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Davis, California

Friday, May 17, 2024

Column: All-American Rejects

I don’t really get what’s going on in Arizona.

The New York Times referred to the new law passed less than two weeks ago as the “U.S.’s Toughest Immigration Law,” which would give police broad rights to detain anyone who looks, dresses or acts like an illegal immigrant and doesn’t have the papers to show otherwise. President Obama gave us a wonderfully unjust picture of detained housewives last week when saying in reference to the law, “suddenly, if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to be harassed.”

How conservatives like Sarah Palin and Brian Bilbray still defend that this isn’t about racial profiling, I’m not exactly sure. Apparently, according to Bilbray, supporters of the law won’t be looking at race, but “at the kind of dress you wear.” So now, not only do you have to look white to stay in America, you have to look middle class, too.

“It’s straight up fascism in the twenty-ten,” my friend Albert said last week. His parents are Mexican immigrants, and he’s the first family member to ever go to college.

Racial profiling, yes. Fascism, probably. But I’ll admit, this isn’t what weirds me out about Arizona. What I find weirder is that the sheriff in its largest county requires the inmates to wear pink underwear to make them feel less like men. What I find weirder is that residents can carry guns anywhere, but they’re not allowed to cut down cacti.

Weird, yes, but strangely comforting that there was a group as contradictory, bizarre and seemingly closed-minded out there as my Asian-Christian fellowship on campus.

This is a group that makes no more sense than Arizona. For starters, we have an unwritten no-underage-drinking policy. I’m familiar with this, because I was rejected from the leadership team two years in a row for that reason, the first time making me the only one out of 18 applicants to be rejected (this is more of a running joke by now than anything of substance). We also had a policy in a recent year that banned women from speaking at our events, because an outspoken president thought that women were inherently incapable to speak on behalf of God because Eve ate the apple.

Yes, we have a history I’m not proud of. But it’s hardly one that represents the group. Rather, it represents the most outspoken leaders who happened to be running the fellowship that year (let’s not forget that the only reason why Jan Brewer is Governor of Arizona is because the previous one, a Democrat, was chosen to be part of President Obama’s cabinet).

Contrary to how we look, a majority of our members voted for President Obama and no on Prop 8. One year, our president came from a Lutheran church with a female pastor. Two years before that, the president took off the “official” no-any-age-drinking policy, probably because he went drinking after every Friday large group during midterm season. Some members think gay people won’t go to heaven. Some members actually are gay people who are going to heaven.

In short, we don’t make any sense. We may mostly have small eyes and black hair, but that’s about the only thing consistent about us.

Arizona represents a larger national movement to try and purify America, because if we all look and dress the same, we might actually be the same. It’s no coincidence that conservative supporters of the law happen to overlap with Tea Party radicals who still don’t think President Obama was born in America. Just last Thursday, Arizona was about to sign a law that required all presidential candidates to show their birth certificates. But after the racist spotlight was moved onto their lovely border state, they pulled the bill.

The same thing happens more subtly on campus, and I’m not just talking about conservatives. I just heard an honors thesis from a graduating Co-Op resident last Saturday about how the Co-Op culture on campus tends to attract people who are white, affluent and guilty. You’ll have a hard time living in the Co-Ops if you have to work for your own tuition and you don’t have enough time to garden.

Or take the protest movement against the UC fee hikes. You’ll have a hard time fitting into the dominant protest movement on campus if you prefer planning and organizing over anarchy. Or even the LGBT community that still has people who don’t think bisexuality exists, despite the giant “B” in the name. Or even my design team for Vent Magazine, which happens to only include designers who specifically like typography and white space.

It’s the most inconsistent group that has the harshest rules, and it’s the most lenient group that has the most homogeneity. And I think part of the horror we feel when we look at Arizona is that we see a bit of ourselves.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a senseless, inconsistent hypocrite, and the moment I try to make sense of that is when I go wrong. It shouldn’t be any wonder that America – contradictory and bizarre – is made up of contradictory and bizarre individuals.

Arizona’s problem is not just about Arizona. It’s about America, and everyone in it.

GEOFF MAK wonders if anyone wasn’t actually offended by this column. E-mail him at gemak@ucdavis.edu if you think that is a good thing.


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