Joseph Arpaio & America’s Shame

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff, Joseph Arpaio.
Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff, Joseph Arpaio.

For 24 years, Joseph Michael Arpaio served as the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.  Arpaio was spared a jail sentence after being convicted of criminal contempt, when recently pardoned by President Donald Trump.  Judge Murray Snow had given Arpaio clear warning to desist in ordering traffic stops that were based on racial profiling, and to stop targeting assumed illegal immigrants with the intention of turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  However, Sheriff Arpaio continued his criminal behavior and was subsequently found guilty.  He faced a possible six months jail sentence for the misdemeanor conviction.

The controversial Arpaio received renewed public attention when United States Commander in Chief, Donald Trump, granted him an unprecedented presidential pardon.  While Texas citizens were being inundated by Hurricane Harvey, President Trump was essentially ensuring that a known racist and bigot that carried his actions out while he was supposed to be upholding the law, was protected from the possibility of jail time.  

According to a statement released by the White House, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”  Essentially, Arpaio’s disregard for the law he had sworn to uphold was being rewarded by the Oval Office.  

Although the pardon continues to be debated as an insult and degradation of constitutional rights, there are additional reasons for serious concern. Ponder the following: Joseph Arpaio is an undisputed white supremacist.  He was responsible for the modern-day concentration camps set up as county jails in the southwest.  Inmates were housed in tents in the scorching Arizona desert in deplorable conditions, and forced to do what some would categorize as slave labor by being made to work on chain gangs.  A disproportionate number of Latinos and African Americans inhabited these “camps” and suicide was routine.  

Ethnic cleansing occurred for years under Arpaio’s direction and it was tolerated as perfectly legal, while being promoted through various levels of institutionalized racism.  Unknown to many is the fact that Arpaio’s disgrace is permeated by a far more serious socially depraved stigma.  The real dishonor of his legacy are the numerous sex crimes and abuse cases that were never investigated due to his obsession with illegal immigration and his commitment to racism.  Rather than focus on the above mentioned despicable reports, Arpaio fixated his officers on illegal immigration.  While harassing and arresting Latinos became the order of the day, approximately 400 abuse cases were ignored or improperly investigated including ones involving children.

The Arpaio saga is an important lesson in American History.  It is also a Biblical one.  One who identifies and believes himself to be a Christian cannot ignore the evil elicited from Arpaio’s actions.  Those supporting and defending his wrongdoing are neither Christians,  as they espouse to be, nor patriots.  Psalm 119:115 states, “Depart from me, evildoers, that I may observe the commandments of my God.”  Executing evil against others is in stark contrast to Christianity and its teachings.  Whether ignoring horrific abuse, hunting alleged illegal immigrants, or dehumanizing prisoners, there is absolutely nothing Christian or patriotic about it.  Without a doubt, Joseph Michael Arpaio will have a place in America’s history books.  Perhaps he and his supporters should reflect and ask themselves, ‘what type of Christian do I want to be remembered as?’  

“The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.” (Proverbs 21:15)