Arizona: the Police State

For days now I’ve been mulling over the new AZ immigration law and why it bothered me so much. Possibly it’s because I was just recently a judge at a student Holocaust film festival, so I’m more sensitized to fascism than I am on a day-to-day basis. Which, by the way, is pretty effing sensitized. I grew up breathing the air of the Inside Room and learned the Devil’s Arithmetic before I managed to Number the Stars. Every season was the Summer of my German Soldier, goddammit, to the point where if I heard German spoken in real life I jumped.

When I needed to cool down from YA Holocaust lit, I picked up on other kinds of injustice through biographies of Harriet Tubman and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Even my very first smutty smut book, Night Over Water, had fascism as a subplot. (Reading the description is fascinating now because all I remember is the sex [vividly] and the politics [hazily], and that only because at 10 or 11 years old, I was surprised to learn there were fascists in England, too. By contrast, my mother, who gave me the book to read, didn’t remember the sex at all.)

Back to Arizona, the state that gave us John “Never Said I Was a Maverick” McCain. Bisbee is great! Try the killer bee honey. You can’t argue with the Saguaros everywhere, which are evidence of God’s prickly sense of humor. But why, WHY, does anyone think it’s acceptable to force people to carry identification papers with them at all times because they could be stopped and asked for those papers by the police?

Linda Greenhouse does not think it is acceptable. In fact, Linda Greenhouse is smoldering with rage.

And good on her. Having to wear a badge on your sleeve is only five paces in that direction from having to carry ID papers with you everywhere. Knowing you could be stopped and frisked by cops simply for leaving your house in your darker skin is a kind of low-level terror no one should be exposed to: not illegal immigrants, not legal immigrants, not citizens of this country.

As May Day is almost upon us, it feels appropriate to quote Billy Bragg’s excellent translation of the Internationale, which is unfortunately playing in my head to the tune of La Marseilleise, but never mind:

Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don’t cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all. …

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