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Why Are We Raising Our Kids Here?

posted Sunday January 9th, 2011

I let Annabelle listen to the news yesterday afternoon.

Actually, I made her listen. She’s not one of those kids who begs for that kind of adult privilege, in fact she’s more likely to tell you to turn it off so she can listen to music. But she got that this was important.

“Wait,” she said from the back seat. “That lady they’re talking about on the radio, that’s the one you were just talking about with the other moms at ballet?”



No, not really, though I get where she was coming from. I suppose that if I’m going to raise my kids in Arizona, they’re going to have to get used to this kind of thing.

Annabelle was an infant in 2001 —  I was feeding her and watching a rerun of E.R. when the news cut in on the tiny old TV in her nursery and suddenly, a huge tower was falling. I held the baby close and called for Ray, who was still asleep in the next room. 9/11 defines her life the way it defines all our lives, but it wasn’t the same as yesterday. Yesterday she was 9 years old, the same age as the little girl who got caught in an obviously crazy man’s crossfire. Or maybe he meant that bullet for that girl. I just read that her birthday was September 11, 2001.

I didn’t let Annabelle hear that part, about the 9 year old girl.

But she listened to the radio as an old friend of mine, a journalist in Tucson, talked about Gabby Giffords. None of this is about me, of course, but the whole thing hits a little too close for home. Giffords and I aren’t friends — we had lunch just once years ago while she was still in the state legislature — and I left thinking, “Wow, that woman is too hard a charger even for me” — but we have a lot in common. She is Jewish, she grew up a Democrat in Arizona, we even went to the same tiny college in southern California, missing each other there by a year. She’s way cooler (or dumber) than I am — believes in riding motorcycles without helmets and the Second Amendment — but still, the similarities.

And the hate. There is a lot of hate in this state. I know, I know, in the country, in the world, it’s seeping in and out of every crevice, everywhere. But trust me, it’s particularly bad here. And so the fact that a crazy man showed up at a Safeway in Tucson and shot this quirky, well-meaning, hard-charging, wicked smart woman is no coincidence, not to us here.

Yeah, he’s crazy. Crazy like an Arizonan.

Why do I live here? Why are we raising our kids here? I don’t have a good answer, except this: Because it’s  home. I’ve always said that Arizona is a great place to be a journalist and a lousy place to be a person, and that was never more true than yesterday.

Trying to fall asleep last night, I thought of Harry Mitchell, the sweet man who lost his first election ever last fall. He’d been mayor of Tempe forever and then served a few terms in Congress, losing in November to a creepy guy who’s been running for years and finally lucked out.

But it occurred to me, as I tossed and turned, that Harry Mitchell — a Democrat, another target — is the lucky one. It could have been him yesterday. And then the conversation would really have hit our dinner table, since Annabelle and Mitchell’s granddaughter are good friends at school.

It’s a small world. If it happened in  your state, chances are you’d have the same uncomfortably close connections, the ones that got me up at 3 this morning.

I am so sad, and mad, as my friend Deborah put it yesterday on Facebook. And shaky. The world is very fragile.

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Tags: Filed under: politics by Amysilverman

4 Responses to “Why Are We Raising Our Kids Here?”

  1. Awful, awful. I guess it’s still a bit of the wild west eh? Hard to comprehend but it sure seems like this guy has a mental illness untreated. But Sarah P and her cohorts plug right into that craziness and use it to their advantage. They’ve got a tiger by the tail though and it could just as easily turn and devour them.

  2. When someone, no less a twenty-something with questionable mental stability can walk into a gun shop and purchase an assault weapon, a weapon intended to kill many and kill quickly, and no one takes the time or energy to wonder what this kids motives are-this is the at the center of the problem.
    There will always be delusional people out there operating in society, We give them the means to destroy life by allowing then easy access to arms.

  3. Amy, you’re right to answer your questions of ‘why are we raising our kids here’ and ‘why do I live here’ by saying that it’s home.
    The questions I found myself asking yesterday are more general about what it means about being human and why am I here right now… not just in Arizona but on the planet. I came to a similar answer to your ‘it’s home’ and that is to quote Alanis Morisette, “I am a citizen of the planet”.
    I believe that we are in chaotic times and as much as I sometimes want the chaos to be more predictable I know that change in any system can only happen when the system is in chaos. A stable system will fight change. And, the current system sucks and we need a transformation to take place.
    With Yesterday’s events, I struggled to be accepting of the chaos, I found myself sad and dumbfounded because it is closer to home than the madness in the rest of the world. A Safeway parking lot! Yesterday, I did the only thing I could do. I went out to dig a big hole for a new lemon tree. I had to; I couldn’t allow myself to get discouraged or caught up in the drama of the news. I needed to feel at a raw level the sadness. So I dug at the hard desert dirt and as I dug, I got to thinking about how the right environment gives the tree a greater chance to grow. The tree has to do the growing, all I can do is make the soil a bit friendlier and provide some supplement nutrients and the right amount of water.
    And, despite my efforts, there’s a chance that the location may just not be right but that is where I was called to dig and that’s where I dug.
    Here in Arizona on this planet is where I find myself and my family (kids) and now the bigger question of “why am I here” is taking me to a place of soul searching about what is my responsibility as a citizen of the planet. What type of work do I need to do? Digging gave me blisters on my hands, a sore back, and a release and a clarity to know that I must keep at it even as the darkness of night approached and the air around me grew colder. It became more difficult to work but I couldn’t stop because I knew that I couldn’t leave the bare roots of my new tree to the cold night and to the javelina.
    I don’t have the answers. Thank you for the questions.

  4. Former Arizonian here. We left to partake in another climate and another world in PA. I knew where we were heading… to a place where American History stomped out it’s roots… Let me say there have been some very positive experiences. It has been a lesson in letting our hearts take us to the place of our destiny but I will also say it’s been a sad realization that history can and does repeat itself and although I see many people taking an active role in living more consciously peaceful it has been hard to see how some hearts are set in stone. We live near the Mason/Dixon line… 30 minutes from Gettysburg…a few people here still follow confederate ideals and even fly the confederate flag. The KKK still runs around although they may not show up looking so obvious. Literally right after we arrived in PA was the shooting at the Nickel Mines Amish School House. As well right in my own neighborhood I was at a farmers market a few weeks later… I was waiting for an order of food and I started to talk to an elderly man standing nearby I told him how I loved the area (farmers markets, gorgeous spring days, mild summers, very welcoming people and communities that feel calmer) he sputtered at me and said “Yep… not too many blacks or foreigners”… My jaw dropped. I have spoken with other’s who tell me I’m just too sensitive to this sort of attitude that it’s harmless. Mmmm… I don’t think so but yes I am sensitive.

    I’m very slow to find peace in all of this although I know as others have said we are where we belong. I want my children (all 5 of them) to find their conscious place in a more peaceful world. So although I’m in another state… hundreds of miles away from my former home I find peace in knowing that parents can link arms in some way and find a way to bring our children to a better place.

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