Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Baby vs. Bathwater

I can only think of one friend I have ever had who was from Arizona. Her family was not originally from there, but they had moved when her father's company relocated. We went to school in New York together, and she was intent on proving her non-Arizona-ness. I visited her family during a school break and was bewildered by the lemon trees growing on every front lawn in the tract housing neighborhood. It had never occurred to me that fruit trees grew outside of orchards in Florida, where their specific purpose was to produce citrus products. There were very few other plantings, just a lawn and the tree. We spent much of the visit smirking at the locals in a way that snarky, self-assured college students do. Her family subsequently moved to Portland, Oregon, which, I suppose, is about as anti-Arizona as you can get.

I know there are lovely areas of Arizona, such as Bisbee and Sedona, and I have not made it a mission to snub Arizonians. I have no particular theory as to why I have friends and family members from all corners of the world, but none from a state that borders my very own. Since I apparently have no friends to offend in the Grand Canyon State, I will unequivocally state that I continue to be horrified by acts that are committed in that sunny state, nearly all of them stemming from a political and value system that I find abhorrent. Of course, I am fully cognizant that these views do not represent all Arizonians, and clearly many have spoken out against the rhetoric, politics, and actions that have transpired in the past several years and have gotten progressively more hateful.

However, my family has a relatively new tradition of going to baseball Spring Training every year. Since we live on the West Coast and it is not practical to see our beloved Red Sox at the Grapefruit League in Florida, we trek to Arizona to see pre-season games in the Cactus League. Shortly after our trip last year, SB 1070, which mandated residents show their residency "papers" to law enforcement, became law. The obvious bigotry and unfairness of that law as it was originally conceived gave me significant pause as to whether we would return to Arizona under those conditions. The law was subsequently modified somewhat, so it was with mixed feelings that we booked this year's trip to Spring Training. More recent events again give me pause.

Boycotting based on high-profile events is something that equally gives me pause. I remember being in school in the 1980s when there was awareness about Apartheid and students protesting the university's stock holdings in companies that had holdings in companies in South Africa. I understood why they were taking this stand, but also thought about how many other corporations do business in ways and places that are loathsome. While I supported the protests, I wondered if there were any companies that presented no moral conflicts, or at least none that conflicted with my worldview. Life is complicated. This issue comes up over and over as knee-jerk boycotts are suggested on listserves and viral emails based on anecdotal interpretations of policies. A friend boycotts a book chain because she heard the store wouldn't deliver books to a friend whose relative was in prison. As someone who works in the justice system, I see how important access to books are for people who are incarcerated, so I see her point. For many reasons, I personally refuse to ever step foot in a Denny's or Wal Mart. But her information was fourth hand, anecdotal and not verified, but she takes the stand anyway. I applaud her convictions, but prefer to understand policies and decisions in a broader context before making my own decisions.


  1. Being from AZ and having grown up in California, these are the issues I struggle with in my daily life. To add to the confusion is the fact that these are the only truly newsworthy things in the state as opposed to other states. It is very difficult to remember how quiet it usually is in this very red state. More to the fact while I applaud the boycotts I've seen so far it makes it difficult for those of us who have to live here to make a living.
    Basically, I live here and can't help clear any confusion over the matter.
    Thanks for letting me add my confusion to yours :)

  2. Hi, Edrienne--I think so many of us feel compelled to do what we can to right a perceived wrong, but it is indeed confusing because there don't seem to be any clear-cut things to do to express disgust and outrage. The forces (corporations, industries, "advocacy" groups) that are often significant forces in setting the stage for the wrong are not going to be the ones who are hurt by boycotts. Just as you noted, for every family that cancels a vacation in Arizona, for every convention that pulls out, the ones who are hurt are the residents who had no role whatsoever in the egregious acts of a small group of people. Thank you so much for posting. Take care, Karen