SHOOTING SEASON

The shooting season has begun again, time to put on orange vests, listen for gunshots, look out for trucks parked along access paths into the woods, examine their license plates—are they local? Are they from New York?

I trust the local hunters more because they know the woods and animals, usually hunt for meat they’ll use over the winter, and most important, they know what they’re doing. They won’t shoot a pregnant deer; they won’t shoot and wound rather than kill.

On Saturday I was back in the woods with Stanley and a friend, we were busy talking, looked up, and there were 3 deer standing some 15 feet away. They were as surprised by us as we were by them, and all of us just stared at each other for half a moment till one deer stamped his hoof, turned and ran down to the creek, and the other two followed. It’s hunting season, I murmured, as though I was saying goodbye to them.

In the past few weeks, Bernie and I have done our own bearing witness retreat right here at home. We watched the 5-part documentary series, OJ: Made in America. I can’t remember any documentary that has captured me so from beginning to end. It retells the story of O.J. Simpson, who, as so many know, was put on trial for murdering his wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman, in the mid 1990s.

I knew all the facts, but seeing the documentary was like seeing a human being rather than a skeleton. It was about everything American: sports, money, race relations, relations between men and women, the cult of celebrity, and the media.

Listening to all those voices was like riding a rollercoaster. How could I not admire Simpson for his talent, hard work, intelligence, and generosity (not to mention good looks) in the beginning? And when I saw the photos of his wife’s body lying in pools of blood, head almost decapitated, how could I not loathe him so deeply that I actually turned my eyes from the screen when he appeared?

I detested Mark Fuhrman, the Los Angeles cop caught on tape denigrating African Americans and taking pride in his power and their humiliation, and by the end of the documentary, when he described what had happened to his life after the trial, my heart wept for him. I was angry with one woman juror who implied, of Nicole Simpson, that any woman who doesn’t know how to leave a dangerous man and situation has what’s coming to her. But by the end of the series that same woman was reflecting on the toughness and resilience of her own life, and I realized that everything life had taught her has come hard.

Each and every person there—football player, model wife, lawyers, agents, police, journalists, fathers and mothers—played a role, each saw things from his/her point of view, and even those you disliked suffered. My feelings towards them careened from love to hate and then to fondness, like how you feel towards old friends who’ve been through hoops. I hated them and respected them, and at times could do nothing but just shake my head. The action was all in Los Angeles, but they weren’t far from me, it was all so familiar. Depending on the circumstances, saints turned into villains and villains turned into well-intentioned people, if not saints. And the dead were still dead.

The trial of the century, they called it. Maybe, but the story was everyone’s, I thought.