The older I get, the more I appreciate that line by Elvis Costello: "Oh, I used to be disgusted/ Now I try to be amused..."
But you'll forgive me if Sheriff Joe Arpaio's latest stunt nevertheless leaves me nauseated. According to an MCSO press release, he will be hosting five year-old Kevin Vicente at his office, today at 11:30 a.m.
Vicente is the little boy who had his face half-chewed off by a vicious pit bull in February.
After that shocking incident, human nature being what it is, many people initially rallied around the, um, pit bull.
As in many cases where a dog is deemed a danger to humans, the pit bull was to be destroyed, 'til dog lovers worldwide demanded that the pooch be allowed to live.
Arpaio stepped in and offered to take the dog into custody at his Maricopa Animal Safe Haven unit, which keeps pets confiscated from their owners. The judge in the case bent to public pressure and allowed the deal.
Recently, Arpaio debuted his online "Mickey cam," where idiot dog nuts can watch the rescued canine's living in the lap of mutt luxury, 24/7.
Kevin, on the other hand, still needs a new face. His mom Flor had to quit work to take care of him. A local non-profit, the Maricopa Health Foundation, has been helping the single mother with bare essentials (food, rent, etc.), and Arizona's Medicaid program AHCCCS has picked up the tab for most of the medical care.
But AHCCCS apparently does not cover plastic surgery, so Phoenix attorney Jack Wilenchik, son of this paper's former nemesis Dennis Wilenchik, and Jack's wife Rosario helped Flor set up an Indiegogo.com account to raise funds for the plastic surgery.
The response was impressive: since December 5, when it began, the appeal has exceeded its original goal far in advance of the cutoff.
As I write this, the account boasts more than $23,000 in donations, and an appointment has been set up for Kevin with a local plastic surgeon to see if his face has healed enough to begin reconstructive surgery.
One anonymous donor gave $13,000 a couple of days ago. Now guess who wants to horn in on the act? Joe, natch. Except, his donation will not be anonymous. In fact, it comes with its own price tag: publicity for the sheriff.
Indeed, Arpaio, carnival barker that he is, has invited all of the media down to the MCSO building today to share in the heartwarming tale of a little boy, a dog and megalomaniacal octogenarian pol, who just can't help himself.
The release reads:
Though Mickey gets a lot of attention, Kevin's mom agreed that the Sheriff's heart was in the right place and on Friday at 11:30AM, Flor and Kevin Vicente will come to the Sheriff's personal office for presents for him and money in the form of a sizeable check from the Sheriff's Youth Assistance Foundation, a 501©(3).
"There were two victims in this case," Arpaio says. "Both are important to me and this office. We reach out to the community's neediest family every holiday season...I can't think of anyone who needs some holiday cheer more than this little boy and his mom."
Admittedly, it's a brilliant PR move, and it distracts from the recent news that Arpaio will next year be closing down his Criminal Employment Unit, the one that did all those raids on businesses employing undocumented workers.
Kevin is an adorable kid, and I would not begrudge him or his mother any donation or gift. They need and truly deserve all the help they can get, no matter how odious the source.
But if there were a sincere bone in Joe's decrepit frame, all he'd need to do is send the kid a check, or go on Indiegogo and contribute anonymously.
You know, like the person who gave Kevin and Flor $13,000.
Which reminds me of a bit of scripture, from the Gospel of Matthew 6:1-4:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Arpaio is receiving his award in full, all right.
That he has to get it while exploiting an impoverished little boy and his mother is what has me reaching for the Pepto-Bismol.
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