Thank you, Arizona

Normally New Mexico points to Mississippi as the negative example keeping us from being the bottom feeder of all manner of quality-of-life rankings. When a Republican legislator who didn’t get New Mexico’s Latin state motto tried to change it, the derisive reaction included jettisoning “Crescit Eundo” in favor of “Gracias a dios por Mississippi.” That’s all just noise, of course, which doesn’t obviate our beloved and beautiful state being worst in the nation for child well-being after Mississippi moved up to 49th in the Kids Count Data Book last year.

Now, however, it’s time to thank Arizona for reminding us what’s right in New Mexico. Yes, Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday vetoed the bill enshrining as public policy religious discrimination against gays and anyone else, but students of New Mexico history recognize our neighbor’s roots running deep into the 19th century. There, but for the grace of politics and the Spanish language, our two states would look like today’s Republican Party, a single body enjoined in a fight for its soul between panicked moderates and snarling radicals.

To understand this requires a rapid and much simplified recap of local history:


Amtrak’s Sunset Limited crosses the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, into New Mexico nearly on the Mexican border. Bill Diven photo.

The United States, for myriad reasons — Manifest Destiny, spreading slavery, lust for a rail route to California — invaded Mexico in 1846. Two years later we owned the Southwest, or thought we did. We botched the survey drawing the border too far north for the rail route, but instead of sending the dragoons back in, we bought what is now much of southern New Mexico and Arizona. Continue reading

Where have all the snowflakes gone?

The weather cooperated nicely this weekend for a hike in the Sandia Mountains. Sunny with tolerable wind and the thermometer dangling from my pack reading 60 as I shuffled up Tunnel Springs trail. Even the East Coast news guy on morning TV checking the national forecast map said, “It looks like the Southwest is the place to be.” Well maybe, maybe not, since our mountains again show only white tips instead of the deep snow cover ready to feed streams, rivers and irrigation systems with the spring melt.

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Unfunking America

The American people aren’t stupid, just depressed. In case you’re not among the depressed, or are medicated, self-medicating or figure it’s Armageddon so what the hell, here’s a headline from last week: “American dream fading, poll says”

The McClatchy newspaper chain is behind this Marist-MaClatchy Poll, and one of its reporters led his story by saying Americans are “overwhelmingly pessimistic about their chances of achieving and sustaining the American dream.”

They see an economic system in which they have to work harder than ever to get ahead, and a political system that’s unresponsive to their needs. They see the wealthy allowed to play by a different set of rules from everyone else.

To which I say, OK, so what’s new? Since when has it not taken hard work to get ahead in this country? Since when has the political system not leaned toward big money? And since when have the wealthy not played by their own rules or at least tried to? Buying Manhattan Island, slavery, Robber Barons, invading Nicaragua, renting congressmen, Justin Bieber, anyone? Continue reading

Death Race I-25

Interstate 25 during the morning rush to Santa Fe intimidated the woman in the VW enough she couldn’t make up her mind about the 75 mph flow in the right lane. So she opted to speed up, slow down and randomly apply the brakes, slowing and braking just as I started to pass her by shifting into the 85 mph left lane. I barely dodged her and squeezed into the faster stream as a pickup grill quickly filled my rear-view mirror. What surprised me about the pickup driver wasn’t the on-my-bumper tailgating but his inattention when I turned on my blinker. I really expected him to speed up in an attempt to plug the hole in his lane before I could dive into it.

I-25 near Santa Fe. Rail Runner tracks on left.

I-25 near Santa Fe. Rail Runner tracks on left.

By Tuesday morning enough time had passed I’d almost forgotten how much one risks life and limb in the morning stampede from the south into the capital. Last time I checked the numbers a few thousand commuters from Rio Rancho came east across the Rio Grande each morning struggling to get through the town of Bernalillo to reach the interstate and turn left into the northward wave from Albuquerque. At Bernalillo three lanes become two, and Death Race I-25 begins. Continue reading

It was 50 years ago today, and 52, too

The hype and hoorah surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Beatles invading the United States takes us back to a simpler time. Their arrival came a scant 11 weeks to the day after the assassination of President Kennedy. Yes, the country kennedy-and-johnsonwas still in shock, but the deep distrust of the official explanation for the Kennedy killing had yet to set in, and the government’s deceptions about the war in Vietnam were still in the future as were most of the nearly 50,000 American combat deaths (plus a quarter million North and South Vietnamese civilians, the low-end estimate). Continue reading