Arizona – God enriches; Man divides
In 1539, long before the English reached the Virginia shores, a group of men took a hike. Out of the ruins of rocks and the rumble of scare vegetation, out of the dusty and beyond the struggle it had taken to reach that far, they saw a ray of hope. They believed in building a beautiful place, claimed it in the name of their country of Spain, knowing it would not be a city of angels but could be a city of man.
Colonized by the Mexicans, later part of the spoils of the Spanish-American War to become forgotten real estate officially known as a path to the gold in California and later annexed in the New Mexico territory, Arizona became an unlikely battleground of the Civil War. The Confederate Arizona Territory was regained by Union troops and again considered part of New Mexico. Natives of the area which included the predominant population of Navajos were rounded up and given the Long Walk to isolated captivity. Since admittance to statehood in 1912, the residents of Arizona have slowly built their state – brick by brick, heart by heart. It was hoped that the 21st Century would be the dawn of a new era for Arizona, a state of man for man, all men.
“When your trust is all but shattered; you faith all but killed.” Now Arizona has become known for their inhospitable treatment of its original settlers. Instead of valuing their motto – God enriches, they have lived a creed of fear. Those in power have forgotten that we are all but travelers, explorers on that which God has indeed enriched and given us.
Now Arizona is reaching new heights in ignorance. Apparently, none of their legislators or those in positions of power or with the loudest voices can remember how to use a dictionary. There are, in fact, 221 public libraries in the state of Arizona (http://www.publiclibraries.com/arizona.htm). Additionally there are 14 college or university libraries and they do have the Arizona State Library which is division of the Arizona Secretary of State. Sadly, though, no one has utilized the most basic reference book in each and every library – a dictionary.
The proponents of Arizona’s newest venture into narrow-mindedness are defending their position based upon Christian teachings and the US Constitution. Christianity has at its helm the concept of the Holy Trinity and the US Constitution outlines the duties and the limits of the three branches of the federal government. Perhaps it is fitting then that there are three words in the dictionary that need to be explored as they consider this new law to restrict who can be served and use public businesses.
First let’s define why those businesses exist. The concept of free enterprise began in the 1700’s when only those businesses receiving favor from the king could be opened and even then, paying for the honor through “taxes”. It was no surprise then that free enterprise was protected by the Constitution since the new countrymen wanted freedom to own private businesses, organized to be operated for profit in a competitive system without interference by government. In the past two centuries, only that regulation felt necessary to protect public interest and keep the national economy in balance has been enacted as legislation.
That leads us to the remaining two words which are antonyms or opposites of each other – public and private. Private is defined as that which is intended for or restricted to the use of a particular group. Churches, for instance, are not public buildings although they often are open to the public. They exist for the specific use by a specific group of people. Public is not inclusive. Public refers to that which is of, relating to, or affecting all the people or the whole area of a nation or state. A business which hope to sell its product or be patronized by has many people as possible is considered a public business and protected under the US Constitution because it is part of the free enterprise system.
Arizona’s lawmakers and governor are considering making it legal to have public businesses serve only private groups. One must then wonder why those business owners would put themselves in jeopardy to lose all their rights under the free enterprise system. After all, monopolies are illegal under the US Constitution. While there are many arguments to be made for interpreting the right to discriminate as a Christian theology and none defending that stance, the legal ramifications of discrimination, legally defined by US law as “disparity in treatment”, are clear and have many precedents in law.
How does providing a product and receiving payment for said product threaten the American way of life that Arizona prides itself on living? The US Treasury does not discriminate in who can have and use its currency. Indeed, it is the only currency considered legal tender and it is available to all persons, regardless of color, race, creed, gender, age, or a family history of discrimination, bloodshed, mental acuity, history of substance abuse, violence, legal standing, financial status, etc. How does Arizona plan to tax its businesses if that which is public is really private and that which is legal to use by all in the USA suddenly is not legal to use in Arizona? Will they secede and establish their own sovereignty? What will be next? Will everyone be required to have the same hair color, wear the same clothes, worship at the same building of faith? We fought a world war to protest such ideas and later enacted legislation to open all public businesses to the public. Does Arizona plan to retreat from those policies and opinions?
There are still many lessons to learn as we grow and continue to build our nation and each state as well as each city. Without forcing a certain belief system on anyone, Arizona voted on its motto, God enriches. Perhaps they need to remember it and once remembered, believe it. Then perhaps we could start learning how to build that beautiful city, a beautiful state, and embrace our beautiful country that those early explorers dreamed of as they hiked throughout our great land. Then we will be able start to build a beautiful place of acceptance for man.