In a letter to Richard Price dated January 8, 1789, President and founding father Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshiped by many who think themselves Christians.”
Jefferson was taking offense toward those who use the excuse of religion to justify persecution of others, self-serving moral or ethical behaviors-as well as the perceived right to remain ignorant of human compassion, understanding and acceptance for the maintenance of their own fears and biases.
And if Jefferson was alive today, he could readily and easily license that statement for use on a postcard with a nice, scenic picture of the Arizona State Capital in the background.
As a citizen of the state of Arizona, and with the pending SB 1062 legislation on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk right now, there are a multitude of reasons why I feel compelled to write this editorial.
First off, I must say here and now that I am embarrassed of my state. This is not the first time I have felt this way and unfortunately I am certain it will not be the last. Arizona’s refusal for many years to recognize MLK Day officially; as well as the passage of SB 1070 giving law enforcement officials the right to profile minorities in the name of illegal immigration, were both egregious displays of ignorance and insensitivity.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s ongoing nationwide crusade attempting to out President Barack Obama as a Kenyan born Muslim imposter is yet another black eye for those here who wish to be seen as more than paranoid conspiracy theorists.
Mentally ill gun owner Jared Loughner wounding Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killing several others outside of a grocery store in Tucson–not only distasteful for those who do not believe in owning firearms (and yes, there are a few of us interspersed amongst the many religiously 2nd amendment proponents I promise), but also horribly tragic to boot.
This list could easily go on and on–legislature curbing women’s reproductive rights, constitutional amendments outlawing LGBT rights and unions, the outlawing of comparative cultural studies programs in schools, etc., etc.
Arizona remains a constant embarrassment to itself, its citizens, the nation and the world, which becomes more integrated and inclusive all the time…while my state chooses to live in a time capsule that grows staler and staler with each passing day spent going backward.
And I will state honestly, I for one do not think the Governor will even sign this current legislation into law. Conservative Republican Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, not to mention former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney are urging her to veto this legislation–as have several more moderate GOP lawmakers who originally supported it.
There exists, in my state, a very powerful fundamentalist ideological and cultural faction supporting this bill and continually putting others like it out there for review. They are supported by a sizeable portion of the citizenry, as well as political/authority figures like current Attorney General and former Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Horne.
What this faction wants is the ability to discriminate at will, and not just against homosexuals. If this legislation was to pass, anyone who is not of White Christian stock and belief will be subject to rampant and irrecourseable bias and bigotry in the name of God.
SB 1062 utilizes the same argument those who supported the Jim Crow laws in the United States pre-Civil Rights era used to justify racism and intolerance against black people–that one’s creator deems hatred to be both a pure virtue and divine mandate.
And this kind of antagonistic, demonistic martyrdom Jefferson wrote about seems to be indicative of the mindset of many of those in charge of in the state I call home. For all of the indigenous and transplanted cultural and ethnic diversity here; for all of the potential and possibility America as a nation, and the sum of its individual fifty states encompass and espouse metaphorically and mythologically speaking as being equally and meritocratically available to everyone sans any difference between them–well, in Arizona reality plays out more like a broken record…the same old song over and over again, even if the tune changes ever so slightly from rotation to rotation.
Maybe one day, my state will have a positive claim to fame, say thinkers or doers who are responsible for the betterment of society instead of its detriment; or for bringing people together instead of further tearing them apart politically, culturally, ideologically and humanly speaking.
However for now, this latest controversy is yet another in a long line of ongoing negative claims to fame–and more ammunition as to why Arizona is neither a nice place to visit, or to live unless one wants to think, be and act like that fundamentalist faction does…or else be willingly subservient and silent to its inhuman ideological whims and fancies.