First off, I’ve been remiss thanking people for their comments. So let me give a quick shout out to Cousin #7, David, Ankhesen Mie, Tara, and Raul for their feedback. I truly appreciate the feedback.
Second, let me tell you about my recent field trip.
I landed at Phoenix airport with more than a little trepidation. After all, we’re talking about Arizona here — the land of SB 1070, hardcore anti-Latino sentiment, general nuttiness, and a strain of social conservatism so intense that anyone to the left of John Boehner has been known to shield his eyes from the xenophobic glare.
According to several Hispanic organizations, I shouldn’t have even been there. The movement to boycott Arizona and everything related to it has been constant and loud.
But I was scheduled to be in the state for all of six hours. My latest client, a company that hired me to rewrite its web content, asked me to fly in to their Phoenix office to get a quick overview of the organization.
Considering that it was a reasonable request, and a good-paying gig, I was hard-pressed to say no. Plus, they were covering all my expenses and paying my hourly fee even while I was sitting on the plane, playing Angry Birds and running up their tab by ordering those little bottles of overpriced wine from chipper flight attendants.
In addition, while I have been ever so antagonistic toward Arizona lately, I never said I was boycotting the state. For starters, I think most such efforts are noble but doomed to failure. More important, however, I’ve always wondered if such a tactic nails innocent bystanders (e.g., Latino business owners) more than it does the powerful instigators of the conflict.
Perhaps this was just self-serving justification, however, so I resolved not to spend any money while I was in the state. This turned out to be pretty damn easy, considering I went right from the airport to the company’s offices and back again, with no chance to stop anywhere to buy anything. How’s that for preserving principles?
Regardless, I am pleased to report that everyone I interacted with in Arizona was perfectly nice to me. Granted, I spoke to only five or six people at my clients’ office and a few more at the airport. But no one in this tiny sample seemed like a fire-breathing racist to me.
As such, maybe even in a place as certifiable as Arizona, the majority of people are reasonable, friendly individuals who don’t seek to harass others just for being different. Perhaps even in this place — the sun-baked ground zero for American rage and fear — there exists a surplus of decency that gets drowned out by the sheer intensity of a self-righteous faction.
I would like to think so.
In any case, it was a bit eerie to finally see the land I had written so many words about, and upon which I had heaped so much mental energy. Yes, I had driven through Arizona twice as an adult, and I spent a couple of days in Tucson when I was a kid.
But this was my first time since all the craziness went down that I trod upon its streets and breathed in its superheated air. I was there, among the cactus and not far from Jan Brewer herself. Now that’s a creepy feeling.
And despite the fact that everything went smoothly, and even with the fresh memories of all the nice Arizonans I met that day, I have to admit that I was happy to leave and get back home.