Guest Commentary

Rejoice the fact that Tucson is still part of the American frontier

Nothing makes a Tucsonan appreciate home like going away. It is true that Tucson has so much to offer that one could spend a career vacationing here, never leaving at all, and yet, it does not have everything. It really needs, for example, an ocean.

We all need an ocean from time to time; it is in our genes. I subscribe to the marine theory regarding the gap in human evolution. The theory explains the "missing link" as a period of return to the sea. It explains why, compared to other primates, we evolved certain differences, including having much less hair, nostrils that point down (better for swimming), more subcutaneous fat and the ability to control our breath (no other primate can do that).

In my case, add to that an astrological chart that has no earth--only water and air. The urge to make a pilgrimage is compelling.

Anyway, off to the People's Republic of California my lovely wife and I were, specifically, San Diego. By the way, if you don't like Tucson because you "like to see the change of seasons," try San Diego. As far as I can tell, the only difference between summer and winter is the length of the day.

While in San Diego, we visited our friends Cathy and Jason, who had moved there from Tucson a year or two ago. We met for dinner at the Bluewater Seafood Market and Grill, where we feasted on fresh fish.

I talked a little shop with Cathy, who reported that her job was going quite well; she loved the company for which she worked, but she really wanted to move back to Tucson. In fact, she revealed that she may eventually put that goal before her career, if it came to that.

My jaw dropped, and the teriyaki-grilled wahoo almost fell from my mouth. Our friends were living in the Ocean Beach section of San Diego--a few blocks from the beach itself. They enjoyed surfing, going to the mountains, dining out in the big city--you name it! It seemed like the hot setup for a young couple.

She explained: While there is great cultural diversity in San Diego, the different ethnicities are balkanized, and people tend to limit their associations to their respective groups. Tucson also has great cultural diversity, but the different ethnicities have more of a shared experience--there is little exclusivity. She missed that.

Cathy learned what many of the rest of us learned by moving the other way--to Tucson from elsewhere. It is the reason we stay, and the reason that many native Tucsonans return: Tucson does have an almost magical openness, a lack of pretense which allows one to blossom as an individual. It is not unique to Tucson--but it is unique to frontiers.

In the latter part of the 18th century, there were two significant revolutions in the Western world: the American and the French. The Americans threw off the monarchy for individual liberty and sovereignty, which led to the most open, free and prosperous society in history. The French threw off the monarchy for the new master--bureaucracy, which was fleshed out by Marx, and led to the oppression and murder of tens of millions of people.

So, which one was on the frontier? Coincidence? I think not.

The Eastern part of the country has lost its frontier spirit. We should turn the border with Canada 90 degrees, and the Western states and provinces could be America, and the eastern ones could join the European Union. We really have more in common, culturally, with Alberta and Saskatchewan than we do with New York and New Jersey.

Until then, let us rejoice that we live in Tucson--still part of the American frontier.

About The Author

Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman moved to Tucson from Connecticut in 1977 and never looked back. He attended the UA, ran for City Council Ward III in 2001, and made regular contributions to the Guest Commentary section of the Tucson Weekly for over five years. He helped launch the Southern Arizona News Examiner. He is a former...
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