OCCUPIED TUCSON CITIZEN
What a marvelous turnout it was the other night at the large Sabbar Shrine Temple on South Tucson Boulevard! It’s amazing how many intelligent and concerned citizens can turn out to massage an important issue, in this case whether Broadway Boulevard, one of Tucson’s major east-west traffic arteries, should be widened to eight-lanes. That dream encouraging sustained vehicular overkill is part of an over two billion dollar twenty year regional transportation agenda, guaranteeing employment of high-paid consultants for a few more years. I guess this cash cow is necessary for their inventing a way to bulldoze off the globe small businesses that have survived rocky years, and then figure out how to put down tarmac in a straight line for a few miles.
As described by Tim Vanderpool in Tucson Weekly, the meeting reeked of “preplanned conviviality.” Nothing could have been more obvious than the huge charts ranged before us and displayed on stage, along with tedious explanations for the dim-witted. (I asked if I could read a one page comment, and was put in my place, since it wasn’t “preplanned.”) The consultant M.C. from Oakland said in his exposition that “everybody has a right to be heard”, so maybe if I had stuck around for a couple more hours I could have been heard from the floor, but there was no wind for my feather.
We were asked to put little green stickers on the options we were supposedly approving, variants of the major goals. I was not the only one at our table who didn’t understand why a fourth option wasn’t available, namely, to call the whole thing off and use the money for other desperate and varied needs of the city. The convener at our table took my little green label and placed it where it could be counted as approving one of the alternatives. I wondered why a crossword puzzle wasn’t available to our group for distraction.
There had already been multiple meetings, but there would be more. Those consultants had to make a living, but I‘ve never enjoyed being in a group being treated like children. I read my one-pager to the group at the table, but only the fellow next to me could hear it. He was present because his business would be destroyed if the widening plan went through. He had been in business for decades. I wished I could help him, but after seeing how the fix is obviously in regarding Broadway (as it is in so many cases vitiated with politics, such as the Rosemont Mine mooncrater-to-be), I took Walt Whitman’s advice and exited into “the mystical moist night air” (though it wasn’t moist), and took some deep breaths.
It was heartening to see so many concerned citizens gathered. But how many would have turned up to discuss a related but far more critical issue, i.e., climate change? The Broadway issue is relevant because everything is relevant now and connected, for mankind (and man-unkind too) are facing the most critical issue in human history, and we are still a part of the past and the future, though the survival even of our DNA is at risk. We still breathe dinosaur breath and we hope our progeny will still be alive and procreating in the seventh generation from now, as recommended by Native Americans.
Long denied, as unspeakable as sex education or objections to violence, is what used to be the subject of cartoons – The End of The World. St. Paul called it Armageddon. We’ve always called earth Our World, though it also belongs to innumerable other species, all of them trying to survive, and the kindest of us help them. Some don’t even abuse and eat them.
What, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice or change in our lives to save the world for future generations? Would 200 dedicated citizens show up to discuss the possibilities in a city where its government seems to do everything they can devise to discourage efforts to ensure a sustainable environment, and keep utilities, rapid transit, and education available not only to the rich, but to everyone. Save water and your bill will jump up radically. Choose solar and you’ll be laden with permissions hassles. Ask for crosswalks and you’ll need training for the bullfight corrida. Complain about ear-damaging noise and needless air pollution and you’ll be called a traitor because trillion dollar planes with twice that noise level will be the next imposition of “The Price of Freedom.” War and Passionate Politics, not love of earth’s land, air, sea, and one another regardless of race, gender (via birth or choice), etc. still rule. As a famous news reporter used to say, That’s the way it is. I’ll never forget his weeping on air when JFK was assassinated. Guns and the mentally ill are still, as then, dominating our history.
Gregory Bova of Tucson wrote in a letter to the Arizona Daily Star, quoting another President who was assassinated, this one with a handgun: “Congress has done what terrorists dream: halting our government! Lincoln’s 1838 Lyceum speech still rings as true: ‘At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never…At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.’” That, My Friends, is the way it is, and the way it was.
David Ray is a Tucson poet and Socratic gadfly. He welcomes feedback at www.davidraypoet.com
(c) 2013 David Ray