By Rocky Neptun
“Do not forsake me, ohhhh..my darling,” the deep raspy voice of Gary Cooper intoned as Hadleyville Marshal Will Kane walked out into the middle of town to meet the evil that was arriving on the noon train. Having just gotten married to a pacifist Quaker that day, hanging up his guns and badge; he would have to make a choice between the effortless escapism in the waiting buggy, horses harnessed and ready, and facing down the malicious criminal who was approaching – even though everyone in town was frightened and hid.
Gary Cooper won a Best Acting Oscar for that performance, while Tex Ritter’s theme High Noon won Best Song. Rigorous right-winger and macho divo, male hustler and masculine phony, John Wayne was so incensed that any cop from the “old west” would have to beg for help, he conjured up Sheriff John T. Chance in a movie titled Rio Bravo. In it Wayne is a swaggering, toughest of the tough, fearless, relentless super male – takes on all the bad guys and wins for goodness and decency.
But what do you do when the sheriff is the evil which you oppose? How do you react when the badge hides a lie, the illusion of integrity, conjured up, like Wayne’s characters, to mask a petty despot? What options do simple folk have, facing down a top cop who is an accessory to murder, a torturer, a crook, a racist, a representative of all that is evil in humankind – its primeval fears and thirst for blood.
Yet, here he was! Not on the noon train, but in a limousine. Not to the dread of the local populace, but paid thousands of dollars. Like Hitler, like sheriffs in the old south, like racial purists in Europe; he manipulates and preys upon the emptiness of petty lives, devoid of meaning and hope, to find scapegoats for their misery. He is one of those self-made characters, like the “Duke” of Hollywood, who plays to the nightmares of simple minds, conjuring up boogey-men, creating phobias against anything diverse, different, non-homogenized or not packaged in red, white and blue.
Joseph M. Arpaio, America’s cruelest sheriff – and its phoniest – came to San Diego in August to spew his hate and vileness. Championing himself as a savior of law and order, defender of wealth and property, beating his chest and calling himself tough on criminals; he dangerously merges totalitarianism with the hyper-reality of the postmodern age and get’s away with it, creating a new beginning for fascist elements.
Like the other phonies of our age, corporate media, politicians, advertising agents and pornographers; his fantasies, his artificial integrity, his egotistic and political ambition is to create for himself an image, a sign, if you will, like McDonald’s golden arches, where you know what is inside and don’t really have to read the menu or make a decision – hatred for the foreigner, retributive justice, hierarchical domination, a police state.
The modern inability of most consciousness to distinguish store-bought reality from truth is played upon by this domination freak. Like Wayne’s shoot-em-up westerns, he fills the screen of his image with artificial simulation and down-right lies. His propaganda, his ugly vision, is a world where the tough – and wealthy enablers – not only control the movement and actions of the lower-classes but define the very reality of their lives. Falsehoods become fact, oppressive power – with a gun behind it – becomes legitimate safety measures.
Honest, compassionate people are stripped of any real emotional engagement because they powerlessly sense the hoax. The system is being hard-wired for the fake reality of snake oil salesman like Arpaio who spout if you just give us more and more power and money we will protect you from what you fear. They peddle safety extortion – give us the ability to legally slay, beat and assault the foreigner and we will protect you from the terrorist. Let us torture the inmate in our jails and we will make your streets safer from broken and maddened crazies. Let us deny Constitutional rights and civil justice so we can preserve these rights for those deemed worthy by me and my cohorts.
Tough sheriffs (and all those other blow-hards who are not “soft” on crime) will usher in a new age they assert; a golden age where the poor and immigrant are preemptively shackled and your children’s future safe and prosperous.
Over two hundred people turned out at the entrance to the Rancho Bernardo Country Club to tell this “dark horse of oppression” as one North County teacher called him, that he and his message, outside of the lily white plantation building, with its well manicured lawns and good food all prepared by Latino workers, was not welcome in this city.
The event was organized by the Escondido Human Rights Committee, which has fought with its own homegrown bigots. Young students and aged grandmothers, along with Latino activists, heard Beth Johnson of the Universalist-Unitarian Church give an opening prayer which called on all people of faith to respect “the inherent dignity and worth of each person.” She asked everyone to pray for those “who’s families are threatened and those who’s hearts and bodies are broken each day.”
The Personal Lies and Public Hypocrisy of “Bloody Arpaio”
Like Jimmy Swaggart, who preached against sin, amassing millions of dollars in the process, while consorting with prostitutes and attending orgies; Arapaio, is a law-and-order phony, who was teethed in brutality as a special agent with the DEA through his work with right-wing death squads in Mexico and Central America.
A copy of notes found buried in the archives of Mexico City was recently discovered which detailed how Arpaio and other U.S. spies set up human rights workers who opposed the government or powerful corporations with phony drug busts. These people, especially students, were then disappeared or died in custody from various “accidents” or “ailments.”
There is some speculation in former agent circles that Arpaio used his lethal activities in these nations to pressure then DEA director John C. Lawn and his successor, Robert C. Bonner, to appoint him head of the DEA for Arizona. Reagan’s legacy was already being tarnished by the Contra scandal and Arpaio’s dirty work south of the border, if made public, would create a hailstorm of criticism.
Arpaio was first elected sheriff in 1992 and with each subsequent election (five four year terms) has become more cruel and arrogant. By 2005, an English television station, Channel 4, doing a biography on abuses in U.S.’s prisons, reported he not only allowed torture in his jails – the largest in the nation with over 10,000 inmates – but encouraged it.
Another documentary, by the Discovery Channel, in 2009, further confirmed his violation of human rights; focusing on his re-instatement of the chain gang and housing inmates in tents with over 100 degree desert temperatures.
“Bloody Arpaio” as he is remembered in some sections of Mexico, certainly has continued his mantle, letting his deputies know abuses and torture – even murder – are ok on his watch. In 2001 frail Charles Angster, less than 100 pounds, was beaten while sitting in a restraint chair, then his body is held doubled-over in the chair even though the manuals on the use of the restraint chair warn of the dangers of “positional asphyxia.” Fifteen minutes Angster was dead. Arpaio instead of calling for an inquiry, rushed to the jail and commended his officers. He had no idea that someone would leak the video.
As far back as 1996, Arpaio fought his own county officials, who settled with the family of Scott Norberg for almost $4 million, after the young drug user, arrested for a petty theft, was repeatedly beaten and tasered 19 times in custody. Again, the murder was captured on video and even the right-wing county government and its corporate insurance company didn’t have the stomach to stand up for this blatantly, brutal death, sanctioned and defended by its sheriff.
Then there was Linda Evans’ son Brian. She had smuggled a video camera into the hospital to record her son’s injuries. You can barely see his face through all the tubes and all you can hear is the rhythmic sucking of the ventilator. He was so badly beaten by guards, with a broken neck, broken toes and internal injuries, he never recovered and died. Maricopa County was forced to hand her $8.25 million by a jury sickened by Bloody Arpaio’s reign of terror. And, these victims are just the tip of the death-berg. How many others; poor, without relatives, without papers, quietly, anonymously, have been killed in Arpaio’s jails?
We must remember all these young men were defendants in criminal cases, innocent until proven guilty and their homicides were sheer butchery. So too, are 75% of the inmates in his jails- awaiting trial in some form, innocent until convicted. From petty acts of vengeance, like denying inmates coffee, salt, movies or magazines with scantly clothed females, to the outrageous, making them wear pink underwear, (does he have John Wayne’s terror of the homoerotic within?) to the downright barbarous and illegal. Twice, in 2008 and 2010 federal judge Neil V. Wake has ruled that Arpaio’s jails violate the Constitutional rights of inmates in medical and other care related areas.
As if being an accomplice to murder and a sadistic violator of human rights wasn’t enough, this self-proclaimed champion of the law is an out-and-out crook. Arpaio markets his pink underwear as well as pink hand-cuffs with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s logo, in violation of local laws, and gives part of the money to his 3,000 armed militia and pockets the rest. He repeatedly refuses to provide an accounting for any funds collected.
If this con-sheriff was simply an aberration, an anomaly in the U.S. justice system; then, we could sit back and have sympathy for the residents of Maricopa County and plan never to visit Phoenix – especially if we have brown skin. However, Arapio represents an ominous trend among law enforcement and politicians, through the militarization of everyday life, which seeks to impose the institutionalization of certain structures of organization, particularly prisons and the military, onto the liberty of our society. Democracy is messy, unprofitable and leave’s one’s values open to analysis and interpretation.
Arapio’s egotism and lust for notoriety, his craving for wealth and the barbarianism of his justice represent a growing ideology in our nation, which seeks to overpower those sections of freedom which are not tied to wealth or status. To not only change the very structure of American justice, but to impose power over cognition itself. Imprison the kids in an educational prison of corporate slogans and simplistic jargon, create hate and fear for all that is different, reward slavery with promotions up the corporate ladder and make sheriffs millionaires.
Using the power of his guns and (thus) control of the legal system in his domain, Arpaio has instigated prosecutions against anyone who speaks out against his abuses. Calling his acts against opponents “a reign of terror,” Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, also a victim, blasted Arpaio’s prosecution of Dan Saben, a candidate for sheriff in the last election. Saben, a respected 32 year veteran of law enforcement, who recently retired as police chief of Buckeye, Arizona, was targeted because he had the audacity to oppose the tyrant. Others targeted with county prosecutions for political reasons include the Attorney General of Arizona, newspaper reporters, judges, county supervisors and, of course, human rights activists and Latino organizational leaders.
In 2008, a federal grand jury began an inquiry into the sheriff’s persecutions for alleged “abuses of power.” Also the FBI is investigating “bogus” charges against political opponents after a former U.S. attorney called them “utterly unacceptable.”
The Immigration Clearinghouse has gone so far as to say, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a lunatic bigot that is endangering the community.”
“He is cavorting with known criminals and should be immediately arrested by the FBI,” they urged after reports surfaced that shortly after leaving San Diego he attended a secret meeting of members of the Minutemen and the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) of Arizona at the infamous ranch of border vigilante, Glenn Spencer. How many of Arpaio’s 3,000 vigilantes attended the gathering at 1720 Border Monument Road in Hereford, Arizona which struts the Mexican border, is unknown.
The Spencer Ranch is where Shawna Forde took refuge after she invaded a Hispanic home in Arivaca, Arizona with fellow members of the Minutemen and shot to death 9 year-old Brisenia Flores and her father. She is currently in a Tucson jail, awaiting trial. Young Brisenia was awaken in the middle of the night, terrorized and shot three times in the face simply because she was Latina.
These are bloody Sheriff’s Arpaio’s friends and cohorts. Currently, the sheriff is sitting on $1.5 million in a campaign fund in case he wants to run for governor. As for me, rather than associate with this hypocrite and bully, no more than a puffed up street thug, elevated by his ego and wealthy ideological soul-mates; I will hang-out with a peasant farmer from Chiapas who wants nothing more than to help his starving family or a kid from the barrios of Puebla who simply wants a future any day – and twice on Sundays.
p.s. Please write your Congressperson and ask for a full investigation by the FBI of this monstrous sheriff and his abuse of power. Where is Gary Cooper when we need him?