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
” 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.