Branded: Can Tucson Ever Live It Down?

Editor's note: This story has been edited from its original version.


There's a 20th casualty from January 8 — a city shot full of holes.

Gun by Francois Robert, from his series "Stop the Violence"
Courtesy of the Etherton Gallery
Gun by Francois Robert, from his series "Stop the Violence"
Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

Columbine, Waco, Oklahoma City. All places defined, in the collective consciousness, anyway, by violent acts. And now Tucson.

It's true that we don't think of JFK every time someone mentions Dallas, and you can talk about New York City — finally — without conjuring 9/11. No one ever called it the Manhattan Tragedy. But Tucson's much smaller. And for many, Jared Lee Loughner's killing spree is and will be the first association with the southern Arizona city, the first time they've heard the name pronounced out loud.

This tragedy's going to stick to Tucson, even though technically, the Safeway where it happened isn't even in its city limits. Already, the media's short-handed it to Tucson. Soon, it'll be a verb: "Tucsoned."

Almost immediately, we knew that Loughner's wasn't a political statement, that he has no close ties to Tea Partiers or Nazis or nativists. But the shots he fired reverberated across the country as symbols nonetheless, and marked Arizona as ground zero for the division and discontent so many Americans feel.

And the truth is that the target was about a hundred miles off. Yes, Tucson has a handful of Tea Party Patriots; in fact, they came close to defeating Congresswoman Gabby Giffords last November. But metropolitan Phoenix is the home of the spiteful, the land of Tent City and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Senate Bill 1070 and Russell Pearce — and a governor who champions it all.

Just last October, a think tank at Arizona State University called the Center for the Future of Arizona released poll data showing that civic engagement is far higher in Tucson than Phoenix. In Tucson, more people vote, more families eat dinner together, more neighbors exchange favors.

There's still lots to love about Phoenix, my hometown, but really, if any place deserves to be the poster city — accidental or otherwise — for hate, it's Phoenix. From up here, I can't help but think one thing:

Tucson took our bullet.


"Oh, all right, fine, go to Tucson," my editor said when I asked to write this, to get it in the paper before the paint dries on the words Tucson Tragedy. "But I don't want a love letter."

Gulp. I have a romanticized Tucson in the most literal sense. My parents met and fell in love at the University of Arizona in the early 1960s. I have this image of the two of them running in slow motion across the bright green lawn on campus in front of Old Main — she in a shift dress, her blond hair in a bubble 'do; he in thick-framed black glasses and a crew cut — embracing as the theme to "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" plays in the background, just like in the movie Grease.

Growing up in Phoenix, I heard a lot of stories about Tucson. In my head, it was glamorous, sort of a junior Miami Beach with lots of silk-scarved grandmas playing mahjong around the pool, a retirement community for at least one of America's most famous crime families. And my father's fraternity at UA, Delta Chi, was the model for National Lampoon's Animal House!

In reality, I think my parents' first date was at a somewhat rundown tiki bar on Speedway Boulevard, home to a lot of car dealerships and tire shops. My mother and her friends really did dig through mobster Joe Bonanno's trash when they were kids — but they never found anything more exciting than banana peels. And last week, I learned that just about every fraternity in America claimed to be the model for Animal House.

But, still, I love Tucson. I love it in the only way you can love a city you've never lived in. At various times, I've almost moved there. I worked in D.C. for two members of Congress from Tucson. Some of my best friends are from Tucson.

The coffee places are cuter, the Mexican food's better, there's more appreciation for historic preservation than in Phoenix. People paint buildings in bright colors and turn wrought-iron fences into art. The bike paths are wider. The mountains are greener, the air's actually cooler, and the stars shine just a little bit brighter in Tucson, thanks to light ordinances that protect the view for nearby Kitt Peak Observatory.

In the 1800s, white men settled the spot and took up with Mexican women ('til the railroad finally reached town in 1880, bringing a more varied supply), and people say that's why there's more appreciation for diversity in Tucson, along with the fact that unlike Phoenix, it's technically a border town — about 60 miles from Mexico.

Until the Central Arizona Project brought a steady stream of water in 1993, Tucson was the largest city in the country to rely entirely on pumping groundwater, which explains the ubiquity of desert landscaping — a contrast with Phoenix, where Midwesterners brought big thirsty trees and grassy lawns along with them, taking advantage of all that dam water from the Salt River.

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76 comments
Tucson native
Tucson native

Jeez did the author bother to interview ANYONE who is a native or just the transplants? To those of us that call Tucson HOME and not just the "current city I live in" what the outside world thinks won't add up to a hill of beans in the end. Tucson is still, and just, Tucson regardless of this tragic event.

OG
OG

http://www.causes.com/causes/1...

Support clubs that rival the hells angels and everythings Sonny bargers freak gang seem to stand for in the USA.

Sonny famous as 3 holed drama queen and leader of the child porn supporting hells angels gang made famous for the LaRGE PERCENT OF usa hELLS ANGELS IN THE NEWS DECADE AFTER dECADE FOR HARMING RAPING mOLESTING and murdering women and children all over the USA.

Tomato
Tomato

Captain Moron, Jared Loughner bought his gun at a sports store and his amunition at Wal-Mart, not from a New Times ad. Loughner wasn't a prisoner that New Times wrote about, you pussy. He was never treated for his mental illness, never went to jail and got a write-up You are just another igonrant fucktard spreading lies. Because Jared Loughner killed a bunch of people doesn't mean New Times is wrong about Joe Arpaio being a corrupt thug. Here's hoping you wind up in one of Joe's gulags someday. Then, maybe, you'll get it.

Captain Obvious
Captain Obvious

Even a person who can't spell well [or just made a typo] gets it, guest.

All the hate rhetoric PNT spews out about Conservatives and the right.. or even all the rhetoric they spew about the Sheriff ... is given a pass. The Sheriff receives many death threats... how many of those threats are fanned by the PNT? I'm willing to bet quite a bit. You already have a prisoner who leaves prison a bitter person, then PNT confirms their emotion with writings from Lemons and others... Can't be good.

Captain Obvious
Captain Obvious

I believe the reputation of Tucson being a dirt bowl filled with illegals and beggers will far outweight this tragedy.

Captain Obvious
Captain Obvious

I blame the Phoenix New Times for this tragedy.

Guns? PNT is full of gun shop ads. Perhaps one caught Jared's eye?

Drugs? Jared's friends say he was, and I quote, "a pot head" and how many headshops advertize in the PNT?

Irrational Paranoid Rhetoric? That's easy, just read anything written by Lemons.

kit carson
kit carson

> "Almost immediately, we knew that Loughner's wasn't a political statement, that he has no close ties to Tea Partiers or Nazis or nativists."

Half-right. Half-wrong.

Almost immediately we knew Loughner's act WAS a political statement, just not one with close ties to sanity.

His acts were those of a crazy person who thought his government was out to get him. We know this from his blogs and journals. His decision to shoot-up a Congresswoman was not random.

This is how some crazy people express their political concerns.

While we need to be careful not to create artificial linkage between Loughner and existing political movements, we can not lie to ourselves and others about his intent.

Please be more careful, and more accurate, in your future reporting.

Marc V. Ridenour
Marc V. Ridenour

The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths of several other people that was carried out by Jared Loughner has me wondering: was he induced, perhaps on a subliminal level, to commit this heinous crime?It has always been this way: as soon as Washington starts debate on another “gun control” bill, in this case imposing new laws on border states’ sales of guns, ‘something’ always happens, some lone nut job “goes postal”.

I once read a novel by the late Robin Moore titled “The Fifth Estate” in which a sinister super-evil super-genius wanted to take control of the United States by electing men and women he had his thumb on to the Presidency and both houses of Congress.

One way he got political people he couldn’t influence out of the way was having a psychologist on the payroll that scouted around looking for unstable people he could subliminally induce to kill specific people the super-evil super-genius wanted out of the way.

Is that what has happened—again? Is there someone or some organization creating “Manchurian Candidates” and triggering them?

Cali-lily
Cali-lily

If this writer is soooo in love with Tucson, she should feel free to move back there. Then she can pump out suck up articles for the locals. Instead of dissing the people she lives amongst. She makes negative reference to our Sheriff. The Sheriff in Tucson is a joke. Without Joe to bounce criticism off he would have no to claim to fame.

We in Phoenix see Tucson for what it is, the gateway to Mexico and illegal immigrants. She makes no bones about not approving of 1070. Well, the drug and gun runners are in Tucson. They should care more about who is camping out in their back yard...beyond the fence line.

The biggest joke in Phoenix left for DC when Obama appointed her head of Homeland Security. She couldn't secure our own border in Arizona and now she is overseeing the security of the entire nation. Boy are we in trouble. Janet, come out come out whoever you are....

mikefrombisbee
mikefrombisbee

So Tucson will be forever branded by the mass shooting on Jan. 8? Not very likely. That kind of incident has happened in way too many other places in the U.S. to mark Tucson as anything unusual (and isn't THAT a sad reflection on our national culture?)

What happened in Tucson has nothing to do specifically with the 5-city urban/suburban area - Tucson, South Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana and Sahuarita - that covers the Santa Cruz Valley. There are Jared Loughners and guns everywhere in our crazy, sad country. People in Tucson will get on with their lives as people always have after horrible events transpire. People will still move to Tucson to take jobs (if there are jobs to take.) Tourists and snowbirds will come for the warm winter weather and to see the things they can't enjoy in Iowa and British Columbia. Tucson (and it is "Tucson" only in the sense that "Phoenix" is still used to describe the multi-city megalopolis in the Salt River Valley) is what it is - a sometimes charming place with a deep history, that has metastasized into a smaller version of every other Sunbelt city. Malls. Cookie cutter housing developments. Traffic jams. Pollution. Crime. Chain restaurants.

And yet, under the surface of the ticky-tacky urban craziness are many special and delightful qualities - Tucson Mountain Park and the Desert Museum, Hotel Congress and the Rialto, the late-night crowd at the Grill, the Chicago Store, Barrio Viejo (or what's left of it), Armory Park, Menlo Park, Hi Corbett Field, Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemon, Snob Hollow, Pat's Drive-In, the Temple of Art and Music, the Loft, the Arizona Historical Society, the Crescent Smoke Shop, Fred's Arena and Bar, lots and lots of very fine Mexican restaurants, the entire southwest side of the city and all of the great rural destinations that surround it.

We left Tucson for Bisbee many years because the scale of rural life is more suited to what we want in our daily routine. But we still make the drive back to the Old Pueblo on a regular basis, to pitch a tent at Gilbert Ray campground in the Sonoran desert, to enjoy the cultural activities unavailable in a small town and to recapture the good feelings that life on the southwest side had when I was growing up.

Crap is everywhere in the world, but if you are careful you usually won't step in it. Tucson has crap and lots of good qualities as well. Just like that much bigger city a couple of hours to the north of it.

If the Newtimes really wants to do its readers some service, I would suggest that you conduct serious research and then write about how the southwest megalopolises are all living on borrowed time due to the ever-increasing need for a ever-dwindling natural resource - water.

Jmpurcel
Jmpurcel

I feel for the people that had to witness this tragedy but if a congreswoman would not have been involved this story would have just made another blip on the news. Just as many people have been shot and killed and gunned down similar to this situtation in other cites and no one cares about them.

Abc
Abc

With regard to my post below, I mention this because the author compared Tucson's 1/2 million people to the whole metro Phoenix pop (all cities and unincorporated Maricopa Co) of 4.5 million.

Abc
Abc

Tucson has a million people. 1/2 million in the city, 1/2 million in unincorporated Pima County. Pretty big error.

Tomato
Tomato

Guest and Sharkhead, I read the whole article. It's you two who're the dumbass, small-minded, hometown cheerleaders. Right... Tucson's so wonderful that it won't become Columbined or Oklahoma Citied, right? Sure, keep smoking that good ganja you hippie-dippys like to inhale down in your (formerly) precious, little burg. The story spends a lot more time kissing Tucson's ass than I would like -- because there's just not a while lot to your town -- but the point is made throughout that its image will never, ever be the same, and that, my dears, is the real deal. You fucks are Tucsoned now! May as well get used to it.

John Smith
John Smith

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AJFlick
AJFlick

Wonderful article, Amy! Thanks for your perspectives. (I am wondering about the Animal House reference, though, since that wasn't shot here. Revenge of the Nerds was. :-)

Tomato
Tomato

Love all the Tucson homer comments on this story. Fuck your little town. It will forever be known for this shooting, just like all the others are. Excellent point, New Times!

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

If it wasn't in Tucson's city limits, what city was it in? Was it in an unincorporated part of Pima County?

We have yet to fully find out if Loughner's motivations were. Why do you state that it wasn't associated with a political or advocacy view so emphatically? It doesn't matter whether he has "ties" to an organization (whatever you mean by ties), his motive for the killings will be fully revealed as his trial progresses. He has espoused many beliefs that are associated with ultra-right-wing militia types, specifically the writings of conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller, who is associated with the "Identity" system.

Loughner was anti-abortion, did not feel women should be in seats of power and believed in numerous conspiracy theories and espoused views such as: the United States Government was responsible for the September 11 attacks; a New World Order would bring about a one world currency; there would be a 2012 apocalypse; NASA had faked spaceflights; and the government was using mind control to brainwash people by controlling grammar. He was a member of the online conspiracy theory message board Above Top Secret, though members of the site did not respond warmly to his posts. Reports appearing after the shooting noted similarities between the statements made by Loughner concerning grammar and mind control, and the views of conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller. Miller stated "He's just repeating things I've had up on my site the past 11 years." According to Zach Osler, the online conspiracy theory film Zeitgeist: The Movie affected Loughner's view of the world. (the above is from Wikipedia).

He is definately being influenced by what is typically consider ultra-right wing opinions, including the Tea-Party's "Spill the blood of tyrants" crap.

Haole
Haole

911 in New York Shitty has come and gone and so will the Tucson shooting. after a few years no one really gives a flying fucking shit anymore. humans could cares less about the past and most move on with their own self centered self consumed worthless shitty greedy lives. we all got enough problems in our own short lives here on this planet so why worry about the past? its just water under the bridge. there is nothing we can do about the past so move on with your own lives and let it run down your back and move on.

OAKLAND 81
OAKLAND 81

Tucson was a worthless dusty desert shit hole in 1970 and still is in 2011. its a doomed town with very bad evil vibes. its always been like that and it hasn't changed in all these years. you come there with money and great hopes and that shit hole drains all that out of you with in a few months. next thing ya know your homeless on the mean streets of 4th ave spanging aka spare changing in front of that hippie food co-op on 4th ave. that is if you dont get killed by a BIG MEAN DRUNK HOMELESS INDIAN BUCK on the mean streets of Toostoned Arizona. this shooting by Jared the gun man aka the pussy boy makes all of Arizona look bad not Tuscon. Arizona already has a reputation for rough and tumble violent gun toting free spirited rednecks and 1%er bikers. so whats new?

Marcy
Marcy

Amy,

You went ahead and wrote a love letter anyway. Thank you.

Craig
Craig

Tucson can live it down and move on, but I'm not sure Arizona can.

The anti-government/public servant lunacy that is such a strong part of Jared Loughner's make up is NOT a strong part of Tucson's character.

However, it is a big chunk of the character of much of the rest of the state.

Don't believe me? Check out some of the recent developments at the legislature.

malasangre
malasangre

keep talking you're almost there

Guest
Guest

Lemons was never treated for his mental illness, he never went to jail, yet he still enjoys yuking it up in PNT, fanning the flames of hate towards the Sheriff or anyone else on the right. How do you explain that, Tomato?

Mark5011
Mark5011

WHY DID GANette SLIDE OFF THE PAGE

Kit Carson
Kit Carson

The Sheriff is known for lying about the death threats he receives, even to the point of having trumped up charges brought against a mentally disturbed young man -- charges that were only thrown out when one of the cops involved could no longer go along with Joe's farce.

Further, the PNT has never called for anyone to kill Joe. It has never declared that it was time for "second amendment remedies" and, to date, has never lied about Joe's citizenship, the validity of his election or, for that matter, the policies he has enacted.

There is nothing wrong with going after an elected politician using truth. It's Tea Party lies about concentration camps for conservatives, death panels, forced abortions and secret deals with the Muslims that cause concern.

The only thing Obvious about you - you are obviously a twit.

Ladymayazul
Ladymayazul

Glad you don't live here. Please stay up in that soulless concrete sprawl you call home.

ByteRider
ByteRider

Interesting how quickly the left moves to paint Jared as an apolitical loon after evidence of his far left wing leaning asperations come out.

I wonder if he ever read the PNT...??

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

I don't know Marc. Perhaps you will come out of your drug-induced Psychosis long enough to answer your own inane question.

In the meantime, I will put this suggestion in your head and hopefully you will obey your own good common sense. Stop posting stupid leading questions to discussion groups.

mikefrombisbee
mikefrombisbee

Thanks for (inadvertently I am sure) making some points in support of Sheriff Dupnik. In all of his years of public service, he never sought, nor needed, the political limelight to gratify his ego. His department is NOT successfully sued on a regular basis, his command staff is NOT under suspension, Pima County's response time to rural area has NOT decreased because of a diversion of resources to actions that score political points - and, the crime rate in Pima County is no different than it is in Maricopa County - that's without tent city, pink underwear, parading inmates through the streets and all the other publicity stunts that YOUR sheriff feels compelled to undertake to stroke his enormous ego. Nor has Sheriff Dupnik sought to gratify his ego by self-styling himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff " and then repudiating his ghost-written books during court depositions. The fact that you continue to drink the Kool-Aid that this strutting Mussolini wannabe has fed you says something that is not very flattering about your level of gullibility. Some people need a "man on horseback" to soothe their fears and make them feel that somehow, "they" - the illegal brown people and the criminals and all the others they fear - are somehow getting their just desserts - whether or not those just desserts have bad repercussions.

Your comments about Tucson are just plain silly - and display a pitiful ignorance that no doubt makes you susceptible to Arpaio's swill. Too bad for you.

Guest
Guest

"...write about how the southwest megalopolises are all living on borrowed time due to the ever-increasing need for a ever-dwindling natural resource - water. "

Technically speaking, Mike, everyone is living on borrowed time when it comes to fresh water. California is in more trouble than Arizona, New York is pretty bad off as well. In fact, some scientists are saying it'll be the crisis of the century.

kit carson
kit carson

Sadly, I concur, but this was a political attack and the coverage is appropriate for what happens when a crazy person decides to attack the government he believes is out to attack him.

Tucson Native
Tucson Native

wow you are an angry, arrogant, and blindly self elevating person. Do you spend all your time coming up with insults for people you don't know?

Amy Silverman
Amy Silverman

i know! the rumor was that animal house was modeled after that fraternity, not that it was filmed there. but right you are about revenge of the nerds.

Guest
Guest

Did you read the article Tomato? You're not the brightest on the vine. In fact I'm guessing you read the first two lines and then continued on to post.

Sharkhead59
Sharkhead59

"Excellent point" and "New Times" -that's a definate contradiction in terms LOL

kit carson
kit carson

When you tell the people the Democrats are out to kill them, out to take away their property and are designing concentration camps for American citizens, you can not act surprised when the people start killing Democrats.

If the Tea Party claims were true, we would all join in a revolution against our government.

Now however, we learn the Tea Party doesn't even believe its rhetoric. It's response to the shooting: "someone actually believed us? Holy shit he must be crazy."

Oakland81
Oakland81

What a picture. Hemmingway, Melville and this douchebag Oakland 81. True masters of the english language. Perhaps your own failures in life (guessing you are a pathetic raiders fan) shouldn't be blamed on a great city.

Guest
Guest

That's no way to talk about Tucson, Mike.. as bad as the place is.

How long they been working on I10 down there in Mirana-to-Tucson? 5 years? 8 years? How many mining pits are dotted throughout the city? 4? 10? Come on.. the place is a dump. If Raytheon and Honeywell left, that place would return back to a sand dune.

Now BISBEE... that's another story. Bisbee rocks!

Kit Carson
Kit Carson

While one Internet blogger described him as being a hippie in high school, what we know of him since that time indicates he had move onto the wingnut reservation.

He wasn't tied to any political movement, but his acts were certainly political.

Someone told him the nation was under attack,that the monetary fund was going to collapse and that his congresswoman was part of the problem.

However, since he failed to annotate his rants, we don't know if those declarations where from his own fevered mind or were heard on some tv show ... we do, however, know he wasn't part of the left.

Loosecannonsbluesband
Loosecannonsbluesband

Here here Expert Shot - These people who post these paranoid type questions are a real pain in the arse. I wish, just once, when they make statements like Mark did like:

". . . as soon as Washington starts debate on another “gun control” bill, in this case imposing new laws on border states’ sales of guns, ‘something’ always happens, some lone nut job “goes postal”.

that they would actually do some research and provide us with some evidence to back those whacky statements up.

See now, I had to do my research and I found that there is no correlation between gun control bills and people going "postal." NONE! This guy, Mark, sounds like he's some rightwing republotarian who's eaten too much sugar.

Cali-lily
Cali-lily

My comments are no sillier than yours. I have lived in the Valley for over 50 years and have seen the downfall of our city due to the "invasion" of people that want nothing more than to take advantage of the systems set in place for citizens. People want to come to this country for its freedoms and benefits. In the process they want to change our culture to suit them. Neighborhoods have fallen victim to gangs, drugs, and illegal guns. Our police force is constantly accussed of profiling, but when those are the people committing the crimes it is hard to pussyfoot around about who is who. Why are we the bad guys and the "illegals" get a free pass????? Sheriff Joe has the right idea about who belongs here and who doesn't. If we didn't believe that we would not continue to re-elect him. He was chosen by us and we stand by him.

Guest
Guest

What's definate? is that english?

Tucson Native
Tucson Native

Nice, for about a day. Then it gets boring sorry. Beautiful though, if it wasn't for already being here it might be nice to retire there.

Guest
Guest

People who knew him said he was a lefty. Reading materials in his possession pointed to him being a lefty. From some accounts he didn't watch TV or listen to radio. That's easy to believe considering all the left wing radical reading materials he had.

Tucson Native
Tucson Native

As Arpaio is YOUR sheriff (please keep him) I won't say anything but don't talk smack about my sheriff you don't know a damn thing about him that wasn't fed to you from your paranoid news media

 
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