If Donald Trump carries out his threat to pardon Arizona’s ex-Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, he will be granting the fantasy of every wannabe law enforcement officer, rogue police officer, Nazi sympathizer, Klansman, alt-right and white-supremacist ideologue in the nation: an American police state comprising self-declared Aryan peoples. The “Delusionals” as I refer to them, would believe that they had been given permission by Trump to perpetuate overt acts of violence and discrimination upon African Americans, Asians, Jews, Latinos, members of the LGBTQ community, Native Americans, Muslims, and non-Aryan immigrants from around the world.
With the stroke of the warlock’s pen and his implied approval of the tactics employed by the police state, every act of domestic terrorism visited upon those I refer to as the “Others” would become the de facto law of the land. And in allowing the state-sanctioned persecution of the Others, America would no longer be the “light of the world.” America would have become hell on earth, and the fault would lie at the feet of every member of the Republican-led Congress who has indulged the president’s white supremacist predilections.
Arpaio is a former law enforcement officer convicted of criminal contempt of court in July. Arpaio intentionally defied a court order requiring his office to halt the racial profiling of Latinos in Maricopa County, Arizona. Citing Arpaio’s own words, the court found that Arpaio “broadcast to the world and to his subordinates that he would and they should continue ‘what he had always been doing.’” His tactics included traffic stops of individuals believed to be Latino and present in the country unlawfully as well as patrol sweeps in Latino neighborhoods. Sheriff Arpaio’s opposition to the rule of law and fiscal responsibility has reportedly cost taxpayers almost $70 million. Yet, to the “Delusionals,” Arpaio is a man who is paying the price for engaging in a moral act of civil disobedience. It is hard to believe that Arpaio’s misconduct is what Martin Luther King, Jr., had in mind when he instructed that “one has a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws.”
Trump’s America is dangerous. Miscreant law enforcement officers break the law, leaving the stench of their misdeeds upon the many officers nationwide, who morally, honorably, and responsibly enforce our nation’s laws, prevent crime, respond to emergencies, and provide support services.
Latino fatalities at the hands of police receive little media attention, let alone attention from the Trump administration’s Justice Department. Since the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the killing of African Americans by police has become so routine that the nation seems to have become numb to black pain. New York honor student Pedro Hernandez spent more than one year at Rikers Island on attempted murder charges despite the fact that eight witnesses, including the victim, have said he is innocent and at least one witness and the victim have said that an NYPD officer coerced them into naming Hernandez as the offender, state troopers are being used in various states to “look for criminals” in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, and one person was killed and 19 injured during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where the Delusionals ranted, “Jews will not replace us.” Meanwhile, Trump has targeted Arizona’s Republican Senator Jeff Flake as being weak on borders and crime, proposed a “Muslim ban,” moved to ban transgender people from military service, told law enforcement officers not to “be too nice” to suspected criminals, and found a moral equivalence between white supremacists and those protesting against them.
If Trump pardons Arpaio, he may be intentionally unleashing a wave of domestic terrorism unseen in the United States since lynching was used as a tactic to promote white supremacy. This time around, all the Others will be victims of the police state.
To the members of Congress who remain silent, you must stand up and act now. The private sector has paved the way for you with resignations from Trump’s Manufacturing Council, Strategic Policy Forum, and Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the cancellation of at least nine charity events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club. Speak out.
Censure Trump over his response to the violence that occurred during the Unite the Right, white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last week.
Tell Trump that he should not go to Arizona. He should go to Charlottesville and apologize to the nation.
Tell Trump he should not bestow a pardon upon Arpaio.
Tell Trump that there are no decent white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers, Klansmen, or alt right ideologues. They are all terrorists.
And tell Trump that should he pardon Arpaio, his negligent disregard for the foreseeable consequences of his actions and words and the resultant constitutional crisis will lead to charges of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Stop Trump before there is any more bloodshed.
Michelle D. Bernard, an attorney by training, is the president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy and is the author of “Moving America Toward Justice: The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, 1963–2013” (Donning 2013).