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Ducey

Dear Governor Ducey,

I read in the Arizona Republic that you are mad at the Red for Ed activists but not mad at teachers for rallying for school funding. I don’t think you were mad at anyone until the Invest in Ed petition successfully received over 270,000 signatures—well over the 150 some odd thousand necessary to get on the ballot. I would be mad too, if I were you. You were supposed to have this government thing locked down. With gerrymandering and voter suppression, you and your corporate buddies should have been guaranteed permanent power. And maybe you will still be. Maybe the Invest in Ed ballot measure will fail. Maybe you’ll find some technicality that won’t even let the measure on the ballot. It’s already so hard to get initiatives on the ballot in Arizona. I got 27 whole signatures. It took me a month. I don’t like to ask people for signatures. It was funny to ask people to sign and watch them calculate if the tax hike would affect them. This ballot measure affects only people who make over $250,000 a year. Don’t these people feel like they have been so lucky, so supported by a system where wealth creates wealth? Don’t they want to give back? Someone came up to me to ask if I would sign his petition to stop all tax increases and I said, “I like taxes.” I think I told you this before—the more taxes I pay, the more I feel like the future will not be a complete disaster. Perhaps you don’t have these anxieties. I was raised in a Mormon culture that expected some kind of apocalyptic ending. I have always been afraid and prepared for that, even though I’m not a practicing Mormon. In my mind, some kind of societal or environmental catastrophe looms. It’s possible I’ve transferred that fear from religious rapture to a fear of an environmental apocalypse, but taxes bring me back to reality. Schools and roads and healthcare for all, income equality, support for families, prison reform, counseling for all of us who fear the end and who also fear the domination of a government interested only in corporate profits—that’s how I find a way to sleep well at night.

I’m driving home from my yearly trip to Utah. Yesterday, we hiked five and half miles on Sulphur Creek. The water is low this year. The Southwest is in a megadrought. Where once we could swim in pools of water deep enough to dunk our whole heads, we could merely wade. We need more water. In other parts of the country, it’s flooding. My mom and I were thinking about how to take water from the flood zones and direct it to the parched ones. Pipelines and drones were involved in our plan. I used to think people should just live near water, but the places with water are pretty crowded. Like taxes, maybe diverting the flood disaster to the drought disaster isn’t a bad idea. Equal things out. 

We had to file an extension on our taxes this year. We owe a little money. I’m glad to have someone to pay to keep things going even though I do not support this particular incarnation of our government. Most government operations still function even though schools and healthcare and basic humanity is at stake. On top of paying taxes, as a prophylactic against apocalypse, I give money to the ACLU and to the lawyers trying to find ways to reunite children separated from their parents at the border. I give money to my kids’ school and to candidates who vow to reinstate some of the services that balance out the haves and have-nots. The more taxes the rich pay, the less likely it is that the rich are the only ones with any hope. I see a lot of hopeless people these days. People without jobs and people without healthcare and people without representation in their government. In the ‘50s and ‘60s the rich paid upwards of 60 percent of their income in taxes. That was when America was supposedly great. So let’s make it great again. Let’s go further, way further, than Invest in Ed. Let’s make you mad, again, Governor Ducey. Let’s call your rich friends and tell them that it’s really dry in Arizona schools. Truly, to balance this big drought for a huge proportion of people services, these people with oversaturated bank accounts can give up a little of their water. It doesn’t mean it won’t rain for them again.

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Nicole Walker is an associate professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit www.nikwalk.blogspot.com

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