Monday, February 14, 2011

Editorial: State's birthday countdown is on

It evades me why the unnamed Courier editor thinks this a worthy topic for an editorial. He doesn't seem to offer an opinion of anything other than that having a centennial is cool. But that's not to say that he doesn't inadvertently editorialize here.

Selecting from the copious writing of Marshall Trimble, he chooses to make fun of the accent of a Minnesota senator of Norwegian descent and recount how Arizona immediately stuck its thumb in the eye of President Taft, as if this indicated something noble about Arizonans.

Despite his gloss on our state historian's work, the editor had to have missed some of the history behind these anecdotes. Arizona came by its image honestly as "a wild and woolly place populated by nothing but Apaches, outlaws, rattlesnakes, cactus and Democrats," and it leaned into that image in 1912 by choosing February 14 for its elevation to statehood.

Arizona's original flag as a CSA territory
This had nothing to do with the Catholic feast of St Valentine, of course. Rather, it was the 50th anniversary of its recognition as a Confederate Territory by proclamation of Jefferson Davis. (At the time the Democrats were the reactionaries and slavers, of course. The party didn't turn progressive until the 1930s.)

In that context, the quote from the Minnesota senator takes on a little more nuance. Arizona began by saying that it didn't want to be American, and it had an established history of unreasoned, adolescent rebelliousness that it pridefully maintained with that 1912 election.

In 2011 we're not doing much to prove that we've grown up. The ghost of John Calhoun stalks the halls of our Legislature as the heirs to the party of Lincoln do all they can to subvert his legacy. In that context, our celebration of the state's centennial is following a proud, if stupid, tradition.

I won't be surprised if someone introduces legislation to update the AZ flag to acknowledge its history:

PS to editors: It's not really that hard to find an accurate rendering of the state flag. Your graphic on dcourier is pretty sloppy. Some people might read that as disrespect.

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