Hard-bitten, ruthless, and mean as a rattlesnake may be colorful descriptors for a character out of the Old West, but they’re not so charming when they apply to a state. Welcome to Arizona at 100!
February 14th is Arizona’s centennial. Having lived in the state for over a third of its existence, I feel more apt to toss my cookies than to toss confetti. It’s not that jobs have made a mass exodus out of the place or that the housing market has tanked, though both things are true. The problem is that our state government has become increasingly racist and cruel.
In case you’ve somehow missed the parade of national headlines that Arizona has inspired, here’s a quick rundown of the most egregious assaults on humanity by our duly-elected officials:
THE WAR ON LATINOS. One of the harshest anti-immigration laws in the country has resulted in the illegal roundups of Latinos (including citizens), deportations (also including citizens), and armed quasi-militiamen roaming our southern border. In addition, the state government has targeted a Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, threatening the school district with the loss of $14,000,000 if they didn’t shut the program down. In a vast overreaction, Tucson recently confiscated the program’s textbooks, taking some of them right out of children’s hands.
THE WAR ON THE POOR. State Senator Rich Crandall has introduced a bill to allow schools to opt out of the free lunch program, saying that children who attend schools that end the school lunch program may have to change schools if they need free lunches. This is a blatant attempt to ghettoize the poor. In addition, Maricopa County (Phoenix) Superior Court Judge Mark Brain ruled last August that just because the voters mandated that the state has to provide health care to the poor doesn’t mean that the legislature has to provide funding for everyone who is eligible, thus allowing the state to deny health care to many who qualify.
THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN. Arizona has never repealed the abortion ban in place before Roe vs. Wade, even though it’s illegal and unenforceable. What does that tell you? Last year, Arizona took the nonsensical step of criminalizing abortions that are based on the race or sex of a child. There’s no evidence that this is a problem, but now accusations can be made against women. Also, the father (and I use the term loosely) of an aborted fetus can sue a doctor who performs a race- or sex-selection abortion for monetary damages —a novel way of controlling health services to women.
THE WAR ON EDUCATION. The state has cut support for public universities by so much that the per-student state funding is 50 percent below pre-recession levels. School funding for K-12 is 24% below the 2008 level (per Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). Meanwhile, the corporate income tax rate has been slashed to 4.9 percent to attract businesses—who don’t want to locate here because the educational system is so sub-standard.
THE WAR ON FREE SPEECH. First of all, there’s the banning of books in the Tucson Unified School District. But also, the Republicans on a special legislative panel have come up with some new rules regulating protests at the Capitol. Applying for a permit is now more complicated and must be filed at least 10 days in advance—because of course, citizens know 10 days in advance that something will need to be protested. They also propose outlawing silent protest at the Capitol after 10 P.M., to control disruption…by…silent protests.
THE WAR ON VOTERS. Um, that would be Democratic voters. Governor Jan Brewer unilaterally and illegally fired Colleen Coyle Mathis, the chairwoman of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission—until the Arizona Supreme Court thankfully rapped Brewer on the knuckles and reinstated the chairwoman. This was before the commission even submitted a proposal for redistricting. Brewer and her fellow Republicans want to be sure, of course, that the new legislative and Congressional districts are gerrymandered to give all the advantages to their party. Also, voters have had to show photo ID in Arizona since 2004, but Republican legislators tried to impose a proof of citizenship requirement as well. Again, the state got a small reprieve when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the citizenship provision.
Certainly, other states are experiencing battles over similar issues, but Arizonans are the victims of wave after wave of assaults on their liberty and quality of life. A flood of people is leaving the state. Naturally, many of them are Latino, but others are just disgusted with the repressiveness of the current regime. Population growth has slowed dramatically, with some communities showing a negative growth rate.
Celebrate the centennial? Hah! The best celebration would be to boot out the current crop of residents and their rulers and give Arizona back to the indigenous people—who might actually care for the land and those who populate it. But since that’s not gonna happen, if anyone out there still wants to move to the desert, I’ve got a house they can buy—cheap!