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Crime and Punishment, and Additional Perspective on the Pervasive Habits of Power and Privilege in Trump-era America

So I missed out on quite a lot during my time away. In just two weeks, President Donald Trump has found his way into more scandals. And once again, he’s used his social media accounts to foment bigotry that’s meant to set the nation on fire.

So what’s being done about it? And why, oh why, must it always be Trump’s tweets that refocus the nation’s attention on what’s going on in the White House?

WARNING: We’re talking about some very sensitive topics again today, such as sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
Is this what they call “family values”?
Photo by Andrew Davey

While I was writing (an earlier version of) this column, I saw a press advisory regarding the case of a Las Vegas woman who was arrested by ICE just hours before President Donald Trump’s long-threatened “mass raids” were set to begin. I soon dashed over to East Las Vegas to see Adriana Arellano Cruz’s children and local immigrant rights activists demand action to stop these arrests and forced family separations that might feel less “extreme” when compared to “mass raids” that may never actually materialize beyond Trump’s social media feeds, but are nonetheless extremely painful and disruptive for the families being separated under Trump’s orders.

Thanks to the State of Nevada’s and local law enforcement agencies’ insistence upon classifying traffic tickets as criminal offenses (note the death of AB 411 this past legislative session) and placing virtually no limits on their cooperation with federal immigration officers (note the death of AB 281, and even the final amendment to rewrite AB 376), Adriana Arellano Cruz faced trouble over her six-year-old traffic tickets.

Late yesterday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals (which handles appeals of Nevada-based federal lawsuits) granted Adriana Arellano Cruz a stay that should at least delay ICE’s planned deportation. However, she remains in federal custody despite that ruling.

What’s the matter with white men?
Photo by Andrew Davey

There’s a reason why I often refer to Trump’s communications strategy as “weapons of mass distraction”. We can see it in his threats of ICE raids, and we can see it paying off (at least for now) in his latest and greatest sex abuse scandal, a scandal that would have taken down any other modern-era president.

Earlier this month, “billionaire financier” and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested (again) for running what’s essentially been a “sex trafficking pyramid scheme” targeting girls as young as 13. The arrest came on the heels of the Miami Herald’s investigation into then Florida-based U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta giving Epstein the ultimate “sweetheart deal” of a 13 month sentence that illegally provided Epstein with “work release” during the day and deluxe accommodations in a private wing of the Palm Beach County (Florida) jail at night. If that name sounds familiar, it may be due to Alex Acosta serving as President Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary until the Epstein re-arrest led to Acosta’s resignation last week. 

Photo by Andrew Davey

This is not Epstein’s sole connection to the Trump administration. For one, he was hired at age 20 as a math and physics teacher at the prestigious Dalton School by the father of (now Attorney General) Bill Barr. And in an even more direct connection, Epstein had a long run in Donald Trump’s social circle (despite what Trump now claims), and that connection may have enabled both the hiring of one of Epstein’s victims from Trump’s Mar-a-lago club in 1999 and Trump’s alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl at Epstein’s New York City townhouse in 1994. 

For all Trump’s talk of “law and order”, this serves as another reminder that the TV show comes way closer to the truth than anything Trump says. Why are rich white men far more likely to experience far more mercy, even when they commit far more egregious crimes? Why are we more prone to let them off the hook while we subject working-poor people of color to much harsher punishment, sometimes even if they never really committed a crime?

Let them speak.

In recent years, “free speech” has become a sort of cause celebre in far-right circles. And yet, there’s a reason why I’m adding quotation marks to “free speech” here. They demand the “freedom” to say whatever they want. But when it comes to those they disagree with, they’re not afforded the same “freedom”. And on top of that, they somehow scare “mainstream” politicians and pundits who claim to oppose these far-right extremists into defending their speech and castigating those who speak out against their bigotry as “extreme”.

Case in point: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Ayanna Presley (D-Massachusetts), Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota). Even before their election to Congress last year, far-right media flamethrowers attacked not just their policies and ideas, but also their very American citizenship and right to participate in our political system. Yet all too often, House Democratic leaders and center-left “influencers” have piled onto the attacks rather than confront this growing trend of far-right extremist violence. And in case that’s not enough, “party insiders” have even “expressed concern” when additional Democratic women, such as 2020 presidential candidates and U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-California), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), speak out against abuses of power and intersectional inequality.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Let’s review what’s happening: Multiple investigations have already unearthed ample evidence of crimes committed by Trump and his inner circle. Yet while Warren, Harris, and the four progressive Congresswomen in “The Squad” have been demanding actual, Constitutional remedies for this national illness, other Democratic Party leaders have been focusing on hearings to rehash information we’ve already learned and “strategy” for rewriting history that we refuse to forget. Apparently they’re still missing the memo that Robert Mueller will not save us, no matter how many times Congress tries to deflect its responsibilities onto him.

And finally, let us speak.
Photo by Andrew Davey

It seems like it took Trump’s butting into House Democratic leaders’ family feud with “The Squad”, and more specifically Trump’s blatantly racist and misogynist attacks on “The Squad”, for Democratic Party leaders to reassess their priorities. Not the human rights abuses against refugees at the border and immigrant communities across the nation. Not the constant reminders of abuses of power that are still excused as “boys being boys”. Nope, it was another round of Trump tweets.

Even now, we’re still hearing “concern” about the denunciation of bigotry amounting to “bad politics”. This is on top of the ongoing merry-go-round’s of “concern” over bold policies with real public support, and over the drive to hold people accountable for their crimes

Photo by Andrew Davey

Why don’t we express more concern, real concern, over the crimes being committed against America’s people and the lack of accountability for these crimes? What are we doing to end the inequities in our criminal justice system? What are we doing to stop blaming victims and survivors for the abuse they suffered at the hands of their perpetrators? What are we doing to protect and preserve what makes us human?

If we don’t speak up now, who will be left to speak for us?

4:30 PM UPDATE: House votes to condemn Trump’s racist and misogynist Twitter attacks
Photo by Andrew Davey

Moments ago, the U.S. House voted 240-187 to condemn Trump’s attacks on Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib, and Omar. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) voted against condemning Trump’s attacks, while Reps. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas), Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas), and Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) voted for the resolution (H.Res.489). The vote was mostly along party lines, though Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) and Reps. Susan Brooks (R-Indiana), Mike Fitzpartrick (R-Pennsylvania), Will Hurd (R-Texas), and Fred Upton (R-Michigan) joined all Democrats present to vote for the resolution condemning Trump.

In a statement released minutes after an earlier procedural floor vote, Rep. Titus said, “Republican politicians can continue to make fools of themselves by trying to defend the President’s racist attacks, but white supremacists know exactly what he meant.” She continued, “It’s frightening that we can even imagine having a President who would sink that low – and an entire political party in Washington who continues to enable him. Calling out racism and xenophobia shouldn’t be so difficult.”

Thus far, it looks unlikely that the U.S. Senate will hold a similar vote. Thus far Senator Jacky Rosen (D) has publicly condemned Trump’s attacks on the four U.S. Representatives, and both she and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) have been using their respective positions in the Senate to demand action to curb Trump’s anti-immigrant regime in Nevada and throughout the nation.

If you suspect ICE and/or other immigration enforcement officials are targeting you and/or someone you know for arrest and deportation, ACLU of Nevada and the UNLV Immigration Law Clinic have compiled resource pages to keep on hand and utilize if the moment comes. And if you or someone you know is facing a major life crisis and struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always there at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). So is the Crisis Text Line, where you can start a conversation with a volunteer counselor by texting “START” to 741741. And for LGBTQ+ youth in need of immediate help, the Trevor Project has a 24/7 hotline at 1-866-488-7386 and a text option (text “START” to 678678) available.

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