Sunday, March 08, 2015

Letter #5--Shades of Brown

Dear Governor Ducey,

I understand that you want to protect Arizona but I wonder about this Arizona that you mean. I sense it might mean golf courses and the business men in black suits who support your campaigns but if you look around Arizona, there is only one percent grass, only one percent business man. The other ninety-percent looks plain brown to you. It is a brown state, but many kinds of brown.

Luis Urrea was in town last week to give a talk at NAU. He spoke about Arizona’s brown in a talk he was giving last night at NAU where 800 people came to see him read, thanks to the university, and by extension, partly thanks to the state’s support, about his book, The Devil’s Highway. He told us that a border patrol agent said it’s hard to find migrants who have died in the desert. They are as sun-toasted brown as the dirt. It’s only when the white of the bones begins to show that the border patrol finds their bodies. I am white but getting old enough now that age spots and freckles have tinted my skin a speckly borwn. My husband’s hair is brown. Our kitchen table is brown. The color of our kids’ playset is brown. The color of the elementary school they go to is brown. Our friends Okim and Jinhee are Korean and brown.

My students Nate and Tom and Lyncia whose families are Navajo and whose people came before any of our white bones arrived are brown. My students Mel and Lauren and Sylvia and Jerry are brown. Our friend Beya who is half black is mostly white with a hint of brown. Our friends Amy and Pepe and their daughters Sierra and Sivena are brown. My colleague Nancy is from LA and brown. My friend Monica is part Peruvian and her last name is Brown, so she’s doubly brown. My friend Mara’s brown hair is long enough now it reaches her back. The people who work at Gore are brown. The people who work at NAU are brown. The people who work at Warner’s Nursery are brown. Brown with dirt under our fingernails. Brown with bills and brown with doctor’s appointments.  Most of us of us in our shades of brown make less than $60,000/year. Each of us is trying to paint our kitchen a new shade of brown. We are buying brown cars. We are driving down brown roads.

Although I live in Flagstaff where the tops of trees are green, the bark that grows down them is brown. The dirt that feeds the tree is brown. Even the water, when it rushes, is brown. The dirt in the Sonora desert is brown with hints of red and the dirt of Sedona is red with hints of brown. The sandstone is a light shade of brown and the volcanic rock is a very dark one. I know you believe that it is the green golf course and the black suits you are meant to protect but as 100% governor of a 100% state, it is not fair to turn your back on the many shades of brown.

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