I dreamed recently that Arizona had adopted some draconian laws at the same time I was contemplating a trip to the state. In my dream, wanting to learn more about those laws and other issues, I called the Arizona Office of Tourism and spoke to the minister of truth.
“Hi, Tom here. I’m thinking about visiting Arizona, driving from Florida. Do I need a passport?”
“Not if you are an American citizen. But keep it handy.”
“I understand that Phoenix is considered to be one of the most polluted cities in the United States. I’m concerned that I’ll get sick if I stay there for too long.”
“You’ll get used to it. If not, there are plenty of places where you can buy drugs, as long as you’re not gay.”
“Minister, I read that a few years ago Mesa was ranked one of the most redneck cities in America.”
“On the basis of what?”
“Percent of the population that didn’t complete high school, the number of Walmarts, taxidermists and local gun stores,” I said.
“Keep that to yourself, unless you want to get shot.”
“Mum’s the word, sir. The ACLU and others have tangled with the state over concerns about rampant racial profiling stemming from the state’s anti-immigrant laws. Even Mississippi shied away from adopting such legislation.”
“Used to like Mississippi, before the instigators made movies like “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and “The Help.”
“What did you think of “Mississippi Burning” and “Ghosts of Mississippi?” I asked.
“Let’s move on.”
The minister was getting edgy.
“I’m appalled that Arizona has a reputation for pushing conservative, if not unconstitutional, measures that affect quality of life and personal liberties. Does not John McCain, a voice of reason, have clout any more?”
“John’s OK, but he’s no Barry.”
“No, Manilow. Who do you think I’m talking about?” the minister said.
“What do you say about remarks made by critics that Arizona is on its way to becoming a police state? Do you think the continued backlash will hurt tourism and the state’s economy and discourage companies from relocating to Arizona?”
“Of course not,” the minister said. “All we have to do at the tourism bureau is continue to get the word out about our great scenic beauty – the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, our history, our wildlife. Elks, bobcats, bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes. They all continue to thrive, just as our elected officials will survive the continued assault on their reputations.”
“You sound like an instigator. We have much to be proud of. We have low taxes and control our government spending and …”
“But about a year ago,” I said, interrupting him, “reports said that Arizona was tied with Alabama with having the sixth worst poverty rate in the nation.”
“Pick, pick, pick. Listen, Arizona is a great place to visit and a great place to live and work. We are God-fearing people and proud of our heritage.”
In my dream, I thought about what Arizona’s minister of truth had to say. I really wanted to see Arizona, but I was wrestling with my conscience. Do I want to visit a state that through the acts of its government repeatedly treads on human rights, freedom and dignity?
Since my final destination was southern California, I decided to visit Arizona; it’s kind of hard to drive around it. Traveling through Arizona’s desert, I had a flat tire, and I decided to pull off the side of the road to change it. The distinct sound of a rattle behind me warned me that I was not welcomed there.
Then I woke up and realized I was only dreaming. I recalled that the governor had recently vetoed legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate based on religious grounds. Some sanity finally prevailed in a land of rattlesnakes.
Whether I will go to Arizona in the next few years remains to be seen.