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I like to imagine that most Kossacks live safely in Blue states with majorities of people that think like them and with societies that reflect the values of the people who live there.  For most of my life, living in Blue states was a very conscious choice by this mixed-race professional who preferred to be identified by characteristics other than color.  For the past five years, however, I’ve lived deep in Red territory, in Arizona, in the territory of our opponent’s strength. I thought I’d share what life is like out here.  It is a different world.  

Here's part of the problem:

Let's put her in her place.

While the population of Arizona is a broad representation of Americana, slightly browner to be sure, our politicians are among the most reactionary conservatives in the nation.  I’m not sure how those dynamics came to be, but we have clearly reached a point where the mass of people at the bottom of the pyramid have to question why their interests are so poorly represented by their elected officials.  The 2012 election could be a watershed election in Arizona for both local and national tickets as people awaken to their real political power.

Arizona is a state of vast contrasts – as in income disparity close to the worst in the nation.  At the very bottom of society are those people it chooses to incarcerate, putting them safely away from even the illusion of hope.  At the very bottom of those at the bottom are those that wrestle with the internal chains of the mind as well as the fences of prison.  In Arizona, those mentally ill patients at the bottom of the bottom are treated in conditions not materially different than the way the mentally ill were treated in the 19th century.  Solitary confinement.  Restraints.  Lack of medical treatment. Hopelessness.  Suicide.  The ACLU has filed suit - https://www.aclu.org/... . - people die.

While the mentally ill die alone in our prisons, we’re better known for how we treat drivers who sport a deep tan. Senate Bill 1070 – passed in 2010 - http://www.azleg.gov/... - made it an “offense” worthy of being stopped by law enforcement if that officer thought you “appeared” that you might be undocumented.  You won’t be surprised, I suspect, to learn that “America’s Toughest Sheriff” – his own moniker – Joe Arpaio - http://www.mcso.org/... - is facing a Department of Justice probe into racial profiling of Latino people by his department - http://tucsoncitizen.com/....  (Personally, I can say this one is a reach, I often drive by sheriff vehicles in my BMW and am never stopped as they are too busy stopping EVERY pick up truck with a brown driver.  They have evolved their focus on brown people to poor brown people.  Progress?

Maybe you can turn to the State Attorney General for justice? No, Evidently there were a lot of campaign discrepancies in his last election and the FBI has a few questions - http://www.azcentral.com/....  That’ll make that run for governor a lot tougher.

And our current Governor? Jan Brewer – you probably remember the finger from this year, but check this clip and you’ll consider the source – she probably forgot she wasn’t talking to her chauffeur -  http://www.youtube.com/... -

She’s not making any friends north of the mason-dixon line.

Our Fight

I run Compassion First, a medical marijuana patient advocacy organization in the state.  This past December we won an important case in court against the State of Arizona -, forcing them to implement the voter-approved medical marijuana program in the way it was originally intended.  Our organization’s activities are an absolute necessity in a state that has approved medical marijuana twice before only to see elected officials undermine the citizen’s initiatives.

We’re continuing the battle to gain access to medication for patients who choose marijuana as a way to treat their symptoms.  We’ve recently won the right to treat patients with PTSD and hope to expand treatment to other psychological disorders.  We are moving forward.

Even as we win in court, our reactionary legislature and governor actively seek ways to stoke the most atavistic elements of the right wing.  The most recent example is where they pushed for concealed weapons on college campuses  http://www.kgun9.com/...  , which failed, at the same time they pushed to outlaw medical marijuana on campus, which regrettably passed- http://www.reuters.com/....

So, this is the state I live in, with liberal gun laws and a gunshot congresswoman, with voter-approved medical marijuana and state raids of legal operations, with over 100 golf courses and one mental hospital.  Welcome to Arizona.

But we are also a State in play.  We have:
-    Very high minority population percent – 42%
-    close losing margin in 2008 despite being McCain’s home state
-    Decent economic climate
-    Politicians that have greatly overplayed their hands and/or violated the law

We can win here.  They can lose here.  Here’s how you can help:

1.    Money matters – this state lives and breathes on your vacation dollars - please fill out the attached poll if you’re willing to consider a vacation if AZ goes blue and not if it’s red.
2.    Friends and family matter – if you know ANYBODY here, especially the retired, start working them.  If they’re your republican uncle and aunt, tell them you want the same social security and medicare they have – they’ll get it.
3.    PR matters – put a national spotlight on Arizona.  There are some great writers on KOS –  and there are some great stories in Arizona.  This is not your mother’s backyard, it’s her future home, and you should want it to be the kind of home she wants to spend the rest of her life in.

Originally posted to AZ Desert Rat on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:27 PM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks.

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