It’s time to Break It Down!
With apologies to Donald McKinley Glover, Jr., AKA, Childish Gambino, AKA, mcDJ, “This Is America” (https://youtu.be/VYOjWnS4cMY)! As we Americans find ourselves nearing a year and a half into the zone we casually, or at least generally, refer to as the Trump Presidency, so, so many precedents and unconventional occurrences have become the rule rather than the exception. Daily.
It this era of transconfiguration, more aptly devolution, America is a place in which our titular leader eschews norms with fierce intentionality. We have become a nation-state in which defaming long-time allies, and coddling historical adversaries is de rigueur, if not flat out expected. To be blunt, we live in a world, more precisely, in a country, where no matter how confounding, outrageous, or bizarre the news of the day happens to be, if it pertains to the President, I no longer have the capacity to be surprised.
In recent months, up until yesterday, Trump has granted seven clemencies: five pardons and two sentence commutations. Pardons forgive people who have committed crimes, and restore at least some of their rights. Commutations reduce prisoners’ sentences and most often free them immediately. Here are a few examples:
- In April, Mr. Trump pardoned Scooter Libby, a former George W. Bush administration official convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2003.
- In May, he posthumously pardoned Jack Johnson, who died in 1946, at least in part at the behest of Sylvester Stallone. Johnson was a Heavyweight Boxing Champion, convicted in 1913 of taking his white girlfriend across state lines.
- In June, he granted commutation to Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother and great grandmother who was serving a life sentence in prison for nonviolent drug offenses. The sentence was rendered in 1996. Kim Kardashian West’s support buttressed Johnson’s case.
- Trump also pardoned Dinesh D’Souza last month. Mr. D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to illegally using straw donors to donate to a Republican Senate candidate in New York.
- Last August Trump gave his first-ever pardon to Joe Arpaio, the bombastic former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. The 85-year-old earned much of his legacy for illegally detaining Latinos, and keeping inmates in brutal jail conditions during his 24-year tenure as sheriff. His tactics led to a 2017 criminal conviction after he violated a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
Trump has floated the idea of pardoning Martha Stewart, whom a jury found guilty in 2004 of obstructing justice, and lying to investigators about the reasons she sold shares of stock. She served five months in prison. He also teased the notion of commuting the sentence of former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year sentence after being convicted of corruption ensuing from a scheme to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, who had been elected President in 2008. Both those things …could…happen, but they will have to get in the queue.
Yesterday, Trump signed full pardons for Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond, Jr., and his son Steve Hammond. The Hammonds were convicted in 2012 of setting fires that spread on government-managed land near their ranch. Dwight was initially sentenced to three months in prison, while his son Steve was ordered to serve a year and a day. Prosecutors appealed because those sentences fell short of the five-year minimum for arson committed against federal property. First, just ponder that for a moment. An apparently activist judge (which Republican reputedly disdain) decided that the minimum sentence was too harsh for these fine, upstanding citizens…who had merely took over, and set fire to public lands. No biggie, right? Right!!! Spoiler alert: Prosecutors won their appeal and the Hammonds were ordered to serve the entire five years; hence, yesterday’s pardon.
Seriously, to characterize, these pardoning the Hammonds as anything short of Trumpian-level hypocrisy would be an abomination. Never mind the arson though; the Hammonds’ debacle led to the Ammond Bundy incident, which included armed conflict resulting in the loss of life. Privilege!
This pardon sequence showcases the double standard of justice still prevalent in America. Yes, it’s a race thing. Period, full stop. To call it anything else is to dissemble, deflect, deny…oh, just call it what it is…lie!
Whites cloak themselves in the flag, call themselves survivalists, invoke the anthem, and spread insurrection. They are deemed overzealous patriots whose love of country and hatred of taxes got the best of them and prompted them to misbehave. Where’s my violin?
To be black and challenge authority on almost any level in this country is apt to garner an invitation to go back to Africa, or to incite the N-word, or to risk police brutality…or worse. Kneeling football players are SOB’s who should be fired, while Maxine Waters is low IQ, and of course, President Obama was a Kenyan-Socialist-Muslim, because he had the temerity to win the Presidency. Twice! And don’t even mention real pushback. The mere existence of the Black Panthers prompted local, state and federal authorities to enact new laws, including gun control in California, expressly to curtail their impact, and to make it easier to arrest and prosecute them.
Trump’s pardon of the Hammonds is just the latest episode of rapprochement with his overwhelmingly white and frequently intolerant base. Meanwhile, recollections of the Central Park stand in stark contrast.
A jogger was raped and beaten in Central Park in 1989. Four black and one Latino teenager were charged, convicted and jailed for the crime. However, the evidence was shaky, and confessions were allegedly forced. Trump ran full-page ads in several NYC newspapers calling for the resumption of the Death Penalty. A subsequent confession by a previously convicted murderer and rapist, along with associated DNA evidence and his admission that he acted alone resulted in the five being released, after serving as many as a dozen years in jail. Oh yeah, none of the Central Park 5 was ever found at the scene of the crime.
Not surprisingly, they sued the City. They were awarded a $41 million settlement. Meanwhile, for decades, Trump continued to call for them to receive the Death Penalty, and quite naturally criticized the City for reaching a settlement. Yes, “This Is America,” and he is the…”Hypocrite-In-Chief: And Another One!”
I’m done; holla back!
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It’s enough to make you want to rise up in arms!Keep up the good work.
Elections have consequences. In an odd sort of way, we (at least some of us) brought this on ourselves.