Someone was coming for dinner, and Mariellen needed a few last minute things. So I went to the store while she stayed at home at her post at the cutting board: cutting, chopping, slicing, building. I would help with that later.
I turned off the back road from our place onto the larger road feeding into the place, Somerset Plaza, where the store was. I noticed a “prowl car” parked on the side of the road and pedestrians walking in the direction of the shopping plaza. There is a hotel behind it. I wondered if they were guests at the hotel out for a stroll on a quiet afternoon. I also noticed the police officer in the prowl car looking at me as I drove by. He was so young. He looked as if he was trying to be interested, as if this was the most important thing anyone would do today; sit at the side of an old road and wait.
In a very short while, I left the little road I was on for the main one and realized why the young man was there, why the people were walking. Ahead, at the traffic light a quarter mile away, bunched in a heap on the side of the intersection furthest from the hotel possibly a hundred people were standing. They held signs and banners. Some pumped their arms in the air. Some waved at passing cars. Many simply stood, and a few seemed to be talking to each other. Along both sides of the road leading to the intersection a forest of political posters were stuck into the ground advertising the names of candidates for various local and state offices. Though I don’t consider myself politically wise at all, I am neither naive or ignorant. I recognized the names and knew that they were all Republican candidates for some office or other.
In about the time it took you to read the last sentence I was abreast of the small crowd, the sign holders, the standers and the wavers.
Some kind of political rally was going on. One sign, no two signs, caught my attention. One of them read “NO PERSON SHOULD BE ILLEGAL”. Another one was a simple banner behind which stood three or four women of a certain age. It simply announced that the Sisters of Mercy were for open borders. Though I have no way of knowing, I think that the women were members of that community.
As I continued past them I realized that the women and everyone else were there because Joseph Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ, was in my home town to give a speech to Republicans. He’s become rather notorious in some circles because of his treatment of what used to be called “illegal” immigrants. The preferred term today is “undocumented aliens”.
I know Mr. Arpaio. Years ago, when we were both Federal Agents, I worked with him and for him. When the media describe the fellow as tough I do not understand what they mean. But, if they used the words, blunt, forceful, direct and clever, and described him as being convinced that enforcement of the law is something that doesn’t admit of nuance, then I would understand that as an accurate description of the fellow. He believed then that people who broke the drug laws should be investigated and arrested. If arrested they should be prosecuted, and if convicted sentenced, and while in jail punished. He does not seem to have changed that point of view in regard to people who have violated the laws regarding immigration.
And, so, he, and those who think like him, have run up against people who believe that there is more to consider in this whole problem, except that Joe Arpaio has become somewhat of a lightning rod for the folks who don’t think his position is the right one.
I think he’d find that amusing. I know I do, and every time I see the fellow’s picture, I smile. I remember the rumpled, rough talking Narc with a cigar stuck in his mouth, cigar ash and coffee stains on his suit and a no nonsense attitude about the job he was doing: keeping the lid on the garbage can.
I smile, too, when I see pictures of groups of people like the nice looking women behind the sign which read Sisters of Mercy and think about the job they, some of them, do, or used to do, with the poor girls from the Irish neighborhoods and the French ones and the Italian ones, years ago.
When I returned from my grocery run, and our guest had come, I asked him what he thought about it all. Something he said struck me as interesting. “The bishops have said that a country has the right to protect its borders.” Sheriff Arpaio certainly believe that’s what he is doing. Lots and lots of folks believe a lot of other people aren’t doing the same thing.
Those women on the street might agree with the bishops. I think they’d add, though, that a country, or the people in it, have a duty to others which trumps the right.
Now, here’s the thing which puzzles me, really: I wonder why both of them have to be doing here in these Untied States, the things they are doing; locking up wandering “undocumented aliens” on the one hand and on the other hand scolding the folks who do that.
Do you know?