‘Where were you when the Casey Anthony verdict came down?’

I wonder if one day that’s a question that will seriously be asked.

This was, apparently, a pretty big deal, although I wasn’t really aware of just how much people cared about Casey Anthony till it was nearly over, and I saw people in the office crowd around a TV in mid-afternoon to find out whether the person everyone was looking to be guilty of murder would be found such by the jury.

Alas.

I have said, and will continue to say, that if Caylee Anthony had been Latoya Anthony or Caylee Gonzales, people wouldn’t have cared as much about the death of a not-yet-3-year-old girl in 2008. Some will debate that with me, but it seems indisputable that people only really cared about the mother Casey Anthony because she was smoking hot (and continues to be).

In the age of just newspapers and radio, this might not have been such an important case. She wasn’t famous enough beforehand, the details aren’t as lurid as they could be. But on TV, a pretty face goes a long way. And, on TV, the contrast between an attractive-looking person with unattractive qualities is more obvious, and satisfying. Nancy Grace doesn’t waste time talking about frumpy moms, no matter what they’re accused of.

Now, the admitted facts of the case show that Anthony was not a good mom and enjoyed having a good time too much. Which is not so rare a thing anywhere in America, chloroform aside. This was a trial about a normal person doing something “incomprehensible” to most people, although we really just want to pretend we don’t understand it.

The movie “Blood Diamond” has an exchange where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is asked whether people are generally good or evil.

“Neither,” he says. “They’re just people.”

Put another way, “People aren’t; they do.” We try to summarize based on the most recent or notable action, but that doesn’t mean anything.

About 150 years ago, slaveowners who could beat a dark-skinned person to death might be shocked to see someone kick a dog. Nazis who could watch 1,000 Jews rise into the sky as greasy smoke, feeling nothing, could then go home to their wives and weep to Mozart (this is a stolen example, but I don’t remember where from).

And every day, good decent people lie, cheat and steal, behave underhanded, violent and stupid. Total jerks go out of their way to help total strangers. A man cheats on the wife he loves, a thief leaves a too-big tip for a tired waitress.

Two highly intelligent, wealthy teens could abduct a 14-year-old boy, smash his head in with a mallet, disfigure and hide his body, and demand a ransom for — fun only. “Leopold and Loeb” in 1924.

Their attorney Clarence Darrow got them to plead guilty and argued they were just products of their heritage, their upbringing and could have done no different than play the part nature gave them.

Loeb was killed in prison, but Leopold lived a full, productive life, even after his parole. He wasn’t a monster; he could have lived that way the whole time. Instead he did a terrible thing. Monstrous thing.

Casey Anthony didn’t have to be a monster. She just had to be human. She had to do, or not do, something.

And that’s the scarier thing, of course.

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adavidjohnson

A David Johnson, of many. The (poorly) recovering journalist of West Texas extraction one.

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