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At Least It's Pretty to Think So

I don't expect anyone to shed tears over the recent sentencing of Proud Boys members, Ethan Nordean and Dominic Pezzola. A total of 28 years in federal prison seems about right for men who tried to overthrow the government and whose actions led directly to the deaths of several innocent people, including one of their own.

They have, in a real sense, taken one for the team—the MAGA team— and have shown once again that hitching one's wagon to the dimmest and (in this case) dumbest star can ruin one's life and the lives of family and friends. It can cost people their jobs, homes, marriages, and peace of mind. And some of them die.

But the star itself flickers on without regard for the utter destruction that trails it. The possibility exists that the star in this case, Donald Trump, will serve no jail time whether or not he is convicted, and if that comes to pass, he will follow in the footsteps of other criminals and wrongdoers who have skated while their underlings paid the price.

Underlings like Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers founder, 18 years in prison.

Like Peter Schwartz, who distributed police pepper spray to rioters, 14 years and two months;

Like Thomas Webster, who attacked police with a metal pole, ten years in prison (One of the few to apologize)

And like Guy Wesley Reffitt, carrying a handgun and zip ties into the Capitol: 87 months in prison. (When his children testified in his defense, stating that he had been radicalized, he warned them that "traitors get shot." There goes his father-of-the-year opportunity.)

Many of the convicted felons have sworn to come back better armed and better organized, while others, though free and on probation, continue to follow the hazy logic of their cult leader. As is invariably the case with every monomaniacal leader from Macbeth to Capone to Hitler to Putin, the trail of death and destruction is long and horrific, but the responsible party is always the last to pay. (Macbeth makes it to Act V, Capone to a syphilitic death at 48, and Hitler almost to the end of the war. Putin? We'll see.)

So it is with Trump. Thousands of private citizens charged, hundreds imprisoned, fined, and facing probation, defenders of the Capitol permanently injured, psychologically scarred, and fatally wounded, and the one responsible for their misery has the run of sunny Mar-a-Lago and the right to campaign for the presidency.

However, the sentencing of ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio (22 years) may have a more chilling effect on Prince MAGA, for Tarrio, like Trump, was not physically present at the Capitol during the rioting and insurrection but planned it and oversaw the actions of the thugs and hoodlums (and yes, the misguided and duped) on January 6, 2021. Twenty-two big ones for Tarrio, and he wasn't even there...just like Trump...who also did not attend the riot but engineered it with two months of lies and fabrications, which he knew would whip his cultists into actions both illegal and treasonous. I don't know enough about the law to know if this qualifies as precedent, or if it's more reminiscent of the Hemingway quote at the end of The Sun Also Rises: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

As one would expect, the incarcerations have not become learning experiences for The Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and their ilk whose membership numbers have swelled. But America's shameful overabundance of prisons may become its salvation: we have jails and penitentiaries aplenty. Historically it has been the poor and the minorities who have paid the price; now maybe it's time for the autocrats and traitors to gain the experience.

And if it doesn't turn out that way, it's still pretty to think so.

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