Sunday, 9 January 2011

Jellyfish Day of Epic Proportions

I lived in Arizona for 36 years, and of those, in Tucson for over 12, and it’s the last community in Arizona where I would predict a shooting like yesterday's to happen. Tucson tends toward a liberal or at the very least, a laid-back, live-and-let-live ambiance in comparison to many conservative areas of the state.

I’d never dreamed of seeing an event so singularly tragic unfold in Arizona in my lifetime. The intended target just had to be one of the nicer, kinder AZ legislators who uses her time and influence to make a difference for her constituents rather than enriching herself by playing people for votes. The 8th District's U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, for all appearances, is a decent and committed national legislator.

I predicted tragedies in the making last year when Arizona legislators under Governor Jan Brewer’s watch rescinded a slightly more restrictive gun law and adopted a conceal carry, no permit scenario, shortly followed by the over-reaching SB 1070 “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”. Bent on curbing illegal immigration, the act controversially stretches the U.S. Constitution and plays with Federal powers.

There are usually reasons why the Federal government gets to exert some weight and play a cooler hand, I’m thinking. Just seems to me. Not that Uncle Sam is always right, because he isn't, but Uncle Sam in recent years is at least mostly cognizant of the responsibility to assure the welfare and rights of all living inside national borders, regardless of their legal status.

I didn’t extend my prediction to include an attempt on a national legislator’s life, along with the death of a federal judge, a young girl, and several bystanders. I thought we’d see much more citizen-on-citizen crime in Arizona, especially whites and other races toward Latinos, or the senseless type of domestic violence that appears in hard times when guns are easy to reach for.

It took Governor Jan Brewer more than two hours to appear on television yesterday and make a statement – she should have been the FIRST to express grief and to decry the violence. She and other legislators who have driven this somewhat fear-based legislation and talked tough about unseating political opponents - often more to gain votes than to actually accomplish anything - got their damn votes, though it was a close election for some.

It appears that a certain type of not-so-good political rhetoric and how it stirred up people with less than sterling character and rock-solid emotional stability has brought some karmic weight upon the shoulders of the Arizona governor and legislators. In addition to this type of political rhetoric from the conservative right and maybe even the far left, there have also been many unenlightened people meddling in Arizona state politics, such as the writers of SB 1070, who stirred up beaucoup trouble from far away to further their ideology and political agenda. A pot of jellyfish does not make edible soup.

After living in Wales for a year, experiencing the political climate in Arizona’s wild, wild west is like stepping into a desert wildfire. It doesn’t feel healthy and it doesn’t feel safe. Now you can see one reason why I’m cooling my heels in S. Cali and avoiding my home in central AZ, where there are a bumper crop of fearful people who probably don’t consider themselves to be hateful, who love their families and their friends, and probably do lots of good deeds in their communities. But there is too much anger and fear in their hearts, and their stated ideology has a raw effect despite their intrinsic goodness. Plenty of truly nice folks with kinder, gentler hearts live over yonder too, but the political climate runs too hot and too heavy for my taste.

Kudos to Pima County Sherriff Dupnik for publicly saying many things that most Arizona officials, including Governor Jan Brewer, dared not say. As he indicated, “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry. . . It’s time to do a little soul-searching . . .”

Sundogs or more jellyfish? Hope springs eternal in the human heart. I’d love to think that this is the shining moment when people will pack it in, eat another bowl of brown rice and chant Om in a big bipartisan circle. But the vitriolic infection in America runs deep.

I predict the US will eventually (and hopefully very soon) shift to a true multi-party, parliamentarian type of government in which more people are fairly represented and a coalition Congress and Senate must work hand-in-hand with the people; either that, or Dems will sweep the 2012 elections after two years of Tea Party gridlock and a boatload of partisan grief. People will find that many of their extreme, rightwing legislators will not bring them the relief or the comfort they voted for and may even undo some pretty good sundog stuff in their surreal zeal to re-work the Constitution and turn back the clock.

Unfortunately, I suspect that human nature being what it is, full of conflict and obstacle, that this one incident will not be enough to calm extremists down. We’ve watched the drama of extremism play out on an international stage in the last decade and have developed plenty of our own homegrown variety. While yesterday's shooting spree will spur already sensible people to reflect and behave responsibly, many fundamentalist and hard-core, rightwing types will likely not see the light. And mentally unstable folk spurred on by outside rhetoric can't see the light.

Sadly, this may not be the end of the story, especially not in reactionary Southwestern states like Arizona and Texas. The high emotion during the mid-term elections stirred up vitriol in virtually every state in the nation, so no corner of our fair land is truly exempt from this spectre of violence, either. This incident may even inspire copycat events. Some of the hatred spewed on the internet and over the air toward government leaders, even after the elections unseated many officials, is shocking.

You notice that I haven’t focused upon the perpetrator in my rambling. In a way, Jared Loughner is a victim too, of the times, of his youth and inexperience, of his unbalanced, conceptual thought, and of the thoughts and actions of far more sane and responsible people than he.

He is our nephew, our brother, our son. We let him down. We let us down. We have some work to do, America.

My heart bleeds sundogs for my old love, a culturally diverse and beautiful place. Get well soon, Arizona.

Wrong Way
 Puja Robinson © 2009

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