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Arizona and an opinion that matters [The reply]

January 18, 2012 |  1:22 pm

Arizona
In response to my recent Op-Ed about the state of Arizona one year after the Gabrielle Giffords shootings, TimBowman comments: "Arizonans have a long history of being self-reliant and mistrustful of outsiders, and reading yet another diatribe from a sanctimonious Californian telling them how to live their lives only reinforces this." He's right. Many Arizonans indeed take a keen interest in the issues of the day and pride themselves in their willingness to be independent and plainspoken. I know this because I'm one of them.

My great-great-grandfather farmed cotton outside Phoenix during territorial days, and my family has been stubbornly rooted there ever since. I grew up in Tucson, attended school there, worked for the state's largest newspaper and have lived in five cities across the state over the years, from the big metropoli to the small county seat. I now teach at a California university, but (sorry, Tim) I have earned the right to talk about a place I know intimately. 

GregMaragos raises a question about whether an "attempt to explain crazy" really holds water, and I'd like to note that I'm making no attempt to explain how the deluded ramblings of Jared Loughner make any sense in the real world, only to point out what multiple researchers have concluded -- that the actions of a person suffering from paranoid schizophrenia are influenced by the totality of the culture that surrounds them. Ignoring the context of the Safeway shootings, and failing to do anything about it (such as keeping guns away from the mentally ill, improving mental health awareness and making the public dialogue more oriented toward pragmatic solutions and away from villain-making), would be a stumble on Arizona's part, and there is no sanctimony in pointing out these things. 

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--Tom Zoellner

Photo: This Jan. 8 photo shows newspapers, at a makeshift memorial, announcing the shooting rampage on Jan. 8, 2011, that killed six people and nearly took the life of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Credit: Lili DeBarbieri /AFP/Getty Images

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