Perhaps not since the full-on throes of the Civil Rights era has a single state been so beset by crisis, conflict, and now catastrophe. Chronicling Arizona politics has been a trying and tiresome experience on many levels, with few points of optimism at hand to buffet the constant blows of injustice and brutality. The open persecution of people of color at the level of both bodies and minds; the outright hijacking of the state's politics by far-right figures with white supremacist ties; the bankrupting of the economy while private interests gain tax breaks and write favorable laws for themselves; the decimation of the public infrastructure including the education and healthcare systems -- all of this and more has been front and center for beleaguered Arizonans in recent years.
Today, with the tragic shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a Federal Judge who had previously been the target of anti-immigrant protesters, among perhaps a dozen other victims, we have before us a sobering reminder of the political "climate of fear" that has been fostered by certain demagogic elements here in Arizona. While I remain committed to the challenge of finding the positive news in the daily cycle, reality nonetheless intrudes and at times demands our attention. This is one of those instances, and if there is any justice to be found in this madness, perhaps it will finally provide the impetus for us all to move beyond the politics of fear and rage. As Matt Bai has opined in the New York Times, "the question is whether Saturday's shooting marks the logical end point of such a moment [of rhetorical recklessness] -- or rather the beginning of a terrifying new one."
Time will tell, but if recent events are any indication, it will be an uphill struggle that is not merely confined to Arizona. "Even before the shooting of a U.S. congresswoman on Saturday, the state of Arizona was in the throes of a convulsive political year that had come to symbolize a bitter partisan divide across much of America," writes David Schwartz for Reuters. "I feel huge sorrow, that's just been building in southern Arizona for some time, this hate, hate, fear, somewhat around SB 1070, somewhat around healthcare reform. It definitely heated up when President Obama was elected," said Molly McKasson Morgan, 63, who participated in Tucson politics and knew Giffords. "It's never been this angry, it's never been this divisive," said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state lawmaker.