For about five years now, every March we head down to Arizona for a week during spring break. It’s great to visit family and I love the sun — but Arizona?
I can’t say the state has ever been on my bucket list, and I wouldn’t call Phoenix my kind of town — Scottsdale even less so. I love wearing shorts and flip flops, but I don’t golf; I wouldn’t vote Republican, even if I could; and I wouldn’t walk into a public building with my firearm, even if I had one. No kidding on that last point. Arizona is the only state in America that has actually banned the banning of firearms in public buildings. Well, okay, they made an exception for schools. Kids aren’t supposed to bring their shotguns to class, but you’re welcome to take your revolver into a library or a post office if said building doesn’t have a metal detector, which most don’t. As one reporter put it, “happiness is a warm gun in a public institution.”
When visiting, we stay in a town just north east of Phoenix, where the residents are generally retired, Caucasian and affluent. The workers, on the other hand, tend to be Latinos who can’t afford to live where they work.
In the town centre is a pretty, open park featuring brass sculptures celebrating some famous American presidents — well, famous Republican presidents. Not even Kennedy or Roosevelt warranted a casting in this town.
So, when we saw it was here that Donald Trump would hold his rally just ahead of the Arizona primaries, perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But if there is one thing Arizona has taught me, there are always surprises.
For example, I never would have thought some of the most beautiful hikes I’d ever be on would be in the Sonoran Desert. I wouldn’t have thought some of the most radical socialist bookstores I’d peruse would be in Tucson. And as far as the “warm gun” goes, plenty of businesses sported signs featuring a gun in a circle with a line drawn through it.
Back to the Trump rally, yes, he garnered a large, loud crowd, but a few chained themselves to cars parked in the middle of the road to protest, while others booed the billionaire and gave him the thumbs down.
As with everything, the longer you look the more you see, which reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, The Bean Tree People, set in Tucson. The title comes from a flowering and fruitful plant that grows on the edge of an otherwise barren play park known more for the abundance of dog poop. I don’t intend to compare Arizona to Doggy Doo Park, as it’s called in the book. But I do note the wonder of looking a little closer, seeing the brilliant cactus flowering in a harsh dry land, the dramatic, red rock formations of the Superstition Mountains, and appreciating the fact there is a lot more to this state, and all communities, including Richmond, than any stereotype allows.