It’s nice in the privileged bubble

28 Oct 2015 02:06 am
Posted by: Donna

Governor Ducey (or someone on his staff), in a manner consistent with the forced sunnily optimistic tone of his administration, praised this story in the Weekly Standard about a couple from the East Coast, author and neoconservative think tank associate Cita Stelzer and her husband, economist Irwin Stelzer, who are now snowbirds and having an idyllic time with the evangelical Christians in the outer suburbs of Phoenix.

We never thought we would find ourselves stocking a pantry in Arizona. But now that Phoenix is our winter base, there we were, on line at the deli counter of a supermarket located in one of the ubiquitous strip malls that we love because they are home to thrusting small businesses as well as huge anchor tenants like the store we were in. After waiting awhile, we realized we were in a take-a-number queue. We remedied the oversight and got number 61. We both remember it because of what followed. When a customer who’d arrived after us, but taken a number promptly, was called, she nodded toward us and told the clerk, “These people were here before me. They just forgot to take a number. So serve them first.”

This prompted remembrance of things past. Some four decades before, Irwin took his son, Adam, then about 10 years old, with him on a business trip to Phoenix. His ever-gracious clients provided a pair of tickets to a Suns basketball game, during which Adam, by then a veteran of Madison Square Garden, went to buy a hot dog. He returned in a state of amazement: “No one pushed me!”

All of which set us to thinking. The driver in the family had noticed that when entering Highway 101 (Phoenix’s Beltway, only without road rage), she was waved on by drivers of fast-moving oncoming vehicles. The non-driver, exiting a Starbucks, passed a woman who said, “Have a nice day.” He stopped her, told her he was a newcomer, and asked her why she had done that. “Because it’s a nice thing to do, I suppose.”

We decided to satisfy our curiosity by eating at a Chick-fil-A—the originally southern fast-food chain that was fiercely attacked a few years back for its owners’ support for groups promoting old-fashioned marriage. As soon as we walked in, we spotted an area set aside for little kids to play with toys rather than grow restless while their parents lingered over lunch. Nice again. Nicer still, we watched a boy of about 6 hold the door for a little girl maybe 4 when they were both going into the play area. He wasn’t born courteous, so something was happening at home.

And the longer we stayed in the area, the more often we encountered not just “Have a nice day” but “Have a blessed day,” offered by shop clerks and waitresses. There was something inexplicably warming about it. What was going on?

Having lived in many other places besides Arizona, and having grown up in the DC area and returned for visits several times since moving away, I find it interesting that the first time the Stelzers have routinely encountered basic courtesy and accommodations for children in public spaces has been in Arizona but, okay, whatever. Good story, Cita and Irwin! Unsurprisingly, things took a hard WTF turn after they got the niceties out of the way:

Disconcerting as it was to us East Coast types, we decided that what we were encountering was civility, and we were noticing it because we were accustomed to its absence in Washington, a place we had recently fled. Phoenix is a town where you don’t need a permit to carry a gun, where Hispanics, legal and otherwise, make up a large part of the workforce, and where the heat should surely cause personal temperatures to boil at the slightest microaggression—so why here? Our answer: the large number of church-going, family-valuing, socially conservative members of the population.

Let’s examine the claims about Phoenix the Stelzers made in that one paragraph, that in their minds would reasonably lead one to conclude it to be a hostile place. See if you can identify the item which seems, erm, a tad out of place among the three:

1. No permit needed for a gun.

2. Lots of Hispanics, “legal and otherwise”, in the workplace.

3. High temperatures.

Why would the presence of a large number of residents and workers of Hispanic descent cause semi-retirees like Stelzers to quake in their boots? I’ll leave that to them to answer. Also to Governor Ducey to explain to us whether he agrees that Hispanics, by their very existence, are a potential public menace, since he (or a staffer but what’s the difference?) thought the Stelzers were peddling such a good story.

As far as the Stelzers and the Governor thinking everything’s wonderful in Arizona and that conservatives are winning the culture war because of their big, old-fashioned married church-y (*cough*white*cough*) families holding sway over the rest of us, I’d say that’s a function of their deliberate choice to be in a self-imposed bubble of privilege and fake “civility” passing for empathy and community. That’s not a slam on whatever communities they live in, as there are kind and generous people (and jerks) to be found everywhere in America. No, it’s a sense that the Stelzers and Governor Ducey are able to justify Arizona’s brutal, devil-take-the-hindmost policies toward people who are not like them by convincing themselves that those people deserve whatever they get for not being morally upright enough.

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