by Ernest Hogan
“Used to be all you had to be was free, white, and twenty-one!” A guy who looked like Custer in a baseball cap ranted into his cell phone. He saw me and added: “But now you have to be a minority!”
A couple of days later, I saw a police cruiser leaving the library. Some guy tried to pick a fight with one of the guards. On my way home, a woman bared her breasts at a bus stop.
The election was getting close, and delirium was percolating over Arizona. I was even hearing grumbling of “if Obama’s re-elected that mean’s the Rapture's coming.” Maybe the results can be read in the entrails of roadkill clogging the streets. I decided to cherchez la weird.
Arizona has been a center for political weirdness for some time now. Outsiders have the idea that it’s all gun-toting white racists in cowboy hats, but in my district on the west side of the Metro Phoenix Area we often elect Hispanic Democrats. “Whites” are a minority in my neighborhood. A few blocks from a street full of shrines to the Virgen de Guadalupe is a house with guard tower featuring a rifle-toting mannikin and a sign: YOU CAN TAKE MY GUN WHEN YOU PRY IT FROM MY COLD, DEAD FINGERS.
Folks from the east side are afraid of going west of Central Avenue. I try to assure them that the rumors of cannibalism and human sacrifice are highly exaggerated.
Politicians have found that if they promise Arizonans they won’t have to pay taxes, and that they'll protect them with laws against things like immigrants and ethnic studies, they can get elected. Then they raid all the state funds they can, while fighting each other for whatever federal money that they can funnel into their personal empires. There’s no united front -- they take chunks out of each other like piranha in a feeding frenzy.
This and changing demographics -- “I went school! And it was nothing but MEXICANS!” as a neighbor of mine put it -- make for a delirious atmosphere around election time.
The day before, they were setting up the polling place in the library where I work while a guy in a ROMNEY/RYAN t-shirt frowned and listen to whatever was playing in his earbuds. A couple of hours earlier, people were asking about voting.
There were a lot of sirens throughout the night before. More sirens the next morning as the voting started.
Election Day was oddly calm. Voting at the library happened without incident. It was quiet in Arizona. Too quiet. No music. No whooping it up. No celebratory bursts of gunfire.
After it was called for Obama, it was an even quieter night. No sirens.
To my surprise, the disturbing calm continued through the day after the election. There were no bugged-out eyeballs, gritting teeth, or cars up on sidewalks on the streets of Phoenix. I did keep seeing a certain look -- like someone had been stunned and the extent of the impact hadn’t sunk in. The emotions were bubbling below the surface.
Frankly, I’d rather just see people freak out and get it over with.
Meanwhile, Arizona maintained its dystopian status quo. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is still going to do his performance art mojo to protect the citizens of Maricopa County from the invading horde. We will probably be seeing more legislative mayhem soon.
The state is like a boiling cauldron with lid clamped on it. Looks like I’ll have plenty of flaming weirdness to write about soon.
I’ll keep reporting.
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In other news: November 10, Xánanth Caraza will be doing a poetry workshop (12:30-3:30pm) and reading (5pm) at Tía Chuca’s Cultural Bookstore in El Lay.
Ernest Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues is available for Kindle for $2.99 -- 70% of which goes to the Ernest Hogan Defense Fund. Thanks to all of you who downloaded it for the Dead Daze giveaway. Please review it on Amazon. Colorful quotes will be immortalized.