Tuesday, January 17, 2012

study abroad

After yet another lunch with my co-workers started out with me exclaiming "I can't believe that in Arizona someone can get away with doing X!", one long-suffering office buddy noted that my time in Arizona is like a study abroad trip. In a few weeks I get to return to the coastal comfort of living in a generally politically progressive place and tell stories about the wild things folks do out in Arizona. Among the things that have been shocking me lately:
  • On Martin Luther King Day (yesterday), the Tucson school district banned a number of books dealing with themes of race, ethnicity and oppression, including works by several local authors, Paolo Freire, and The Tempest (I never knew Shakespeare did colonial critique, but I'm certainly curious now!)
  • This morning I went to a state senate committee hearing that advanced a bill to make participation in the National School Lunch Program (federally-funded free and reduced price meals for low-income kids) non-mandatory for public schools in Arizona... how can you turn down free federal money to feed poor children?
  • And then there are all the guns, and the fact that an establishment that doesn't want you to carry a weapon inside must clearly state that at the entrance (like this sign my roommate took a picture of outside of a Starbucks):
But mixed in with those "can you believe it?" stories will also be a lot of stories of folks being faithful here. Collecting signatures. Holding vigils outside the offices of officials who create these and many other policies. Hauling brass bands out into the desert to play for immigrants detained in the middle of nowhere. Coaxing real food out of desert soil with minimal water. Providing free healthcare for those being denied it. Leaving food and water in the desert for those who get lost or stranded crossing the border. Turning vacant lots into sunflower fields.

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