The aftermath of the tragic and senseless shooting in Tucson brings out a lot of different responses from different kinds of people. The one I have seen today on CNN amazed me the most. It is titled "Sheriff Dupnik is right about Arizona" and is written by one Ruben Navarrette, Jr. (to be mentioned again later).
I cannot say that the direction of the article is startlingly original. After all, its title suggests the opposite. After all, Sheriff Dupnik is the man who started the line of thought that connected the shooting with the allegedly lamentable mental condition of Arizona, which state, according to him, is consumed by bigotry and prejudice. I hope that the esteemed Sheriff is eying his hat considering its culinary qualities now that it is abundantly clear that the shooter is another demented lunatic. It is Sheriff Dupnik's job now to explain how this lunatic succeeded to purchase a gun and the ammunition. (I am also willing to bet that Sheriff's insistence on a wider conspiracy that led to the shooting, involving another suspect, will fizzle out. And I am not a betting man.)
But let's leave Sheriff Dupnik alone with the fresh misery of his bold (and mistaken) allegations and the old misery of his family name. Because Mr Navarette really left him standing. Sheriff Dupnik can only blink, trying to clear his eyes from the dust cloud left by Mr Navarette. The gist of what Mr Navarette thinks about Arizona could be seen in one paragraph*:
Raise your hand if you have had it with the drama capital of America, which seems to spend more time on the front page than the other 49 states combined. Or if you think the Grand Canyon State has become, in recent years, more trouble than it's worth. Or if you feel like saying, to paraphrase what folk singer Phil Ochs said about Mississippi in the 1960s: "Here's to the people you've torn out the heart of. Arizona, find yourself another country to be part of."How do you like them chickens? Of course, I have a few friends that will quickly catch up with the fact of the author being a Californian and will definitely have a few things to say about it, as well as about the fact that Mr Navarette "is a nationally syndicated columnist, an NPR commentator, and a CNN.com contributor". And the ethnic origins of the said author (which could explain, at least partly, the exceedingly vituperative style of this piece) will not escape any reader's attention (and don't play a politically correct doofus, please, in the comments on this here blog - yes, ethnicity influences people's opinions, surprising as it may appear to some).
But let's leave all these alone, because what I really wanted is to take a look at Arizona as an outsider. Not being a US citizen, I've clocked almost 4 years by now in my longer stays and short visits to the country. Arizona occupies one of the top positions in my heart, albeit for reasons irrelevant to the subject of this post (namely its nature, which is one of the most diverse in US, although Mr. Navarette may be unaware of this fact - many Americans are unaware of it). Well, being familiar with lots of different locations in US, I can say with a great deal of confidence that all of them have their good folks, their medium folks and their rednecks**. I would dare say that the proportion of these three categories in the population is more or less stable in US, as it is all over the world. I don't believe, no matter how diligently our CNN expert is trying to make us to, that Arizona is the seat of Devil right now, and as such should be scourged and exorcised to perfection. Or, at least, to the standards of San Diego area where Ruben Navarrette, Jr. happens to reside.
Wait, you may want to say, it's only a personal opinion, supported at best by anecdotal references. OK, so what about the litany of accusations thrown at poor Arizona by our CNN expert? Let the state that didn't know its fair share of bigotry, racism and prejudice in the last century throw the first stone. Then we shall see. And Navarrette's memory trip:
Throughout the 20th century, Arizona was a Southwestern bastion of unbridled racism and discrimination. Restaurants had signs in windows that read: "No dogs or Mexicans allowed."
Signs reading “No dogs or Mexicans allowed” (or “No Mexicans or dogs allowed") were placed in some restaurants in Texas and the Southwest in the 1950s and 1960s. The civil rights movement of the 1960s and the passage of civil rights legislation finally put an end to such restaurant signs.
On the other hand, when you, as an outsider like I am, read the news, show me another state as peppered as Arizona is by drug-related shootings on its border with Mexico, by the incessant stream of illegal immigrants (yes, no matter how the politically correct establishment wants to call them, they are still illegal immigrants), by tens of years without a solution. Even if the current administration tries to do something, it is a drop in the ocean when compared with what has to be done. In short, if Arizona is buzzing, it is not, as Mr Navarrette tries to interpret, due to excessive numbers of bigots and racists. Not that Arizona lacks its share of rabble-rousers.
Speaking about rabble-rousers - a bit of a personal angle, alien as it may be in this post. What kind of person starts his own bio blurb on his own site with something like this:
Ruben Navarrette, Jr. is a fresh and increasingly important voice in the national political debate. His twice-weekly column offers new thinking on many of the major issues of the day...You tell me...
Update: The hat-eating act by Sheriff Dupnik has already started:
Meanwhile, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said Monday morning that the investigation was "winding down," and that authorities have evidence that suspect Loughner specifically targeted the congresswoman. "He's a very troubled individual," Dupnik said.I guess Sheriff is a somewhat troubled individual too now.
Update 2: and more on the Pima County fiasco.
Jared Loughner has been making death threats by phone to many people in Pima County including staff of Pima Community College, radio personalities and local bloggers. When Pima County Sheriff’s Office was informed, his deputies assured the victims that he was being well managed by the mental health system. It was also suggested that further pressing of charges would be unnecessary and probably cause more problems than it solved as Jared Loughner has a family member that works for Pima County.This story has to be confirmed yet, but it could be a proof of Sheriff's department neglect of the case.
Update 3: NYT will (almost) have you believe that Representative Gabrielle Gifford shot herself. Well, if not, it is the darn Arizona's gun culture that is responsible. Republicans are not mentioned as the guilty party anymore. Or for now.
But lo and behold:
On April 3, 1981, the Associated Press published a story headlined “Sheriff Tells Residents to Arm Themselves for Protection.” The top paragraph of the story, datelined Tucson, said: “Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has advised Pima County residents to arm themselves because his decimated department lacks the manpower to protect them.”Of course, people grow up and change their opinions, but still - ain't it interesting?
(*) Mr Navarette succeeded to botch even a short paraphrase of Phil Ochs. Compare with the original.
(**) When I say "redneck" I am not referring to a racial/national stereotype but rather to a mentality. Every country has its rednecks, although not all of them carry a shotgun in their pickups' cabin and/or use road signs for their target practice. Israeli rednecks, for instance... OK, another time.