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Arizona…a place just like any other

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When I was 16 years old, there was a lot of trouble involving and happening around me. I was thrown out of school, there was a stint or two in jail to go with bloody fists and broken noses. My mother decided that she needed to do something and fast. My sister had recently brought my nephew to the world and needed a baby sitter so I took the job. That lasted for 6 weeks until my sister could find someone long-term. It was wonderful to care for William, and today he is bigger than me (chuckle)! Soon after my mother asked my brother, who lived in Arizona, if he would take me in…

The first thing I noticed about Arizona was that coming from Cleveland, having southern born parents, I could not speak! No one seemed to mind though, at least to me. I worked at a Whataburger for 6 months with practically no friends, and then I worked for Burger King for 1 1/2 years. I met some people who I keep up with to this day among them Indians, Whites, Blacks and Mexicans. I also lived in many of the suburbs and had my share of employment in one of the  biggest cities in the U.S. I studied there, began my career, traveled to Mexico, California and Vegas among other places. To complete the background I was also laid off, and lived in a hotel for a bit longer than I would have liked. Arizona lasted 5 years of my life…and then I went back home.

Arizona is a place where I can remember walking into a Bank of America and being shocked at seeing a man with a holstered gun taking care of some business or other. I also fired a gun for the first time there with my roommate Josh out in the desert. I was wide-eyed and young with the world in front of me it seemed at the time. Doing donuts in the sand with John, in the snow on the way to Flagstaff with Bryan listening to Sneaker Pimps. Meeting  Sarah at the Salt River, and going with Terrell and Josh and anybody who had the time and 20 dollars to Mexico. No Arizona, was great all-around. My brother and I were not especially close, but I visited him often and we did plenty together, laughing and singing with the top down on his convertible.

I can’t really say that Arizona is more extreme than any other place from what I’ve seen. I would not even say that people there are any different from those in Cleveland. Wherever the effort in understanding the other lay, I don’t think I ever had much in the way of any disagreement with too many people…though I was probably an asshole.

In fact, I was an asshole in the truest sense. One of my friends came to Europe and brought me back a nice gift and I lost it within a short time after receiving it. I once worked about an hours drive distance from my job; I would take the bus there everyday and have my roommate pick me up. I never gave him gas money or even bothered to tell him thank you. Now, you’re probably not going to believe this but I actually yelled (like, at the top-of-my-voice yell) at this great friend Daryl because he was late! Yet still I was invited to the pool parties and the movies and invited to come by the new place and bring friends. We were all young and tolerant of everything; we were figuring out what we liked and didn’t. No actually I was definitely a troll… a nasty, smelly pile of fool.

I was even pulled over for: (a) driving drunk, (b) driving with no licence and (c) underage drinking…the officer called me a cab, covered the expense and sent me home. My God…those are good people out there! Of course we know that, but maybe it needs to be said anyway. They don’t celebrate Martin Luther King day for a racist reason or not. They want to put up a fence to keep out the illegals. Someone threw rocks at me while walking down the street, sure. Honestly, I don’t think I would like to live in Arizona again if I had the opportunity.

That said, looking back through my rose-rimmed specs there were very few negative incidents that I experienced out there. At the same time I probably can’t say the same thing for everyone who was around me. I think that speaks to the character of the people out there. Frankly, the parents of one of my friends were pretty much open racists…but whatever. No, his home was not the first place I thought to visit when I had some free time, but we got together enough and hung out before we lost touch.

This story was written in response to story in the Arizona Republic (worked selling newspapers for them) where the commentary was about the level of vitriol rising in the face of calls for calm after the tragedy that recently struck. Yes,  in fact there are many, many people who are hard-hearted and cold who cannot take the time to consider that a 9-year-old has been killed. There is no pause for these folks. There was one commentator though who stated that he had come to Arizona for years and would not do so anymore. He also stated that the climate is the reason he would rather not bring his family there anymore.

I comment a lot about America on this blog, but judge for yourself if I am making any sense. To give up is no way to solve a problem and indeed there is a problem. It’s however not a problem afflicting the majority of the population, and of this I am absolutely certain. We should instead engage those who we do not understand, or do not agree with and look for the common ground. At the very least learn to tolerate conditions that are not ideal. However to merely separate ourselves, to imagine the problem doesn’t exist or belongs to someone else is to do ourselves and injustice, right?

A fire left on its own can only consume…

What plagues us are not ideas or philosophies, but rather our insistence that ours is the only one that is right…

Written by lionoah

January 11, 2011 at 23:46