Leaving Arizona – Part II – the politics

I moved to Arizona in 2003 to take a job. Landing in Tucson, solidly in the southern part of the state, I grew to love the area. Fabulous weather (albeit blazingly hot in the summer), quirky neighborhoods, and outstanding outdoor activities like hiking, and biking.

I lived in Tucson for almost 10 years, and while I enjoyed it, there are problems with the area. Civic planning is at best an afterthought. Poor growth policies and pathetic allocation of greenspaces was a frustration. Still, it was home.

2012 found us moving to a suburb of Phoenix for my job. It was a culture shock to say the least. Urban sprawl everywhere, yet with some clear planning so that the neighborhoods are well laid out. Plenty of green space reserved. Adequate distribution of shopping and restaurants. It “feels” like a real city, where Tucson felt like a town that just kept bursting at the seams.

While I lived in Tucson, I was aware of how bizarre the politics of Arizona are, but we lived in a pocket of rationality. Moving to Phoenix was a culture shock. Arizona has always been a Republican leaning state, with some characters that make you facepalm often. You get this front and center in the valley. Intolerance, bigotry, hatred are front and center.

I used to read about places in the deep south and shake my head at their antics, but Arizona seems to want to outdo them at every step. I shouldn’t be surprised at a state that didn’t observe Martin Luther King‘s birthday until the loss of tourism dollars made it really painful (they were denied the 1993 Superbowl due to their backwards-ness)

Things that should be no brainers, like shoring up public education, improving the lot of the residents, and promoting freedom and equality are ignored, instead the politicians here want to punish gays, and hispanics, protect the unborn (or restrict women’s reproductive freedom), promote the propagation of firearms, and in general hassle brown people.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is hailed by the constituents here as a great man, but he is a walking liability, and is probably costing the state more in defending his inane tactics at the federal level than the cost of illegal immigrants. All the rest of it is just being mean, trying to extend the old white male domination.

Oh, and making it legal for anyone without a felony conviction to be able to just carry a concealed handgun, no permit required. Fairly often, there is a push to allow college students to carry concealed on campus. Yeah, barely out of their teens, lots of emotional issues, and rampant alcohol (and drug) use goes great with deadly weapons. SMH.

On concealed weapons, it is really bizarre here. Getting a concealed permit is easy. Take a class, pass a background check, and some pretty easy marksmanship test, and you are golden. While I think it should be a bit mroe strenuous (particularly the safety and marksmanship part) I am cool with that.

However, a while back the legislature made it legal for anybody with a clean record to carry concealed. No background check, no safety training, no basic shooting skills. Sigh. Anyone who thinks that random people should be able to just carry a weapon anywhere should be required to watch a class of their fellow citizens who are taking the extra step of getting a CCW permit do their shooting qualification. Some of the worst marksmanship I have EVER seen, and they are the “good” ones who are taking the effort to get the permit. They would have trouble hitting the side of a barn from the inside.

Summary

Arizona has a lot of good things going for it. However, the politics are a bit wacko. In most of the backwards states (like Texas) the tide of demographics will reduce the power of the old white male bigot. Alas here, while demographics are changing, a unique phenomenon seems to happen. Being a destination for retirees, we seem to be replenishing our dying racists with imports from the north faster than the population browns.

This leads to some of the most insane policies, and laws from our legislature. Things that make most rational people shake their heads in wonder.

There are plenty of sensible people here, it is just that their voices are squashed via gerrymandering, and the inanity of legislature.

There are some signs of progress. Last election saw Joe Arpaio coming ever closer to losing his office, we often have a democrat in the governor’s mansion to balance out the wackos, the racists, and the homophobes that seem to win local seats.

I am under no delusions, California has its own problems, but 11 years in Arizona has given me a new appreciation for my home state.

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