This hasn’t been a good time to be Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America” lately. Federal courts have slapped down his “saturation sweeps” through Latino neighborhoods as unconstitutional. The Maricopa Cty lawman’s casting a wide net of picking up anyone that “fit the profile of an illegal immigrant” was said to violate citizen’s rights.
He is appealling the decision, as you’d expect he would, for two reasons. Firstly, the sweeps are easy (and lazy) policing. Secondly, it puts him back in the news, which is his natural home. Sheriff Arpaio loves the limelight as it gives him a chance to indulge in his favorite fantasy, the living embodiment of the the thin blue line between lawless chaos and civilization as he sees it.
In reality, he is as far from his self-generated hype as the most desperate out of work actor in Hollywood is. Crime in Arizona has dropped everywhere BUT Maricopa County. Sheriff Hardass claims to be the mega-tough guy, making his prisoners wear pink uniforms by way of degradation and then has them collapse from dehydration in the sun or denying medical care (and costing taxpayers a fortune). In fact, his negligence led to the county dropping the ball on over 400 cases of sexual abuse. He is not what he seems.
Which doesn’t mean shit to a tree, as Grace Slick used to say. When it comes to demagoging politicians, effectiveness is irrelevant. That he has been sued and lost over and over on the county’s dime is irrelevant. Or that Arizona’s chesters are free to operate in Phoenix–irrelevant. Or wastes resources targeting citizens going about their daily business–irrelevant.
What matters is, his followers hate brown skinned people and they perceive that he does as well. Arizona is a very strange place. Its population swollen by Illinois and Michigan “snowbirds” are generally of the retired stripe and generally not used to being among Spanish-speaking people. That said Spanish speaking people tend their lawns, clean their pools, groom their golf courses–also irrelevant. They are “a threat to our way of life” (ie not white). Arpaio, albeit in typical code, is their ally and protector–because he’s an old white dude from up north like them.
You see, facts don’t matter. Arpaio is an ineffective buffoonish attention hog that has run up an enormous tab at the expense of the same people that love him. (And whose campaings are paid for by out of state cash) But because they sense or believe that he hates what they hate, he can do no wrong. And won’t leave office until he either dies or AZ’s demographics force him out.
It murders the souls of thinking men and women that reality is trumped by fantasy, myth beats truth, perception and prejudice slaughter justice. That people can’t be moved because, once again, facts don’t fucking matter.