You’ve either seen it or heard about it by now. The video and audio track was all over the national media Friday. Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Peggy West, whose official county profile proudly declares her to be the first Latina elected to the Milwaukee County Board, proposed a boycott of Arizona.
She opined, during a county board meeting, that it would be one thing if Texas, which is right on the border with Mexico, passed restrictive laws against illegal immigrants, and denigrated Arizona’s new law, referring to the state as being “a ways removed from the border.”
Everybody from CNN to Rush Limbaugh played the clip, and the blogosphere was ablaze with snarky comments about the kind of people Wisconsinites elect.
Peggy West’s 15 minutes of fame (notoriety) are over, and the news cycle has moved on. But her ignorance still resonates. It’s one thing for the average Joe or Jane to be unaware that Arizona does indeed share a border with Mexico, but quite another for a public policy maker suggesting a boycott based on her abysmal ignorance not only of geography but of current events.
A few moments later in her spiel, she refers to “the troops on the border” in Arizona, further demonstrating that Supervisor West’s brain really is out to lunch.
Of course, after the onslaught of media attention to her stupidity, Ms. West attempted to lie her way out of the situation, claiming she got passing marks in Geography in the Milwaukee public school system (another ringing endorsement of Milwaukee schools) and at Milwaukee Area Tech College, and that she knows Arizona borders Mexico, blah blah blah.
Her south-side Milwaukee constituents will only remember that she tried to “represent” for them. She’ll be re-elected to her 50-grand-a-year county board seat. ($50,679 to be exact.)
In the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s not that important for most folks to know whether Arizona shares a border with Mexico (350 miles) or if Idaho shares a border with Canada (45 miles). It’s one of the myriad things that fall under the category “if I need to know, I can look it up.”
I’m sure some curriculum consultant would tell me that there are far more important topics for teachers to cover these days than back in my grade school days, when we were shown a map with only the outlines of the states, and the teacher would point to one and we’d have to name it.
However, I do expect that an elected representative, prior to making a major public policy decision like boycotting an entire state and its products, would have spent enough time studying the issue (and I don’t mean “Googling it”, as Ms. West said she did in her spiel) to understand WHY the people of Arizona passed such a law.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask of somebody who holds a 50-grand-a-year job.