We Musicians Can Do Better Than an Arizona Boycott

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Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every Tuesday on Reverb. Check back on Friday when he writes about what he's been listening to.
Sound Strike, a group of musicians--led by Rage Against the Machine, and including Kanye West, Sonic Youth, and Massive Attack--are calling for a boycott of Arizona, refusing to perform in the state until a recently passed law regarding illegal immigration is repealed. The law "requires police officers to make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person whenever there is reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present . . ." In other words, if you look Hispanic, you're a suspected illegal alien. It's racial profiling, and I can see why people are upset.

You know me. I don't have any problem with musicians taking a stand politically. But shouldn't musicians continue to play Arizona, if only for the people in that state who oppose the law? Are all Arizonans being lumped together as citizens of that perceived bad state? Instead of more divisions, let's look toward solutions, or at least try to find some common ground.

Boycotts are easy because they don't take much time or energy. How about rolling up your sleeves and getting to work? Instead of blowing off Arizona, how about engaging your own state legislature? Because of all the corruption and drug cartels in Mexico, the Pentagon has concluded that that country is "at risk of becoming a failed state." The military minds are reporting that instability in our neighbor to the south is aggravating border security. People are coming north for a better life. Instead of a "police state" reaction as in Arizona, how about looking at America's appetite for illegal drugs--a black market that's connected to powerful drug cartels south of the border?

Even without the notion of a "failed state," the impact of illegal drugs on our own society is a complex issue itself. Will fewer tour buses and rock-band vans parked outside the Club Congress in Tucson effectively take on drug-prohibition policies or propose any harm-reduction strategy toward chemical dependence?

America today is a land divided, so of course partisanship has worked its way into this issue. Even though Obama is continuing the status quo, which is pretty much what previous administrations did, he's getting blasted by the partisans for not doing enough on border security. Since it's an election year, the rhetoric is only going to get worse. Don't be afraid to reach across the partisan divide. How about asking fans to write their representatives--especially GOP congress members from agricultural districts--about migrant labor and secure borders?

The Sound Strike boycott is coming from a good place--it's a reaction to barriers within humanity. But it's based on borders themselves, in this case those around the state of Arizona. If you've ever been there, most of the place is a desert. The state border is literally a line in the sand. Who drew those lines, and why are we drawing more with things like boycotts?

 
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