Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chicanonautica: A Specter is Haunting Arizona

I may not make much sense here. This is a raw feed from the crisis zone. The dust has not settled, and we have a lot of dust here in Arizona.

The night before the shootings in Tucson, at the place where I work, someone had written the ever-popular “F.U.” all over the men’s room. I wasn’t surprised. I had been sensing a lot of undifferentiated hostility among the customers. I had also seen it on the streets of Phoenix.

Something was in the air. Not a recognized scientific phenomenon.

I was shocked when I heard about the shootings, but not surprised. Ever since Spring of last year, with the news about SB 1070, things have been building up in Arizona. Somebody was going to get shot sooner or later.

Jared Lee Loughner had no racial/ethnic agenda. His is a paranoid/schizophrenic fixation on grammar. “What is the government if words have no meaning?” Not quite up there with William Burroughs’ “Language is a virus from outer space.” We lucked out, we got a Latino hero saving Gabrielle Gifford’s life instead of a backlash.

But just because Loughner listened more to the voices in his head than to those coming in on radio, television, and the Internet, doesn’t let all the screaming pundits off the hook. Here in Arizona, it gets hard to tell the schizoid homeless from the concerned citizens if you look at the wild words and ideas flying around. The governor hallucinates about human heads being found in the desert, then passes laws to protect against such things. And of course, guns are everywhere.

Combine this with the sad fact that Arizona follows the American tradition of treating mental illness with denial and neglect, and it’s only a matter of time before the craziness in troubled brains bubbles into random, violent action. It doesn’t matter if the first spark of the firestorm was about the border issue; that issue -- all issues -- and everyone involved will be dragged into the bloody mess.

I hoped that people would calm down over the last week. But the night after the shooting I heard gunshots in my own neighborhood -- back to business as usual in Arizona.

Over the last few months I’ve been rereading the works of Oscar Zeta Acosta and Guillermo Gómez-Peña. Strange how Acosta’s writings from the Seventies, and Gómez-Peña’s from the Nineties, echo the situation in Twenty-First Century Arizona. My own sketchbook cartoons from years ago illustrate current situations perfectly when I post them online. It’s like nothing has changed.

Except that these days there are more Hispanics/Latinos/Chicanos than ever. The label “minority group” is becoming obsolete.

It’s enough to drive some folks crazy. Especially if they see brown skin and “foreign” languages as a serious problem and think that the key to law and order is keeping the “Mexicans” out.

Meanwhile, there are others who worry about the government making deals with the flying saucer people from the center of the Earth.

They’re all alive and well here in Arizona.

Ernest Hogan is also alive and well and living in Arizona.


Anonymous said...

Good post, Ernesto. It's got the germ of some surreal/post-apocolyptic tale.
Ariz. sounds like the outpost to a DMZ.
Get out, shout, and don't take any of their mierda.


HypatiaofAlexandria said...

Please allow me to gently correct anybody's belief that this psychopath without remorse is in possession of two medical diagnoses here; those being the former, which isn't actually an illness but looks and sounds like evil or mostly acted incoherence to fool the public that hasn't studied a little psychology for a more correct picture...and the incredibly painful paranoid schizoid type illness that has never been known to produce killers and organized manipulators at all, yet are usually homeless or medicated into zombie-like states that really are tragic, not dangerous unless they are suicidal. My husband is in prison and, while a white guy with a shaved head like most inmates, would be this guy's worst nightmare for killing a child, women, the elderly and other innocent people with such phony "politics" as his only online reference to be more than transparent to people who are rarely seen for the excellent judges of character in guys who need to prove something less shallow and stereotypical if they want to stay free from bodily harm.
I would like to add that Octavio Paz, way back in the 40's even, had such an amazing yet kind picture of the American's tendency towards embracing the fantasy American identity rather than the more rational and disturbing reality we hypocritically claim to be less racist and oppressive to the poorer citizens than any other country. Letting our debts and gradual shift to less involvement in our government and increase in fears that the civil war Americans would call pretty weak and spoiled. How our lifestyles and societal conditions are really seen and (by most of us?)actually lived have always been too different for us to not just allow ourselves to quit blaming anyone but ourselves for what really has to change. I personally wish that the Mexican family values I have missed in my childhood and beyond could be more valued in the near future by the rest of the "taxpaying" whiners who don't put their children first most of the time. Mi sueno finalmente, if I see little else in the way of needed change here. Sorry my Spanish is poor; I blame my American education for that, which is fair enough.