I don’t usually use my little soap box for more than raging at the thunder in the online space. I’m an immigrant to this fair country, I can’t vote and I mostly leave the Politics to those who can. Back when I used to sing with a large barbershop chorus in New England my fellow singers would tease me about singing the star spangled banner at various events. In response I used to say “you are here by accident of birth…I chose to live here… damn it” or words to that effect. So it was with a weird mixture if incredulity and real sadness that I have been watching the machinations in Arizona over the past week or so.
Like most good Americans I hold dear life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…also freedom for religion and freedom from religion. I gave up praying to the thunder a while back…but I still understand the inclination and have been known to lament “I miss God” from time to time. Democracy is an odd way to run a country…but still better than all the other options. We all hold it dear but many of us don’t vote. If we don’t vote that holds the door open for the activists (on all sides) who are prepared to get out their vote to set that agenda. Sometimes things can go horribly wrong and we end up electing a former wrestler as Governor or deciding to teach creationism as coequal with evolution. The good news is that what can be voted in can also be voted out, and we tend to have a self-correcting system where things get voted in because the sensible majority just weren’t paying attention can be voted out in short order by the same reasonably sane majority.
Alongside this political horse race runs the typically much less volatile game of business. I run a business….not a huge one (yet) but none the less one of some size. I think I’d find the vast majority of my fellow entrepreneurs in agreement that no matter what our personal opinion might be on any given matter it makes utterly no sense to attempt to codify religious bigotry, intolerance or homophobia into the law of the land…or the state in the case of Arizona.
Why would you do that? Even if you are so unreconstructed that you might feel that way, why would you attempt to bring that into that which pays the bills? You may have a “sincerely held religious belief” that women are second class citizens, Jews are the devil and left handed people should be stoned for wearing both synthetic and natural fibers at the same time or on a Sunday…but this is America and you don’t get to monkey with the law to suit your own “sincerely held” bigotry. If you don’t like gay people or Armenians or left handed people you don’t have to marry one or invite one home to meet Mom…but you don’t get to not serve them in your restaurant, not fix their broken pipes or not rent them a room in your apartment block. You are (supposedly) part of a civil society, one in which we all pay for the roads, the schools the fire department and the F16s. You don’t get to pull up your teensy weensy draw bridge because you think gay people are “Icky.” I (like many I imagine) might find your intolerant and idiotic “sincerely held” views completely objectionable…but I will defend to the death your right to have them and express them. What you don’t get to do is foist your sad and idiotic bigotry on the rest of society….to cause chaos which the rest of us have to fix. Were we asleep at the switch?…I guess so. Are there a lot of people in Arizona who find anyone who doesn’t think and act like themselves “Icky” no doubt…but turning Arizona into the one state where you can discriminate without fear of recourse “just because” is idiotic.
Business leader are scrambling to get the Hail Mary save of a Governor’s veto to stop this bill, indeed several Republican law makers who actually voted for the bill (presumably to appease their activist constituents) are even now also pressing for a veto to save themselves from themselves. Arizona is a big, hot, rich supposedly grown up state, with hundreds of thousands of federal and military jobs. It’s also home to millions of private sector jobs in companies who need this kind of religiously driven distraction like they need a hole in the head. I suspect the Governor will do the right thing and veto this ridiculous legislation and I imagine heads will roll….well we can at least hope so.