In recent years, Arizona has earned a reputation as hot, crazy, extreme and angry. I hate to admit it, but these characterizations are all accurate.
Certainly, the “Valley of the Sun” surrounding Phoenix reaches summer-time temperatures that would make Satan drool. But the extreme heat could also refer to Arizona politics.
You see, Arizona was settled by Confederate soldiers and Confederate sympathizers who were escaping the aftermath of the Civil War. Drawn here by the prospects of ranching and prospecting for gold, these people were literally running away from civilization. Of course, that might also describe many of the more recent arrivals. Since the invention of air conditioning, conservatives from Southern California, New England and the upper Midwest have been drawn to Arizona by its reputation for conservative politics. Tired of being part of a political minority in their previous states, they came to Arizona to get their cowboy on.
This is, after all, the land of Barry Goldwater.
Now in the political majority (albeit a slight majority), these people buy cowboy hats and guns and strut around like the bullies they are. Our legislature reflects this mentality. Over the past 8 years, the Arizona government has cut nearly $2 billion from public education because Teapublicans consider it a form of socialism. As a result, according to some surveys, our state now ranks 51st in spending per pupil (behind all the other states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico). The Arizona legislature has sold off our state buildings, even our state capitol, to private enterprise resulting in millions of additional spending per year.
The Arizona legislature and our finger-wagging governor signed SB1070 into law – not just to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants, but to further populate the private prison industry. This despite the fact that Arizona already leads the nation and the world in the percentage of its citizens that are incarcerated. In fact, Arizona spends 40 percent more on prisons than any other state in the Union (that is, if you still consider Arizona to be part of the Union).
In recent years, the state has closed many of its state parks and many of its Interstate rest stops despite the fact that tourism is Arizona’s largest industry.
Now many Arizona conservatives are pushing a sovereignty bill that would attempt to reclaim national parks and federal lands. Of course, this would be unconstitutional. But that doesn’t matter to these ideologues. We already lead the nation in the number of lawsuits and legal challenges to the federal government.
Of course, many of us are working hard to change the state and it’s renegade image. Our reward is to have political signs stolen, cars vandalized and numerous physical threats.
So Kansas, you can now enjoy a sigh of relief. Your state is no longer considered the wackiest state in the nation. Arizona has seen your wackiness and raised you a large sum of stupidity.