A Celebration of
The Grand Canyon State
We've always found it passing strange that some of our brothers and sisters were intent on dismantling the gothic American code known as "Don't Ask/Don't Tell." For a few, DADT was an excellent excuse not to have to go trundling about in the pestiferous battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East. When asked to join a strange, dusty war in some vile country, one could simply say "I'm gay," thus be excused from such a fray.
By the same token we are befuddled by our friends in the Mexican-American community who are annoyed at the recent laws of Arizona that allow search and seizure of any and all --- when questioned by the police --- who turn out to be not 100% American. (In that state, all men, women, children, dogs, cats, and other living beings must provide rigorous proof of citizenship and --- when not forthcoming --- can be banished from the state forever.We can't think of a more laudable reason for sane people of Mexican descent to vacate the premises asap ... to get the hell out, to relocate to benign California, or gentle New Mexico ... even Utah. Only a masochist, we think, would choose to continue to live in a place so antediluvian.
Arizona is, indeed, a state better known for its dust-storms, saguaros, lizards and charivari than its hospitality. Thus, Chicanos should welcome SB 1070 because it forces them to get out of town, abandon their hostile environment forthwith.
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Jim Turner, author of Arizona, and presumably still a denizen, evidently wants us to forget these facts, forget its open-pit mines, dude ranches, the Nochaydelklinne, and governors who, when not railing about "the illegals" are mostly concerned with getting their fingers in the state cookie-jar. Arizona's weather may be great for frying iguanas and giving basal-cell carcinoma to the aged, but it is also loaded with drab little towns with drab little names like Bisbee, Morenci, Tuba City, Yuma, and Snaketown.
Even Phoenix, the city that was supposed to rise from the desert sun to recreate itself, had once been called Punkinville, and before that, Hohokam.
Romanticists like Turner would prefer to tell you about the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and even that most garish home to jukejoints and sleezy motels in America --- old Route 66 --- but he also reminds us that some of the main gifts of Arizona to the world have been earth fissures (from overdrawing the aquifers), Percival Lowell (the first and last astronomer to have claimed to see the "canals" on Mars), Alcoa, Phelps Dodge and Freeport McMoRan (look up their environmental records), several thousand murdered Indians, and Gila Bend ... home of the Gila Monster.
And, if you need no other tokens of the state, Turner has reminded us --- towards the end of this plush book --- that Parker and Pinal County were home to some 31,000 Japanese-Americans between 1942 and 1945, law-abiding people who would have much rather been at home, tending their gardens, minding their p's and q's, trying only to get ahead in the world instead of being herded off to a dustbowl there in the blighted desert.
Arizona is called "A Celebration," but it would better be known as "hernia-inducing." Drop it on your toe and you're a goner. It contains over three hundred pages of heavy paper stock with hundreds of photographs (the old ones being absolutely gorgeous) and a text that strives valiantly to paint a grobian culture as one that deserves our loyalty if not love.
But rather than seeing it as a monument to a state filled with plutocrats and ninnies, we could better see it as a repository of collective amnesia. And for those of us who treasure photographs from the deep past, it is a book whose pages might be subject to a bowie knife: so you can hang these exquisite pictures on your wall.
Finally, all Americans must acknowledge the terrible mistake we made in 1912, when we admitted Arizona, the last of the original forty-eight states to the union. Let us admit now, in all honesty, that it is something that would better have been left undone. There is one hope though ... and that is that its original owner from before 1848 would allow us to return it, postage due. God knows if they would accept, but, for our national sanity as well as future peace-of-mind, it is a step we must take ... if it's not already too late.
--- Richard Saturday