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.