Dear Governor Brewer,
I love your country. I visited the West Coast – specifically, Los Angeles and San Diego – nearly four years ago. What struck me about my visit, aside from fantastic shopping districts and the most truly sublime pizza I’ve ever had in my life, was the inclusiveness. At the time I bought a little into the populist view that America was a segregational, isolationist country that outwardly discriminated on the streets and caused nothing but heartache for some of its citizens and generated disgust in the hearts of its tourists to see it firsthand. The horror stories of such behaviour from friends of mine who’ve traveled to different areas of the United States are thankfully narratives I never got to experience firsthand, and I returned from your country feeling that I’d just seen the exact opposite of that populist view come to life before my eyes.
I never felt unwelcome anywhere in my American travels, and seeing a vibrant cross-section of individuals from all walks of life, of varied sexuality and skin colour, everywhere I went only made me want to come back again later and keep experiencing that lovely, inclusive culture. I felt as if many of my preconceptions about America being, at least in part, racially and sexually discriminatory only turned out to be widespread and uninformed views propagated by Internet culture and generalist comments left by those who suffered from bad experiences in their travels. In short, I wanted to disregard all the negativity I had in my mind about the United States and return with only the positivity my original trip had engendered in me. Granted, I was only present in the US for roughly two weeks, and that’s hardly enough time to accurately gauge the personality of a city or state, much less an immense and diverse country, but I felt like my experiences on the West Coast were some of the best I’ve ever had in my life (and not just because Comic-Con was on at the time, though that did certainly augment my time there).
As much as I love your country, I find myself dismayed by this current legislation proposed by your state concerning “anti-gay” laws and the right to refuse service based on religious beliefs. I’ve searched for the official, objective name of the bill (i.e. 2010’s SB 1070 regarding foreign registration within Arizona, rather than just the “Arizona anti-immigration bill”) but have come up with nothing besides the hateful, exclusionist name both online and print media seem to have hung on it like an albatross. I find the legislation itself baffling; I’m not the most politically savvy of my colleagues, but even I can see when a piece of policy eclipses subjective views and just becomes plain wrong. The Arizona anti-gay bill (for I have no other way to succinctly describe it) is wrong.
While I’ve not been in Arizona itself aside from a one-hour layover on my flight home from San Diego those years ago, I’ve definitely kept the thought of visiting your state with me when thinking of my next American sojourn. But if this bill is signed into law, if you implicitly or explicitly support the discrimination of any person or group within your state on grounds that beggar belief, then there is no chance I will ever partake of Arizona’s hospitality. I can only presume I’ll be far from the only one to do this, and I’m sure by now you’ve seen plenty of messages and received an assortment of calls intimating the same thing.
I may not agree, but I understand the path towards legalising gay marriage and accepting them into certain communities (not just in America – my own home of Australia has had significant difficulties and tribulations with such over the past twelve months) is a long, difficult and multi-faceted one. Whilst I see that homosexuality is a trait that should be embraced and welcomed rather than shunned and shamed, and that the argument itself is a fairly moot point, I do understand that to some political maneuverers the issue is not as clear-cut as that and not everyone thinks the same way I do. As I said, I’m not the most politically savvy man in the world, so there’s only so much I’m fully cogent of.
What I do understand is that legalising a form of discrimination – because no matter how you slice it, that’s what the bill is effectively giving carte blanche to – will not only engender hatred and dissatisfaction from some of your constituents and many of your citizens (not to mention those, like myself, further abroad), but also sends Arizona down a dangerous and rocky path that could see further, more extreme legislation inextricably tied to acceptance under religious precepts. Governor Brewer, who’s to say that those proposing this bill might not one day ask for the right to refuse service to people whilst armed, or to segregate those of particular class, skin or sexual inclination into particular areas of the community, or worse, with the justification that their religious beliefs dictate these actions?
Now obviously those are very extreme examples, and I highly doubt (and hope) Arizona or the United States at large would be imbecilic enough to adopt such positioning at any time. But do you see my point? Religion is an important thing to many, to put it lightly, and by all means any who believe in an institution are free to hold those values dear and express them. As with the bill, I may not agree at all with these particular values, but who am I to tell somebody that what they believe in is wrong? That would make me as hypocritical of freedom of expression as those who’ve proposed this bill. Also, speaking as a Christian, I’m fairly certain there is nowhere in any of our religious teachings where an affirmation of this kind of discrimination can be found.
Validating a law under religious grounds is dangerous. Validating this particular is puerile. Validating the discrimination of people who, at the end of the day, are no different from you or I, who deserve to be loved, accepted and welcomed, is disgusting, beyond comprehension and will become an eternal black mark on both Arizona and the United States’ credibility going forward.
I implore you, Governor Brewer, please do not validate the hateful, discriminatory whims and wishes of outdated views and the people who propagate them. Please don’t give me a reason not to visit Arizona.