Last week some dis­turb­ing news broke in my neck of the woods. The long and short is that a school in Prescott, Arizona was paint­ing a rather joy­ous and exu­ber­ant mural that included some of the school’s students.

Certain indi­vid­u­als drove past the school and shouted racist com­ments. A local dem­a­gogue got on the radio and fomented action. The artists were instructed to “lighten” the skin of some of the kids’ faces.

Then there was an about-​​face, and the radio com­men­ta­tor got fired. (In this econ­omy, I hope that means he’ll starve to death under a free­way under­pass in six months.) The artists were called back in to re-​​darken the kids’ faces.

And if you think this is unre­lated to SB 1070, you’re sim­ply not in the room. This overt big­otry is a direct con­se­quence of that filth-​​encrusted excres­cence of a “law”.

Wonkette lev­eled on this one, as did The Stranger — and then none other than Roger Ebert, whose blog is prob­a­bly the sin­gle great­est as-​​yet still partially-​​hidden jewel on the internet.

What he had to say is some­thing you’ll want to read, but I also posted a reply to his site. It’ll get there even­tu­ally — he actu­ally self-​​moderates, read­ing every com­ment before approv­ing or reject­ing it — but I thought I’d put it here as well.

After all, I live in this god­damned state.

Ebert writes:

‘Racism was ingrained in daily life. It wasn’t the overt racism of the South, but more like the per­vad­ing back­ground against which which we lived. We were here and they were there and, well, we wished them well, but that was how it was.’

It’s still that way here. I’m writ­ing from behind the entrench­ments in Arizona, and I can assure you that it’s about as bad as you might believe.

SB 1070 — the “Ihre Papieren, bitte” law — has given troglodytes of every hue and stripe a sense of empow­er­ment that they should never again have pos­sessed. Even peo­ple whom I regard as func­tion­ally intel­li­gent say things such as, “They should all go back home” and “My ances­tors came here legally; they can do the same.”

Never mind the fact, of course, that the US is entirely and solely a nation of ille­gal immi­grants. It was our ances­tors who forcibly took the land from its orig­i­nal inhabitants.

The irony, how­ever, seems lost on many. Illegal immi­gra­tion is hap­pen­ing, sure, but the ills asso­ci­ated with it do not cor­re­late. Crime rates have been steadily drop­ping for the last decade, not increas­ing. Illegal immi­grants do not rep­re­sent a frac­tion of the drain on the med­ical and social sys­tem that indi­gent, lazy, igno­rant US cit­i­zens do. (Many of those vocif­er­ously opposed to “Mexicans” some­how get­ting “free health care” are them­selves liv­ing off the pub­lic dole.)

So even fairly bright peo­ple are get­ting swept up in the wave of over­re­ac­tion to a nonex­is­tent prob­lem. The only response they seem to be able to man­age any more is one that is fear-​​based. Full of worry — man­u­fac­tured by dem­a­gogues and spread by mis­in­for­ma­tion — and full of quiet xenophobia.

So they sup­port laws that make Arizona look a hell of a lot more like Germany ca. 1934 than any­one really wants to admit. They say it’s to “get Washington’s atten­tion”, but we all know about the wink and the nod that goes along with it.

They want to build an honest-​​to-​​godless wall between the US and Mexico. They don’t seem to be able to process the fact that no bor­der wall, ever in human his­tory, has suc­ceeded in its intent — and has never said any­thing favor­able about the coun­try that built the wall in the first place.

And some of them feel it’s all right to use words that are crafted and intended solely to harm oth­ers, based on the shal­low­est of all con­ceiv­able “rea­sons” — pig­men­ta­tion, cul­ture, language.

There have been times in the past when Arizona’s pol­i­tics have frus­trated me, embar­rassed me, annoyed me.

Now, they’re mak­ing me ashamed.

And they’re wor­ry­ing me. Apparently some 20 other states are con­sid­er­ing adopt­ing mea­sures like Arizona’s. 20 other states believe they’ve got suf­fi­cient sup­port from suf­fi­cient crypto-​​bigots to pull a stunt like this one again.

And if those laws should pass in those states, you can be sure that the racists (and prob­a­bly the homo­phobes and misog­y­nists) will be dri­ving down your streets as well, shout­ing inex­cus­able things to schoolchildren.

Shame them, when you can, when you hear them. Shame them back into the respect­ful silence they should main­tain when in the pres­ence of their betters.

Shame them in order to let them know that their big­otry and hate will not be tol­er­ated in a civ­i­lized society.

Shame them until they crawl back under their wretched lit­tle stones.

For the love of decency and human­ity, shame them.

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