This was a question asked by a reader of a recent post. It's a fair question that deserves an answer. I will try to be concise.
1. I am not selling anything associated with the sunshine/real estate Ponzi scheme, so I have no reason to lie to the boobs -- oops, potential customers from the Midwest or inland California about the true state of affairs in Arizona.
2. I am not one of the boobs from the Midwest or inland California who bought into what was billed as "a piece of unspoiled Sonoran Desert -- with championship golf!," only to find dreary suburbia in a frying pan set on high. And now I'm too embarrassed to admit I was a sucker but angry at anyone who implies it.
3. I am not a member of the Real Estate Industrial Complex or the Kookocracy. Therefore, I don't profit from either the booster growthgasm Kook-Aid, the ongoing destruction of the state or the constant inflaming of grievances against "guvment," brown people or columnists who speak truth to power.
4. I am a mean, mean man.
"Why do I hate Arizona." I got this kind of question or criticism regularly when I wrote an opinion column for the Arizona Republic. I was just a simple, small-town boy from Phoenix raising some questions -- but it was a danger to the powers-that-be. It was fascinating on multiple levels. For example, here was Phoenix, which kept braying about being "the nation's fifth largest city," and yet it couldn't handle the kind of dissenting columnist that one expects in a real big city. Indeed, Phoenix was and remains a place of little debate. How else can one keep the Ponzi scheme going? Even when it has crashed and burned.
Now, I vigorously supported a host of efforts to better the community, from luring TGen to building light rail; I celebrated real leaders, from Paul Fannin to Alan Brunacini to Michael Crow; I wrote the Arizona and Phoenix history that was missing from the newspaper and the knowledge of most readers. But, I criticized the Growth Machine and its power. I raised uncomfortable issues, such as the neglect of the poor and immigrants, the limited, low-wage economy, the backwardness of much policy and the state's vulnerability on water and climate change. To me, this is what a real columnist is supposed to do. To a certain cohort: I hated Arizona (and had to be silenced).
That I still write about Phoenix and Arizona actually exposes a certain irrational idealism that I can't quite get out of my system (as well as serving readers who can't get this conversation elsewhere). I am from there, after all, with deep ties of blood and the heart. I didn't just roll in from Iowa wanting to be left alone. The state and city's deficiencies and perils pain me. The loss of so much that made city and state unique breaks my heart. The willful refusal to prepare Arizona to confront and prosper in the Great Disruption makes me mad.
More to the point, no place has a quality future when it isn't willing to acknowledge and discuss its challenges. The long history of boosterism in Arizona has metastasized into a culture of censorship, self-delusion and silence. Please, God, give me one more boom...
But I get to ask questions, too.
To the people who sold off and paved over the citrus groves and farm fields that gave Phoenix so much of its magic and its cooling as well as a food export and self-sufficiency that will be very important someday...Why do you hate Arizona?
To the ones who destroyed the enchanting Japanese Gardens to create miles of lookalike Spanish-Tuscan schlock...Why do you hate Arizona?
You, the leaders across the spectrum who refuse to own up to the total unsustainability of water supplies for continued sprawl. "Let's add 4 million people to the Sun Corridor!"...Why do you hate Arizona?
The charter school and "school choice" racket with its tentacles in the Legislature and the East Valley elite, with no accountability, taking money from public education and profiting from a failed system while the underclass grows. Arizona consistently ranks at or near the bottom in school funding, near the top in dropouts -- but let's not discuss that; better yet, let's explain it away...Why do you hate Arizona?
To the Kookocracy, which claims to be the heirs of Goldwater, Rhodes and Fannin, but whose sole accomplishments are to keep the state backward but armed while they profit on the side...Why do you hate Arizona?
To the sharpies who did land swaps to profane the Mogollon Rim and much of the High Country with subdivisions, while the National Forests and Parks are being polluted, burned, infested with killer parasites (caused partly by urban heat and water use) and being used as garbage dumps...Why do you hate Arizona?
To the vandals who rammed one of your precious freeways (those had already worked out so well in LA) through the heart of Phoenix, obliterating hundreds of irreplaceable historic houses. Who leveled block after block of vintage houses near the capitol, including Victorians and territorial-era apartments, as well as hundreds of commercial buildings. In other cities, these were the foundations of a downtown renaissance. In Phoenix, they were in the way of becoming the land-banked, blighted vacant lots many remain to this day...Why do you hate Arizona?
To the ones who fight to underfund the universities, kill the downtown biosciences campus, vilify or marginalize the heroes who keep trying to make the place better, continue to block sensible planning and urban solutions. Never mind that the state's income lags even a national average that includes Mississippi and Alabama, and Phoenix wages are well below its peers...Why do you hate Arizona?
You built a Super Wal-Mart across from the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. You cut down shade trees in central Phoenix and threw down gravel. You want to build 400 more miles of freeways in the age of high-speed trains. You raised Phoenix's temperatures 10 degrees and often drag summer to Thanksgiving, but let's not talk about that. You bulldoze ancient saguaros that took ten years to grow an inch and a half, just to pull a quick buck. Having one of the worst child poverty rates in the nation is OK with you, because, after all, it's those people. You don't support local businesses. You don't support the arts or charities -- because, after all, this isn't really home. You don't vote. You claim the place has no history and isn't worth caring about, worth fighting for. Better to live behind a wall and recite the zombie chant: "everything's fine here...everything's fine here...low taxes...guns in bars...low taxes...championship golf..."
Why the hell do you hate Arizona?