I've been an Arizonan most of my life. I grew up in Southern California, and Arizona always held a certain mystique for me—wide-open spaces, a certain raw energy and a promise for the future. When I was in high school, one of my teachers brought a stack of Arizona Highways magazines for us to look at. I'm not a nature guy (or a photography guy, either), but I thought it was amazing.
I remember sitting next to one of my knucklehead tennis teammates. (Yeah, I played tennis, too; so what? My older sisters made me learn how so we could play doubles.) He said, "Why don't they have a California Highways?" I thought, "What an idiot!" OK, here's a picture of gridlock near San Jose. Here's an aerial shot of Dodger Stadium where the game is in the third inning, and two-thirds of the paying customers are still on the Hollywood Freeway. Oh, and here's a nifty shot from Chula Vista. If you look beyond all those people who are climbing over that fence, you can see the studios where Wolfman Jack does his nightly 500,000-watt radio broadcast.
When I was offered a scholarship to play basketball in Arizona (albeit at a juco down on the Mexican border), I jumped at the opportunity. Well, maybe "jumped" is too strong of a word here, but I reached for it with all my might. Within the first few days in Arizona (in the heat of summer), I knew this was the place for me.
Over the years, I've been proud to call myself an Arizonan. There's a certain cachet to it. You bump into somebody back East and tell them that you're from Arizona, and their eyes light up. "Oh, I love Arizona! Have you ever been to Sedona?"
To which the answer is, "No, Sen. McCain. I can't afford it."
To be sure, there have been times when it was not so cool to be identified with Arizona. There was the "no MLK holiday" era, punctuated by Evan Mecham's tenure in the governor's office. I told my out-of-state friends that we were going through a brief period of R.I.P. (Rednecks In Power).
Still, I have been mostly proud to be called an Arizonan. These days ... I'm not quite as proud.
First off, there is the (seen-around-the-world) disturbing image of that jackoff who showed up outside the building where President Obama was addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The idiot was armed with a handgun on his hip and some big-ass semi-automatic thing across his back. Dude, all that hardware still ain't gonna make you feel any power between your legs.
After the fact, they claimed it was just a publicity stunt, but who would do such a thing, and why? Get some Poindexter-lookin' black guy; dress him up like a Mormon on a mission; and have him strut around outside a presidential speech with guns ... what could possibly be the point?
A couple of gun nuts wrote to The Arizona Republic and said that they openly carry guns in public because they can. Really? I can piss in my backyard any time I want, but I don't, mostly because my parents weren't related to each other before they got married. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
I wish that guy's mom had shown up and smacked him upside his fat head. You know, just as a publicity stunt.
Even well-known local gun fetishist Emil Franzi (my radio co-host) doesn't see why somebody would do something like that. Emil was born in the 1940s. Seven of the first nine presidents in his lifetime were shot at, shot and wounded or killed, or became president at least in part because of gun violence. Seventy-seven percent is a pretty crappy stat for a democratic country that is supposed to be the beacon of freedom for the entire world and one in which some of its citizens claim that their gun ownership guarantees that freedom.
I'm sorry, there's just no good reason for somebody to take a gun to a presidential appearance. None.
Almost infinitely more embarrassing than that clown is Arizona's criminally inept state Legislature. At press time, the Senate still hadn't delivered a viable state budget. By law, they're supposed to do it by June, and we're coming up on Labor Day. And it's not like it's political gridlock: Republicans control everything, except their urges to kiss Grover Norquist's ass.
They all want to run for re-election while being able to claim they didn't raise taxes—even while Arizona burned. There's just so much political posturing going on that it looks like a yoga class for really out-of-shape white people.
And finally, a hearty boo to State Sen. Al Melvin. I mentioned recently that he introduced a bill making it illegal to text while driving. Astonishingly, it didn't pass. In the same column, I said that the feds are considering withholding federal highways funds to states that don't pass such a bill in the near future. Turns out Captain Al is against that, because of "states' rights." That's the catch-all that, among other things, allowed some people to own other people for the first century of our country's existence.
Whoever makes texting while driving illegal, good for them. I'm not all that particular regarding which government entity saves my life.