“How can you move to Arizona?” more than one person asked as I prepared to move from Utah. Full of anticipation for a new perfect house, lots of sun, beautiful cactus, and adventure on every roadway out of town, I listened.
They explained, “It’s so hateful against Mexicans, really everyone who isn’t male, white, and balding, they’re all crazy gun-toting extremists, the summers are too hot, the landscape is barren, Phoenix hasn’t any style.”
Depending on the perspective, all of their criticisms were valid. And they are all also wrong. I’m writing this because Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, recently vetoed Senate Bill 1062 which was supposed to protect the right of a company to refuse service to anyone based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Ya right.
The firestorm that developed from that unthought-out bill was well deserved and thank you very much to all of you who participated in barbequing the Arizona legislature. During the national controversy that also got international news, I revisited that question: “What am I doing here?” Shouldn’t I be in Oregon, Colorado, California, Washington, or Sweden?
Cautiously I consulted quarrelsome Irma Prattle. I’m a female who grew up in the 1950s and 60s in a single mother, father-very-absent household in Utah as a non-Mormon. Bluntly: I was shunned. Rarely is Irma this kind.
The only contacts I had were other outsiders and we were few in number. Luckily my mother and grandmother branded into me (notice western verb because I am a western girl) a deep and abiding belief that “God” loved everyone and the child-like Mormons were to be pitied. The Mormon view could have been better framed, but please remember, this was decades ago and my family was only trying to secure a little safe ground around us for survival.
Utah history is all written around the Mormons who will tell you they have historically been very discriminated against so it is necessary for them to be strong in protecting their religious rights. Arizona history is cowboy and Indian stories and this state will tell you they must be strong to preserve themselves in this hostile environment.
Those are the official stands. Back to Senate Bill 1062. Behind those official stands the old ways are crumbling. Mormons have been slowly changing with every generation and so have Arizonians. They both have much natural beauty in landscape and people (and continue to elect to many idiot legislators). They both have their failings with noisy, frightened people who are clinging to old views.
Salt Lake City has a surprisingly hip city life and is predominately Democrat. Arizona I’m still learning about but I know the everyday people are far friendlier and open to newcomers.
Strangers will converse with me here like they never would in Utah and no one has asked my religion. I’m no longer feeling quite so much like that little girl who sat alone at lunch and I’ve decided something else.
Utah needed me. I was a rock in their Sunday best shoes that silently
questioned their superior isolation. (Yes, this is superior isolationism reversed.) Regardless, through time a lot of other rocks joined in to result in today’s more open acceptance. Maybe being a rock in Arizona’s landscape is not as dramatic, but it might be my calling. There are worse legacies.