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Current Comedy, 5/20/10: Tales From the Struggle Over SB1070, Parts Three, Four, & Five

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III: "Is this America?" or only Arizona?

You know, Arizona as a state has had quite a few nicknames over the years. Famously once known as the home of inland America's #1 tourist attraction (i mean, prior to SB1070, that is), most highway signs still call us the "Grand Canyon State." Also historically, nickname-wise Arizona, the "Copper State," was considered the least precious among the fabled Southwestern heavy-metal trio, "Golden" California and "Silver" Nevada. And though the maps of Spain once labeled it, "Pimeria Alta," referring to the more readily enslaved Pima Indians, Spaniards in the know called it "Apacheria" for fierce Indians who rendered their "rule" farcical.

Later, after the US conquested the land once ruled by conquistadors, our area, the western end of the New Mexico Territory, was the no-man's land outlaws escaped to from both Mexico and the US. It was a time when Americans like the Glanton Gang scalped both Indians and Mexicans for a hundred dollars for every handful of hair. Back then, fittingly enough, our land was called the "Paradise For Devils."

But in this time of the struggle over SB1070 when duly elected avowed White Supremacists write their own updated version of the "Fugitive Slave Law," punishing those who would harbor, aid or conceal an undocumented immigrant, the nickname that most readily comes to mind derives from a time after the Civil War when the territory flooded with former Confederate soldiers who resented Federal control under Reconstruction in the East and darker skinned people in general. Thus Arizona welcomed such civic leaders as former race warrior/Phoenix founder/drug addict/jailbird Jack Swilling and in 1872, the city of Tempe even made being "Sonoran" a exile-able offense.

For over a hundred years AZ was nationally known as an openly racist society, starting from the Battle of Picacho Peak in 1862 when racial-caste defending Arizonans rebelled against their duly elected national government and took up arms against Union troops (only to quickly get their butts kicked, btw). Our rep as racists was clearly intact 100 years later in the 1960s, when, as Bruce Hartford's recent Huffington Post article notes, " Arizona was (and continues to be) one of those states specifically called out by the Voting Rights Act of 1965" for its widespread disenfranchisement of Hispanic voters. The legend of Arizona as a racist state would later be the centerpiece of rap band Public Enemy's 1991 condemnation of the state for refusing to endorse the national MLK celebration with their hit "By the Time I Get to Arizona."

Between the state superintendent of education firing teachers for having Hispanic accents; and every state official under penalty of lawsuit required to investigate a person's personal heritage for as little "probably cause" as them having a Hispanic accent, one wonders if Arizona will ever outgrow its old Confederate era moniker, the "Mississippi of the West."


IV: "Crappy Nappy"? Is This America?

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Recently a Democratic candidate for Arizona's new Congressional District 4, Mikel Weisser has been challenging the right and raising a ruckus since the 1980s. Born the son of a nightclub singer, Mikel Weisser watched anti-war hippies getting beaten (more...)
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