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Last week I went to my beauty spa for a 3:45 appointment, only to discover that I was a whole day early. Organized as usual. Luckily the laser hair-removal technician was able to work me in because somebody else hadn’t shown up. I was lying back on the table getting my mustache burned off when the technician said, “Did you know you only got this appointment because the girl who was supposed to be here is being held hostage at the Chandler Mall? Yeah, there’s this crazy guy shooting a gun off inside. She called on her cell and said she wouldn’t be able to make it because the whole place is on lockdown.”
I couldn’t react with much more than a groan because my entire upper lip was slathered with cold gel and the technician was electrocuting my hair follicles. I made a mental note to avoid the mall area—four miles from my home—until the gun-slinging hostage-taker was caught.
I prayed that a slaughter wasn't going on.
A few days later, I was eating lunch at my desk when news started coming in over Facebook that an Arizona congresswoman had been killed, along with several other people, in a shooting down in Tucson. What? It’s hard to process that information when you’re in the middle of grading another crappy essay from another badly educated teenager raised in Arizona. I hoped that the information trickling in was exaggerated or wrong; I hoped that people were just injured, not dead.
Throughout these days—as the Chandler shooter was arrested before he killed anybody, and the Tucson shooter was arrested after shooting Representative Gabrielle Giffords through the head, killing six others and injuring many more—my own daily work continued. It had to, just like shop owners have to keep their doors open and firemen have to keep putting out fires. In my world, editors and other writers kept up their own work too, hammering me with unsolicited advice: “You use the word ‘I’ too much. Stop focusing on yourself so much; try including your readers more by giving them advice. That way it’s not always about you.”
Okay then. In an effort to cut down on my use of “I” and to provide some words of wisdom, hear this:
Arizona needs to stage a Move-Out. This could be likened to John and Yoko’s Bed-Ins, but would require all Arizona residents…legal and not…to move out of the state. Take your illnesses and try again in a place that doesn’t make organ transplants impossible for people who need them but can’t afford them, where the hospitals have nurses who won’t talk about you like you’re already dead. Find a state where children are actually educated and not just pushed through, so they don’t grow up to resent their college instructors who fail them because they can’t write or do math. Pack up and search for a place where entire families and established communities are not chased across our nation’s border, back into poverty and a drug war. Take your small businesses—your loyalty to local sports teams…your scholarship and expertise, your club memberships and season tickets and love for live music in public venues—and start fresh where there are metal detectors in the right places. Let’s move back to the states we came from, where we used to feel safe and more hopeful.
Or, we can stay here and try to do better.
Get organized. Take an interest in our awful news and push for change in your area, whatever change you think would improve the shameful condition and reputation of this state. Write to your local members of congress and tell them that you’re unhappy, if they’re not in the hospital with a life-threatening head wound. Don't just sit around, complaining and blaming. Get moving and do something...without a weapon.
And if you live in Gabrielle Giffords’ district and lost a loved one last Saturday, or you're sitting in the hospital with an injured family member, or if you're just plain frightened, know for certain that the rest of Arizona and the entire nation is pulling for you. You are on our minds and in our hearts.