In the wake of yet another round of embarrassment and humiliation for this state from its ongoing parade of politicians, last week I was asked, “Where do these people in Arizona come from, anyway?”
“From somewhere else, mostly,” I replied glibly. “They move here.”
Luckily for our state’s national reputation, the news about former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and former state Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, were up against new revelations in the George Zimmerman case in Florida. Cable news viewers missed most of what happened back here.
For Arizonans, though, our years-long litany of losers is hard to escape, and it easily leads too many of us to think the whole country is laughing at us.
Yet as much as we may think so, among the states the title of “nation’s laughingstock” has many claimants.
I searched those two words on Google and found the following among many from the past year. Some are from citizen bloggers, others from traditional journalists, others from activists. But you’ll get the drift that Arizonans are far from alone in thinking that those in the other 49 states are ashamed to be mentioned in the same State of the Union:
May 3, 2011: “Brace yourselves, South Carolinians … you’re about to become the butt of a fresh round of national jokes. This time, it’s a feature-length movie … The movie, called “Southern Rivals,” will focus on a pair of aspiring small-town politicians who are vying for votes in a South Carolina congressional race.” — “SC about to become the nation’s laughingstock (again),” FITSNews.com
May 31, 2011: “Well, now we’ve got a winner in the race to see which state can become the first to enact such a law after the idea was ruled unconstitutional. Readers of this blog, meet Florida.” — “Florida wins contest to become nation’s laughingstock,” in onlinelunchpail.blogspot.com.
July 6, 2011: “A longtime friend who now lives in Washington, D.C., called the other day. ‘What the hell is going on in our state?’ he demanded. ‘People are making jokes about Wisconsin all over the place.’ He’s right of course. Our once proud state … has become a laughingstock to many outsiders.” — “We’ve become laughingstock of the nation,” by Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus, The Cap Times (Madison, Wis.)
March 29, 2012: “Illinois has been the nation’s laughingstock since George Ryan (‘Dumb’) and Rod Blagojevich (‘Dumber’) went back to back in its governor’s mansion.” — Mark Johnson, writing in blog Dream Dials in the Morris (Ill.) Daily Herald.
And just last Monday, April 9: “Just over a year ago, the Legislature zeroed out the state’s weak and ineffective office of tourism promotion, already the nation’s laughingstock with a paltry budget of less than $2 million.” — “A year of making do without tourism promotion.” — Ronald Holden, writing in crosscut.com, a nonprofit news organization in Washington state.
Face it: For true, hide-your-face shame, it’s hard to beat Illinois. When our governors leave office in disgrace, at least it isn’t done consecutively. And the governor of Wisconsin faces a recall election. And last time I checked, at least they weren’t making a movie about Arizona politicians.
Last week’s stories of Thomas being found worthy of disbarment and Patterson’s resignation at least told of people once trusted with certain responsibilities that today no longer have them. The system works — at long last — and we’re observing that being played out.
What has been most difficult for Arizonans in recent years has been never quite seeing the last chapter. Accusations fly from left to right, right to left, and seldom does anything resembling resolution — however these situations are resolved — appear to result.
If we Arizonans have learned anything from the recent spate of scandal it is that there is no quick, easy way to choose our leaders.
Left to their own devices, candidates themselves are of little help. The information they give us through advertising hardly adds up to anything substantive and it’s going to take time and effort for a voter to feel truly comfortable with his or her choice.
Slogans are the fast creation of a good ad executive, and if a certain word or combination of words gets you voting without flipping the “on” switch attached to your brain, then the results of the election are whose fault?
Journalists and voters must continue to ask tough questions that can make politicians squirm and hold forth on their true convictions and actual qualifications. It’s the only way we’re going to get reliable answers instead of feel-good phrases — and, if it is all that important, fewer jabs from late-night comedians.
Read Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on Sundays. Watch his video commentaries at eastvalleytribune.com. Reach him at email@example.com.