In the countries where political factions like ISIS, the Taliban, Boku Haram, and other similar extremist groups exist, human rights suffer. The governments of several Middle Eastern and central African nations struggle to maintain civil order and criminal law in a manner commensurate with modern values and developed-world global expectations.
Even in industrialized countries where heavy-handed governments sometimes ignore and abuse civil and human rights, leader nations, NGOs, and watchdog organizations regularly call attention to their violations. A decade ago, American lawmakers spoke out against China’s roaming “death vans.” More recently, western governments have condemned a lack of due process and human rights considerations associated with some versions of extremist justice. Wherever there are risks of ethnic persecution or lack of a competent judiciary, concerns abound.
In some areas of the world, laws and punishments are unfairly weighted against women. A high-profile case in 2008 sparked outrage after an Al-Shabaab council stoned a 23-year-old Somali woman for adultery because she was raped. Ten years later, injustices continue. Earlier this year in May, a Pakistani tribal council sentenced a teen-age girl to death after a family member raped her at gunpoint.
What sets the United States — and other first-world developed nations — apart from tribal areas, extremist controlled regions, and third-world countries is a rights-centric judiciary and legal process. We are not barbarians in our methodologies related to justice, law, and punishment. Our courts’ punishments are prescribed and carried out not in the spirit of retribution or retaliation, but for more principled goals. We do not assemble in the town square with pitchforks and torches to demand the head of the accused.
Until now that is…
As with most opinions expressed by Donald Trump throughout his rise to fascist control and hatemongering, his view on crime and punishment is stuck in an age of American Neanderthalism — a backwards white male centric view that lacks any intelligence or capability of modern rationalism. Yesterday, Trump’s ignorance was on full display like a bright orange harvest moon as he shouted out across Twitter for the retaliatory murder of the Florida man responsible for Tuesday’s terror attack in New York City.
The United States is the nation it is because we have developed beyond the tribal and extremist institutions that still dominate Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and dozens of regions throughout Africa. We have a well-established, albeit faulty, judicial system where the accused are entitled to a panoply of rights and procedures to ensure the vigorous protections of civil and human rights — no matter what the crime or how heinous it may be. As a nation, we consider our advancements as superior to the images we see on television of tribal beheadings and stonings.
It is unfortunate that Donald Trump has yet to grasp the importance of the United States Constitution and its many rights and procedures, or that he cannot allow the law of the land to run its course. Tuesday’s attack claimed lives and, like the Las Vegas massacre, is another horrendous and disturbing statistic to add to the nation’s mounting concerns over domestic terrorism. Equally disturbing is Trump’s immediate calls for the death of the perpetrator.
…There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2017
Once again, Trump has proven that he lacks any measure of a leader. Instead of relying on the constitution and law to provide for the trial, verdict, and punishment of a terror suspect, Trump can only ignite emotions by deriding the justice system and pounding his pitchfork. His inability to trust the courts to issue appropriate justice and punishments points to a growing trend toward fascism under Trump. The demand for death subverts the very authorities that Trump has sworn to uphold and protect and interferes with the course of justice.
Throughout the twentieth century, the politics of American penology have wavered. One thing that has remained constant, however, is the trend away from retribution. According to the University of Chicago Law Review, judicially imposed punishment fulfills a number of goals from rehabilitation to deterrence. Retaliatory punishment, such as that called for by Trump in his Thursday tweets, is not a judicially recognized purpose of either prison or the death penalty.
America is a civilized nation trying to follow the alleged leadership of an uncivilized lunatic who cannot control his most basic urge to express his most inappropriate messages of barbarism. In that respect, Trump is no better than a tribal leader in the hills of Afghanistan who unilaterally decides to chop off a thief’s hands or stone a woman for adultery after she is raped. Trump possesses as much knowledge and respect for the United States Constitution as any extremist — domestic or international.
With each revelation that arrives via Trump’s Twitter account, the U.S. leans ever more dangerously toward fascism. It is more than just Trump’s attacks on opponents, the press, and long-standing democratic institutions. It is his complete lack of acceptance that he alone is not the government. We are a nation of 325 million, not one, and to think otherwise is simply an extremist point of view.