Oscar Baits 2017
Some Ramblings - O.J.: Made in America (documentary)
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The term 'developed nation' used to differentiate it from 'under developed' and 'developing' begs the clarification as to what constitutes development. Is it the rise of riches, or stratosphere kissing scrappers, the clean roads and fast moving vehicles on them? Is it the purchasing power of the people or accessibility to services - basic and advanced - to all and sundry? The reports that World Bank and other institutions put out year after year focus on different indices to quantify how developed a nation is, with an obvious exception though, that it doesn't take into account the make up of the society, or particularly, how healthy or vibrant it is and how engaging its denizens are. The different indicators focus on all non-human factors, like GDP's, WPI's, BoPs, grossly ignoring the one index that really matters, and that is, how happy its people are. With exception to Bhutan that sizes its development in terms of Gross National Happiness, the rest of the world - developed, developing, and under developed - balk at using this yardstick to decide on how far they have come, lest it throws open the veil on the hidden fractures, dusted up dirt, and covered up cracks that plague their societies. 'America is the richest and strongest and most powerful nation in the world' - the same drumbeat rings ad nauseam in every US President's speech, and used as a negative by its enemies denouncing its opportunistic policies, and looked up to by a horde of aspirants who wish to land up on the shores of the Liberty Island wishing to become a contributing part in that continued greatness. Before 9/11 has pried open the American society and exposed to the world the same apprehensions, vulenrabilities, paranoia, not to mention, the culture of hate, divisiveness, mistrust that the rest of the world are plagued with, America during the booming period of the 90s was choicest place to migrate, innovate, and reinvigorate. Except, all was not well in the fairy land, with the unsettled issue of racism brewing underneath the seemingly dormant society, and all it took was an explosive court case to spew it all up, scorching down all that has been swept under the carpet to create the illusion of eternal well-being. Developed Nation? Not quite yet...

Oscar Baits 2017:
Manchester By The Sea
Hell or High Water

Hacksaw Ridge


O.J.Simpson, a charismatic, rich, retired black football superstar, was accused of killing his wife and her friend, both white, in a gory fashion at her house in a very affluent neighborhood in Los Angeles on a dark summer night in June 1994. The aftermath of that case led to the creation of a few television channels, fed the public's insatiable appetitie for salacious, opened the doors new career possibilities to the key players in the celebrity courtcases, and above all, made the media what it is today - a juggernaut of conflict seeking and creating machine. The case was a watershed moment in American media that saw the redefining of the concept of "news", pivoting for the first time towards sensationlism at the expense of objectivity. Oh, there is also that little effect of cleaving the American society along racial lines, a rift that is growing wider and deeper even to this day, reflected in the recent "Black Lives Matters" movement stemming from the controversial police shootings of unarmed black people in various parts of the country. "O.J.: Made in America", a documentary that tracks the state of society from a few years prior to those infamous murders till the recent past is a great examination of the fallacies about melting pots and salad bowls, the two metaphors that the American society prides itself to be in regard to its multi-cultural, -racial, -ethnic assimilation, the powder-keg situation that such societies constantly live under, and the danger of that one trigger that can potentially blow it all up. The resentment within the black community of having to bear the brunt of unjust policies of law enforecement - be it in the lopsided incarceration numbers of black people in simple drug offences compared to the whites, the pulling over of black drivers by the patrol police in alarming numbers, and the under representation of officers of color within the department - exploded in a mushroom cloud of fury in the aftermath of the Rodney King case (a black driver who was brutally beaten up by white cops in South Central Los Angeles for driving under influence, with the entire incident captured on camera from an apartment window nearby), where an all white jury prounounced all the cops involved in the case not guilty and let them go scott free. And the rioting that ensued, following the verdict, for about a week's time costing the city upward of a billion dollars in property damage and all captured live on the overheard helicopeter cameras of CNN, gave a first glimpse of the simmering tensions in the society in the post civil rights America.

Just a couple of years later, the OJ murder incident took the center stage in people's consciousness. The jury, this time predominantly black, assembled in the courtroom, with the proceedings being televised live, to judge on their beloved black hero, who had a squeaky clean image in the public, but had a monster temper, rage and incidents of spousal battery in his dark private life. The case proceeded along predictable lines till half way, where both the prosecution and high voltage/ high profile defense sparred over the veracity of the case, just like any other murder trial. And when it became apparent to the defense that the physical evidence was just overwhelming against its client, all gloves were off and the tilt became decidedly racial and the approach became one of putting the Los Angeles Police Department on the trial for its perceived racial injustices. With the verdict of the Rodney Case in the rearview mirror, the continued strategy of making the case a (institutional) white vs (wronged) black instead of an open and shut murder case created a serious wedge in the society with poll after poll showing a virtual split along the racial lines for the simple question - Was OJ guilty? The case became a flashpoint in race relations, when the focus was turned away from the murder of two people and put right on the character and credibility of the white police officers who gathered the evidence from the murder scene and built the case up for the prosecution. And so came tumbling down the skeletons from the closet of LAPD - the decades long institutional malpractices with regard to the mistreatment of black convicts, the casual language (racial epithets) used to address them and centuries long white prejudice against the minorities - all of which, shockingly, had nothing to do with the case. The strategy of the defense was simple, if the white police officer taking the stand even just as uttered a racial epithet EVER in his career, discredit his character, discredit his testimony, discredit his evidence gathering capabilities, for they all are tainted by his t(a)inted racial bias. And from then on, it wasn't too hard for the defense to convince the jury that OJ was not the perpetrator of the murders but in fact a victim of institutional injustice that Los Angeles Police Department meted out to the black people over decades, in case after case. It became quite apparent to the prosecution that the chickens of Rodney King case came to roost in the OJ case.

The verdict scene captured it all. The split screen image of whites on one side and blacks on the other staring at the television screen intently, waiting in bated breaths, while the verdict was being read out, and the split second reaction to the utterance of the phrase "Not Guilty", with the blacks shrieking, jumping up and down in joy, and the whites shell shocked, silent and recoiling in horror, said it all, that for all the ways it was perceived that the society has gotten over its troubled racial past and well on its way to its bright future, the dark past of centuries worth of injustice still cast a long shadow on how people looked at each other, not in terms of content, but in terms of color. How a black athlete, a millionaire, a well liked one even by the whites so much that he considered himself white who only happened to be black, living and moving strictly in white circles, clubs and communities, and led most of his adult life, post his success, as far away from the traditional black neighborhoods, came to represent the angst of the downtrodden, beaten down and subjugated black community remains an unanswered question. OJ, once a poster boy for black success in America, became a poster child for racial misgivings in the society, all in the space of a few months. The fallout of the OJ case still reverborate in the American society even to this day, whenever people of opposite color face each other in the criminal justice system, and retribution (by either side) continues to be the de-facto delivery mechanism of justice. Blood may be thicker than water, but when it comes to justice, color trumps them all.

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