I’m currently based in Tucson, Arizona, and it’s a pretty interesting town. As well as all the cacti and cheap whisky, turns out it’s also home to the School of Geography and Development, part of the University of Arizona, and has one of the highest not-for-profits per capita counts in the US. I feel like every person I meet is socially or politically active in some way, whether it be through their studies or work, or through the way they’ve chosen to live their lives. One of the main issues people talk about – being so close to Mexico, and a big one for Arizona generally speaking – is border politics. It’s a controversial and hotly debated topic, one I hope to learn more about while I’m here.
I also met a couple soldiers last week who are part of the Air National Guard, which has a base in Tucson. One served in Iraq, the other has never been to war. His military service has been entirely hypothetical, which he finds incredibly frustrating. I asked, ‘But what if there were no more wars, and you never had to fight? How would that make you feel?’ and he replied that he’d be really gutted. For him not being deployed is like being told to study for a test that is constantly delayed. Not going would mean a waste of his last 10 years. I asked his friend if he was happy he’d had a chance to go to war, and he said yes, but that it had definitely changed his perspective. He told me, ‘It makes you realise that people there are people like we are here, the one’s you’re there to fight. It really changes how you think.’
In other news, someone pointed a gun at me and took my wallet (!) Not something I really want to go on about, but it has made me think a lot about my.. vincibility. It isn’t often I feel vulnerable in a physical sense, and while me being a little more cautious probably isn’t a bad thing, it’s the first time I’ve felt both shaken up and properly mad about the fact I can’t always just walk around on my own and feel safe. Tucson’s also home to some of the friendliest, kindest people I’ve met – so don’t take this as a reflection on the town itself! – but it has given me plenty to mull on, and I may write more on that at a later date.
As well as the above, I’ve seen a lot of live music, started a waitressing job and fallen off my bike a couple times. It’s been three weeks, and I am so very curious to see what the next three months hold.
Sarah Illingworth is a freelance journalist and Editor at Impolitikal. She has an MSc in Poverty & Development from the University of Manchester. Read more by Sarah.