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Arizona has certainly had its share of the news lately...some of it earned...some not, depending on your perspective. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnikhas called his own state a "mecca of prejudice and bigotry" much to the chagrin of many of its citizens. Is Arizona unique or is it just the only state that happens to be under a micrscope? Is Arizona the "canary in the coal mine" as we look at how the "vitriolic rhetoric" is spreading within our own states and our nation as a whole?
Will Bunch of Media Matters provides his perspective of Arizona in his January 11th article, Arizona, where the American Dream went to die. Bunch relates his experiences traveling and interviewing Tea Party and other people in Arizona almost a year ago when that state was earning the reputation as "the undisputed No. 1 in vitriol and bile." We've read about all the stories in the media...but why Arizona?
As Bunch points out, "the state is coming to represent a violent revolution of rising, and failed expectations. For much of the last generation, Arizona was held out as a promised land -- for retirees looking to write the closing chapters of life under heavenly skies, for immigrants who would meet the bottomless demand for hard work, for families looking to raise their kids into this thriving and up-and-coming economy, buoyed by boundless real estate and low taxes. It seemed too good to be true, and it was. By the time I got there in March 2010, it was clear that Arizona was the place that the American Dream went to die."
"Entire subdivisions were unfinished and half-empty, victims of the housing bubble. The immigrants from Mexico who once flooded the Home Depot parking lots to get picked up for day labor were not only unable to find work, but they went from backbone of the Arizona economy to scapegoats, blamed (despite studies to the contrary) of taking jobs and draining services. Those retirees spent mornings on the golf course but afternoons inside the bubble of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and vitriolic local radio hosts like once and future GOP candidate J.D. Hayworth, and fear and anger sizzled like an egg cracked down on a desert highway. Government was useless -- closing rest stops on the interstates and farming out the prison system to inept contractors rather than truly balancing the budget."
Instead of focusing on the real factors...the banks, and too much borrowing and outsourcing of jobs...the people of Arizona engaged in blaming "The Other" in listening to the toxic soup of talk radio where "virulent anti-immigrant nativism -- occasionally sprinkled with things like neo-Nazism -- grew into the desert, as did fear of Muslims." Bunch calls it a "new zeitgeist" -- where "moderate Democrats like Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords were not just to be disagreed with but to be physically threatened with vandalism or worse... and where guns became a statewide obsession."
Bunch's article is worth reading and reflecting upon. In reading it, ask yourself not just "Why Arizona?" but also could what is happening in Arizona be a harbinger to what will happen in your state. Is Arizona the canary in the coal mine?