New Mexico

Crossing of the Rio Grande

Coronado-Remington

“Coronado sets out for the north” by Frederic Remington, oil painting, circa 1890-1900. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

(Donald Trump is hollering that “caravans of immigrants” are headed for the US border. He threatens to suspend both DACA and NAFTA in retaliation.

We know our president does not know very much, and does not care to know. But just so we remember who we are and where we came from, I offer the following from my Stories of the Conquest of the Kingdom of New Mexico. The passage is written with apologies to Ray Bradbury and his much admired The Martian Chronicles.) (more…)

Roughing It in Arizona

Totem Pole in Monument Valley, Arizona, USA. Photo by Bernard Gagnon.

Totem Pole in Monument Valley, Arizona, USA. Photo by Bernard Gagnon.

Still the question haunted me: why do I stay? It was an echo of a previous interrogation put to me by a senior professor when I interviewed for my present job: If you’re so good, how come you’re here? I have had occasion, living in Arizona, to feel just like Mark Twain’s hero in King Arthur’s court, without that stern Yankee’s talent for humbugging his society into Progress. Seeking relief in the Great American Trickster’s novel, I stumbled upon this passage:

My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its office holders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags—that is a loyalty of unreason, it is pure animal; it belongs to monarchy, was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it.

And then it hit me. I do not live in Arizona; I live in what the ancient Spaniards called the Kingdom of New Mexico.  (more…)

American Exceptionalism

"Theodore Roosevelt, c. 1904" (1974), oil on canvas by Allyn Cox.  Spanish-American War hero Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, and during his two terms in office he worked vigorously to regulate big business, encourage conservation programs, and expand America's role in foreign affairs. The mural shows Roosevelt giving one of his characteristically enthusiastic speeches. Directly below him, journalist H.L. Mencken takes notes.

“Theodore Roosevelt, c. 1904” (1974), oil on canvas by Allyn Cox. Spanish-American War hero Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, and during his two terms in office he worked vigorously to regulate big business, encourage conservation programs, and expand America’s role in foreign affairs. The mural shows Roosevelt giving one of his characteristically enthusiastic speeches. Directly below him, journalist H.L. Mencken takes notes.

“What a state!”

So did my friend and colleague, an eminent education professor at the University of New Mexico, express her indignation over dinner at a Chinese restaurant. She was reacting to the infamous SB 1070 (“Papers, Please”) law that was approved by the Arizona Legislature and signed into law by the Arizona Governor. She was so outraged by the law, that whenever she traveled to Arizona (“strictly for business”) for her consulting work in Indian reservations, she loaded up with food, water, supplies and gas so as not to leave a penny of her hard-earned money behind. If her work required an overnight stay, she would drive to the border and room in New Mexico. She felt about my home state the way I feel about the city of Scottsdale—the last, most miserable, low-down honky-tonk shack next to the Gates of Hell.

Implied in her outburst was a recrimination: How can you live there?

(more…)