So, I'm going to Phoenix next week to the wonderful Poison Pen Bookstore for their annual conference. This is something I have really struggled with. Here's why:
I'm a political person. If you know me, or if you've read my book, that's probably not going to come as a huge shock.
I try to keep an open mind. I don't consider myself dogmatic. But I have some strongly held opinions.
I think Arizona's recently passed immigration law, SB 1070, is criminal. I think it's racist. I think it's un-American.
Before anyone pops on here to lecture me on the border situation or the need for immigration reform, stop. I know. I was born and raised in San Diego. I think our immigration policy has some serious deficiencies. I'm not going to pretend that I'm educated or expert enough in the issue to know the full scope of the problem or offer the best solutions. But I am educated enough to know that what Arizona proposes is not the solution, and that for every person who truly believes it's not as bad as it looks, well, it is. It puts a burden on law enforcement to make snap judgments on a person's immigration status -- to decide if a person "looks" and "acts" "American." If that doesn't lead to racial profiling, I don't know what does.
And you want to know how to gauge the real intent of the people behind this bill? Look at what they're planning next -- they want to strip away citizenship from people born in the U.S.A. who have a parent with illegal status.
It's been a while since High School civics, but I do believe that's un-Constitutional.
I mean, I have enough trouble with denying kids whose parents brought them here as children or even infants without proper documentation. Is it their fault that their parents made this decision? And we're going to deport these kids who are raised in the States, who are culturally American, to a birth country they don't even know?
Americans come in all colors and ethnic backgrounds. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I happen to think that's one of the greatest strengths of this country.
But the Arizona law isn't just about immigrants in general. It's about Mexicans in particular, and that to me is one of the most troubling things about the sentiment driving it.
The southwestern United States shares a cultural heritage with Mexico. This was Mexican territory before it was the US. Yeah, the US won, and those are the facts on the ground. But that doesn't mean we should not acknowledge the long, deep ties between our two countries.
Yes, there's horrific violence along the border. Let's look at why that is. It's mostly a consequence of the drug war going on in Mexico, between the various cartels contending for supremacy and the Mexican military. What's fueling that conflict?
Long-held corruption in the Mexican government, yes. Millions of people living in poverty as well.
The other half of the equation is American demand for drugs, a drug policy that criminalizes behavior and increases violence and, most directly, American guns, up to and including military weapons. America is literally arming the Mexican drug cartels. They don't make guns in Mexico. They strictly control guns in Mexico. American guns are smuggled into Mexico every day, just like drugs are smuggled going the other way.
So, we, the US, are great big enablers of this violence, at best.
Anyway. I could go on, but I think I'll stop here and get to the point.
A number of people, organizations and government entities are boycotting Arizona. The three biggest cities in California are either actively boycotting or have condemned Arizona's actions. I'm glad. I think it's entirely appropriate for a city or state government to condemn the actions of another government entity. I support the people who've chosen to boycott as well. I get it.
And yet I'm going to Phoenix.
After going around and around and around on this, I've come down on the side of fulfilling a prior commitment, and also, supporting an independent bookstore. I'm not sure how I feel about boycotting small businesses run by good people who had nothing to do with decisions by the state legislature, in any case. But particularly when it comes to this business.
I as an author, a debut author in particular, owe a debt to independent bookstores. They are the ones who take chances on new authors. They are the ones who support small presses. They care passionately about books, and they connect readers to authors in a way that a chain bookstore or online entity never will be able to do. And like much of the publishing industry, independent bookstores are going through a tough time. I owe them, as does every author (with the possible exceptions of James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer -- they seem to be doing okay on their own), as does every reader who cares about books.
(I'll be writing more about my own recent mini-book-tour, where all this was really brought home to me, in the next few days)
So, see you at Poison Pen. I'll be the one wearing a "Do I Look Illegal?" T-shirt.