I can’t say some of my best friends are there, but I have great friends and acquaintances in Arizona – decent, reasonable, fair-minded, civilized men and women – and I worry about them these days.
Increasingly, they find themselves up against that tsunami of resentment and overreaction that seems to be only worsening since it introduced the “show me your papers” law that is a blueprint for ethnic profiling, notwithstanding avowals to the contrary.
The fear mongers have been on a roll since that law passed a few months back. As if they were only buoyed and bucked up by the national recoil from the stinking new law, Arizona lawmakers got their hackles up over ethnic studies programs, aiming to banish such long-lived staples of modern education, which only came into being because non-whites had been excluded in the original curricula and the system had some serious explaining to do.
Then there was the dust-up over a mural in Prescott, Arizona that was intended to inspire young people’s involvement in environmental protection, but which, instead, inspired a bunch of supremacists to protest that the most dominant child figure in the artwork had dark skin.
Now there is talk of denying citizenship to children born in Arizona if their parents are illegal immigrants.
That is the boldest stroke yet since it flouts the U.S. Constitution, which confers citizenship on anyone born or naturalized here and forbids any state from withholding that person’s constitutionally prescribed rights.
Since conservatives seem never to have a problem with self-contradiction, hypocrisy or double standards, it cannot be surprising – only shocking – that this screwy, illicit and mean-hearted idea comes from the same camp that is constantly crowing about being “constitutionalists” and demanding “strict constructionists” on the U.S. Supreme Court.
They are the same ones who won’t entertain rational arguments about, for example, the Second Amendment, which was passed at a time when national security still relied on a quilt of volunteers and separate militias and, hence, it made sense that such folks kept a firearm at the ready in case, say, the Redcoats got busy again.
Of course, no one back then could have anticipated the Uzi, the Glock, or the AK-47. While they might have imagined the professionalism of the armed forces, they could not have foreseen the smart bomb or the drone or any of the other martial technologies that are commonplace today.
But, to hear these self-congratulating hard-line conservatives tell it, the Constitution must be taken at its word, in every literal sense, and not subjected to modern interpretations or situational tests.
“The right to bear arms,” they will tell you with all certitude, is not compromisable.
But, the 14th Amendment? Now, that, apparently, is a horse of a different color – a brown one, in this case.
Though there is nothing ambiguous or equivocal about its language, that amendment can, in the eyes of the Arizona avengers, not only be changed, but more conveniently (and alarmingly), it can be flat-out ignored.
I don’t know if the air, the soil or the water feel different in Arizona lately, but there certainly has been a political climate change.
It is fast losing its reputation as a citadel of rugged individualism and respect for any man or woman with the guts and grit to make a go of it.
With regrets to my Arizona friends, your state is becoming the nation’s nut case.
August 17, 2012 //
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