weird. He may even like the company of
youngsters too much, even tussle and bustle with them now and then as if
he were still a kid. But is that child molestation? Perhaps not, if we
look at it with Spanish eyes?if they consent, no problem.

So when I saw around eight black employees at a McDonalds?where I had my
once-a-year-dosage of French fries?shriek with joy upon hearing the
announcement from the jury leader that Jackson isn?t guilty and can go
free, I thought, maybe this isn?t racial solidarity at all but simple
empathy and relief. Fans jumping from joy that justice won out over
trivial pursuit.

My own take is that I have no take when I am not part of the jury. That,
indeed, was my take with the O. J. Simpson verdict as well. I wasn?t
there, hour after hour, day after day, listening and watching and then
considering the charges and the evidence. I saw bits and pieces and heard
a lot of rather questionable late night humor. I am still committed to my
non-commitment. Ignorance may not be bliss but it?s better than prejudice.

Of course, some of the young blacks who yelled from joy when they heard
Jackson go free may have had a tinge of racist attitude mixed in with
their relief and vindicated sense of justice. But I think not much. They
didn?t turn on me, the only white in the place, and yell at me gleefully.
Instead they had smiles on their faces and no sooner was it all over on
the TV set, they went back to work.

Mind you, even that tinge of racial attitude may well be quite
reasonable. Many blacks, especially in the Deep South?the scene took place
in Auburn, Alabama?still often feel demeaned by whites, not out of
paranoia but from clear cut evidence. This and quite a few other regions
of the USA haven?t quite left behind the widespread belittling of blacks
that has been part of the country?s history for a very long time. When a
group of people is grouped by others and picked on for traits over which
they have absolutely no control, they will quite naturally huddle
together, at least until the picking has stopped. And maybe longer, just
in case it should start up again.

The solidarity felt by many blacks toward O. J. and Michael need not be
an insidious type of racism at all. Not that it justifies blanket
support?after all, just as I wasn?t one of the jurors, neither were the
blacks who were cheering the verdict. But there was a certain measure
emotional sense to their delight??So, you see, you will not get yet
another chance to deride us, to think badly of us because of some black?s
misdeeds, something you do a lot even if it is quite irrational to make
such generalizations.?

So, I admit, I felt quite good about the verdict too, not because I had
any opinion about the matter but because I, too, felt that had it gone the
other way, it would probably have fueled some racist sentiments across
parts of the USA. These sentiments certainly ought to vanish anyway, but
with Jackson acquitted this may accelerate somewhat now.

But then what about the laws that enabled the prosecution to go after
Jackson, actually to hound him for nearly ten years? Are these laws good,
just principles for a free society? Are we to dismiss the Spanish as
barbarians, ones who give credence to the consent of 13 year old girls?

I am not sure. I do know that where I was born parents regularly let
their young children drink a glass or two of wine at dinner, do not have a
fit when children have a beer or go to a bar where 16 year olds can drink,
smoke and dance. I grew up completely immune to the temptation to
repeatedly get plastered, in contrast to many of my friends in American
who had to wait until they reached 21 before they could freely decide to
drink alcohol. And what about Holland, where pot smoking is legal and you
can go to cafes and order up a joint? Are they nuts or is it possible that
this land of the free isn?t really so free and that here and there some
other parts of the world outshine us where that?s concerned?

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