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Fear and Oathing

 

When I was in sixth grade, a parent-teacher conference was called.

Upon my note book I'd scrawled "Sworn to Fun; Loyal to None," a rebellious manifesto the teacher told my parents was symbolic of my delinquent nature and my dim future prospects.

Forty plus years later, I am once again faced with the question of where my loyalties lie, only this time from my employer and my government.

Making money in Tucson requires me to be a juggler of jobs.

I work with audio, words and images in my practice as a sound sculptor, writer and journalist.

I am also known to bake, guide people through the desert, answer phones and even move furniture all in the name of making ends meet.

One very enjoyable job I'm honored to have this fall is that of adjunct instructor at The University of Arizona.

On Monday I was getting processed for the semester ahead when I discovered in my paperwork a form titled: State of Arizona Loyalty Oath.

I was told I could decline to sign the oath if I wished, but to do so would require I file a formal objection as detailed under ABOR Policy 6-701.

Being busier than a field mouse in Autumn these days, I signed on the line, and vowed my loyalty to the land below and the sky above without a second thought.

But at the same time I was also paying heed to the wording in the State of Arizona Loyalty Oath which notes:

"Any Officer or employee who fails to take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation provided by this section within the time limits prescribed by this section is not entitled to any compensation..."

In these days of The Great Recession anything that might get between me and a pay check is a hurdle I'll do my best to avoid.

So with a sigh and shrug I took my pledge noting:

"I, Glenn Weyant, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of Adjunct Instructor according to the best of my ability, so help me God (or so I do affirm)."

Later, as I am often want to do, I got to thinking about The Oath. The more my mind worked it over, the more its implications weighed heavily upon my soul.

In particular the section which notes any acts of disloyalty would make me "guilty of a Class 4 felony."

Shite-za! A Class 4 Felony? Really? For not being loyal?

That night my mind raced through the permutations as I restlessly lay awake listening to the ceiling fan revolve above me.

What exactly does loyalty mean as detailed in this oath?

Is SonicAnta by its nature disloyal to the Arizona Legislature and our Governor's vision of a militarized border and police state?

The oath says I will "bear true faith and allegiance" to the state and defend them against "all enemies, foreign and domestic."

But what if we've met the enemy in Arizona and he is us?

This is, after all, the same state where the sun-fried fear-and-loathing fringe chants their steady mantra of more guns, more prisons, more walls and less education, less health care and less taxes.

Is this Arizonan vision of the future really representative of the American ideals we hold dear as a country?

You know, the business of give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Land of the free. Home of the brave. And all that jazz.

I agree that some of this thinking is the result of magnified late night worries and a bit of indigestion from too much organic eggplant at dinner.

Still, by the light of day it is clear we live in strange times.

When educators are required to take loyalty oaths there is a chilling effect on free thinking and expression.

Can we trust the credibility of a journalist, an artist, a scientist, or a poet when he or she has taken an oath of loyalty to the state?

I'm hopeful my late night ruminations are nothing more than sleepless paranoia.

But if not, then no worries there either I suppose.

Being busted for disloyal thoughts might finally give me the time I need to catch up on my reading.

I hope they have plenty of Solzhenitsyn in the prison library.