Arizona’s wake up call

TUCSON, Ariz. – Tucsonans like to think that our city is different, that it’s a progressive oasis in an otherwise right wing extremist state.  Joe Arpaio, the notoriously racist sheriff lives up in Phoenix, as do Republicans Governor Brewer, Attorney General Tom Horne (who is attacking ethnic studies programs here) and State Senate leader Russell Pearce who authored the states draconian SB 1070 anti-immigrant law.

The deadly shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and 19 others has made us sit up. At first we sat glued to the TV or Internet to soak in the catastrophe. Tucson is a small city. We know Gabby Giffords. We are familiar with the strip mall where it happened, and with the hospital where they took the wounded. We waited for the names of the victims knowing that the list will probably include a friend or a co-worker. People cried.  Folks came down to Gifford’s office and to the hospital to light candles and begin vigils that are still growing.

Tucsonans are sad but angry. We’re sad because we can no longer pretend we’re Baja Arizona, somehow separate from those right-wingers in Phoenix. Now we remember the bomb threats, vandalism, and gunshots directed at the Congressional offices of Giffords and Grijalva, our other congress member. So we’re angry at the political climate in Arizona that encourages these acts of terrorism. We’re angry at the talk radio shows, the right-wing legislature, U.S. Senator Kyl, R-Ariz., and the elected officials who come up with one racist anti-immigrant or anti-worker bill after another. Meanwhile our schools and health care continue to rot. And we’re angry with the corporate interests who own the politicians and the hate spewing radio stations.         

Every event here is turning into a memorial. A press conference that had been scheduled to denounce the attacks on the 14th amendment and ethnic studies in schools was a case in point. Kat Rodriguez of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos summed it all up, “Our legislature started the year walking in hate.” All the speakers pointed out that it’s not only the talk shows that encourage violence but it’s the governor, legislative leadership and other right-wing elected officials who have created a climate that encourages acts of violence and terrorism.

This tragedy is a wake up call for all Arizonans. It’s time to take back our state from the right-wing, anti-people demagogues and their corporate masters. We must demand that they stop blaming immigrants for their failures. We need to organize to resist their coming assaults. We need to sweep them out of office. We have much work ahead.

Photo: Vigil for the victims of the Arizona shooting in Tucson. Courtesy of Alexander Monarrez-Maldonado.




Joe Bernick
Joe Bernick

Joe Bernick is Director, Salt of the Earth Labor College, Tucson, Arizona.