Chapter #146: Goodbye Arizona - We'll Miss You. - May 20, 2010

Interstate I-17 road signs in Black Canyon City, AZ - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Phoenix, AZ - Laughlin, NV and the Mojave National Preserve

In mid May, I drove the 400-mile distance from Simi Valley, CA to Phoenix, AZ. Although Arizona was my former home, I now spend less time there. With so much time between my visits, changes to familiar landmarks are easy to spot. One positive change is the widening of many freeways throughout the Valley of the Sun. From Goodyear to Phoenix, motorists will find construction all along Interstate I-10. Additionally, the Interstate I-17 widening project, leading north from Phoenix, nears completion.

Sadly, the portion of I-17 between Anthem, AZ and the Sunset View Scenic Rest Point, near the Bumble Bee ghost town still rates as one of the most dangerous highways in Arizona. On I-17 North, toward Flagstaff, speed limits of sixty-five to seventy-five mile per hour are common. Interspersed on the road are sharp curves, steep hills and many motorists predisposed to speeding and traffic accidents.

The Grand Canyon, taken from above - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)During my recent visit, the Arizona Republic newspaper published the story regarding a motorist who lost control and drove unseen off the side of I-17. Despite tumbling with his SUV into a ravine, the injured motorist successfully completed a mobile telephone call to 911. The resulting ground search was insufficient to locate the motorist. An air search, initiated several days later, located the motorist and his son. Officers pronounced them both dead at the scene.

I love All that Is Arizona. Shortly before my recent visit, I was disheartened to learn that Governor Jan Brewer had signed legislation that places up to one-third of Arizona residents under suspicion. That new law requires Arizona police officers to check the federal immigration documents of those who they suspect to be undocumented immigrants. If unable to produce legal residency documents, the police officer will then arrest the undocumented person. We wonder if police will require middle-aged white people to produce Canadian immigration papers. The propensity for police racial profiling, conscious or not, tells me that few white people will have to justify their residency status.

PeterBilt delivery caravan - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)One can imagine a routine traffic stop leading to the arrest of a person who has lived in Arizona since just after the federal immigration amnesty of 1987. Would that person, who has lived in Arizona for two decades be subject to deportation, right along with a 2010 border-crosser? If eleven to fourteen million undocumented immigrants now live in the U.S. , how busy might we expect Arizona’s police to be in confronting and arresting the undocumented?

Today, persons of Latino or Hispanic extraction comprise about one third of Arizona’s total population. The governor’s assurance that police officers will receive “anti-racial-profiling training” leaves me cold. As we know, whether we apply “positive” or “negative” energy to any subject, we will soon get more of whatever we focus upon. Thus, in attempting to avoid racial profiling, there will naturally be more profiling activity, whether intended it or not.

Mountains above Bullhead City, AZ near sunset - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Similar to discrimination that Austrian and German Jews experienced before World War II, will Arizonans soon report their neighbors as suspected “illegal aliens”? Would the act of accusing one’s neighbor create “probable cause” for the police to verify the residency status of “the accused”? When the law goes into effect, I expect police “anonymous tip-lines” to ring more often. Those communications lines could soon allow one neighbor to accuse another of not being a "real" American.

That day, I stopped at Baja Fresh in Tempe for lunch. During my visit, a steady stream of people frequented the restaurant. As I sat and ate, I found myself wondering what comprised each individual’s ethnic or racial makeup. Soon, I realized that I was engaged in the silent racial profiling of Arizona residents.

Colorado River water taxi at Harrah's Laughlin Hotel & Casino - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the U.S. Mexican War. At the time, Mexico ceded large parts of current-day Arizona, California and New Mexico to the United States. At their inception, Mexican Americans outnumbered Anglo Americans in all three territories. Native Indians may have outnumbered both Latinos and Anglos, but their subsequent sequestration, subjugation and near annihilation makes their situation hard to compare. By treaty, all Mexican Americans, but none of the Indian Americans became citizens of the United States.

Harrah's Laughlin Hotel & Casino - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)I hope that any “anti racial-profiling” training that local police and sheriff’s deputies receive is superlative. For years now, the sheriff of Maricopa County has conducted document-search sweeps in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. For a police officer to discern which Hispanic has a 163-year citizenship legacy and which one is a recent arrival is going to take some great “anti-racial-profiling training”. What criteria will they use to decide when to ask someone for papers?

Let us now remember the motorist who disappeared off the side of I-17, subsequently dying of injuries or exposure. Will the Arizona police soon be so busy arresting undocumented persons that they will no longer have sufficient recourse to search thoroughly for accident victims? As a motorist, I prefer to see more “search and rescue” missions, rather than “confront and arrest” missions now sanctioned by Arizona law.

Sun Country jet landing at Bullhead City, AZ - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With our time, energy and money, each of us “votes” for what we like, or dislike. Arizona’s politicians and electorate recently used their resources to whip up bigotry and fear of Latino or Hispanic residents. Now, this fear has spread to Utah, where the legislature is considering similar anti-immigrant legislation of its own. When pettiness and bigotry take over the energies of a “body politic”, it is time for me to place my energies elsewhere. Until its anti-immigrant laws disappear from the books, I shall avoid doing business in Arizona. Until sanity and humanity return, my Arizona visits will be restricted to necessary medical appointments. When this is all over, I hope that the Grand Canyon will still there. I would love to see that place again.

Water taxi along Colorado River at Noon - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After my overnight stay in Phoenix, I visited my doctor in Scottsdale, and then headed northwest toward Laughlin, Nevada. There, I spent the night at Harrah's Laughlin, Nevada Hotel and Casino. My elapsed time for the 270-mile trip from Phoenix to Laughlin was less than five hours.

Once I crossed the Colorado River Bridge and entered Laughlin, I breathed a sigh of relief. For less than $50, I had booked a River View, King Room at Harrah's. When I checked in, the guest services representative invited me into the Diamond Check-in Room. There, she promptly dropped the price of my room to less than $40, plus tax. The room was on the fourth floor, allowing a panoramic view of the Colorado River. Throughout my stay, all hotel services were impeccable. Additionally, I found the onsite McDonald's and Baskin Robbins convenient for quick meals and snacks.

Mojave National Preserve, from Interstate I-40 West, in California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)During my stay, there were many Japanese tourists at Harrah’s. As I entered the hotel, there was a group of twenty receiving their individual tickets for an evening event. Many more enjoyed the swimming pool, which was just below my window. On my hotel TV, NHK Cosmomedia Japan provided their English-speaking TV Japan channel. Unlike many U.S. cable news sources, TV Japan featured unbiased news reporting. If I had a choice at home, I would gladly exchange NHK for my current Fox. I love to stay informed, but prefer my news without an obvious editorial slant.

As I exited the casino that evening, I spotted a senior couple eating ice cream together at Baskin Robbins. They were enjoying themselves so much that they reminded me of a young couple on their first date. After passing by, I stopped, turned back, smiled and then said to them, "You are the two most sensible people in this whole place". The woman jumped about six inches, but the man smiled, held his hand out and said, "Thank you".

Wildflowers bloom along I-40 summit, near Ludlow, CA - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As my friend, Leonard recently said, "I really like Laughlin; my wife does not. I figure it takes me about as long to drive from Los Angeles to Laughlin as it does to Las Vegas. However, there is an obvious difference between the two. Las Vegas has too much; Laughlin has absolutely nothing. For me, it is a great place to get away and do nothing. I think "nothing" is the primary attraction in Laughlin.

Next to Harrah’s, the Riverside Hotel & Casino has some things to see. There is an antique automobile museum there and a watch store that sells all sorts of ... uh ... watches. The town of Oatman, Arizona is close by. I think Tim McVeigh hung out there before he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Today you can go to Oatman and feed carrots to wild burros. Descendents of pack animals brought by miners long ago, they still wander the streets.”

San Gabriel Mountains, from the summit of Cajon Pass on Interstate I-15 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The next day, I departed Laughlin for Simi Valley, California. My trip west across the desert via I-40, then south on I-15 was beautiful. With temperatures in the 80's, clear air and minimal traffic; I made it home in record time. In recent years, the Mojave Desert has experienced extreme drought conditions. This winter, the rains swept in and the Mojave National Preserve now looks green by comparison. Later, as I approached the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains on I-15, heavy snowdrifts there attested to this year’s wet winter in Southern California.

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