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Where is Arizona? Don't ask Peggy West -- or Google

By Alexandra Petri

So where is Arizona, exactly?

I have always been under the impression that it was somewhere to the left of Texas, but that could just be a political statement. And it looks like Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors member Peggy West doesn’t know either.

Now the internet is exploding in derision, the way it does whenever anyone publicly demonstrates that he or she might not excel if placed on the TV show, “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

Geography has always been a reliable source for this sort of entertaining mistake. Remember when Miss South Carolina was asked why most Americans couldn’t locate the U.S. on a map? She said we needed more maps, before she started repeating “such as like such as like such as” and had to be rebooted. But maybe we do need more maps. The sad fact is that most Americans actually don’t know where most things are. Ask us about the “Stans,” and we’ll look confused and say, “McChrystal? Laurel? Kowalski?” Every year, someone comes out with a depressing survey that reveals that two thirds of us still can’t find Iraq on a map. And now it’s spreading to the inside. First Arizona, next New York City -- a place I assume is somewhere near Cleveland, but not too near.

The ability to know where things are -- along with the ability to spell words of more than one syllabel silabelsyllable, are skills we are rapidly delegating to spellcheck and Google. Even taxi drivers now rely on GPS to navigate. And while GPS may level the stereotypical playing field that said men were better navigators than women but worse at asking for directions, it’s doing so by making all of us weaker. I once spent a good hour whimpering quietly outside my house because I couldn’t get a satellite signal on my GPS and had convinced myself that I was in Canada.

Now we store information like that off-site -- to make room for what, exactly? I personally have removed all the state capitals from my memory and replaced them with thoughts about Justin Bieber, but I’m probably not a representative sample. All gender stereotypes aside, West’s comments provide a dramatic real-life example of why actually knowing something, as opposed to theoretically being able to Google it, is so important. Indeed, West indicated that she had just Googled the Arizona law and that the first thing to come up had been a picture of the governor meeting with Barack Obama “in May of 2010,” an image on which she based the rest of her remarks.

And this seems to be the way more and more of us are thinking. Opinion first, information later. But actually knowing things matters for reasons other than not embarrassing yourself in front of YouTube -- it gives you a basis for your opinions and allows you to have debates that consist of more than meaningless shouting.

If we can’t even find Arizona, no wonder everyone’s so concerned about its immigration laws. “Arizona! That’s where they keep the iced tea!” we shout. “I love that tea! It’s the basis of a whole party movement! Or something like that. I can always Google it.”

By Alexandra Petri  | June 25, 2010; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Supreme Court sides with the big dogs against everyone else
Next: Why Dems should hate, and the GOP should love, Elena Kagan


Funny, I'm from Arizona and you can't go anywhere without running into somebody from Wisconsin there. They all think it's the promised land for some reason.

Posted by: MPAmom | June 25, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we should open our borders on the East Coast...oh yea right, that is the Pacific Ocean...right or is that left. Oh my, I am so confused!

Posted by: stmike1300 | June 25, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: ilikemudflats | June 25, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what a ding-dong.

But, crime in Arizona has actually decreased recently, since 2009 deportations by ICE have increased two-fold.

So tell me why there is an impression that the Feds are not doing their jobs?

Is it because SP told you so?

Posted by: JRM2 | June 25, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Knowing where you are is an affectation of the Connected.

The real story is in the stats ...

Lessons Learned:
Milwaukee Co. needs more Hispanics, or less Beer.
Dallas Co. needs a Beer, Wisconsin.
Maricopa Co. (Phoenix) just needs to stop whining.

Posted by: gannon_dick | June 25, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Okay, all you geographically challenged folks out there, check out this geography quiz website. It's fun, challenging and it will definately improve your basic knowledge of exactly where places are in the United States and around the world. If geography was not taught to you very well in school, it is never too late to learn:

Posted by: Sandydayl | June 25, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

I know this person very well; she does know AZ shares a border with Mexico. She misspoke, it’s hard to get up and speak in front of people. I think her thoughts were racing faster in her mind, than her mouth could get out what she wanted to say, the way she wanted to say it. I think she sees TX as a state that has more of a problem with immigration than AZ. The people in Milwaukee know that is not true. Although we support immigration here in the Latino community. Most of us do not agree with AZ passing that law. Really that is all Peggy was trying to say. She is a very smart, hardworking person. She has done so much to better the community she represents. This mistake can happen to anyone. I bet everyone who wrote a critical comment has at one time or another said something they did not mean to say. It just came out wrong. Don`t judge her by miss spoken words.

Posted by: ritalagreeneyes | June 25, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Your excuse makes less sense than she does. She is lost, lost, lost. If we can't judge her by her words what is left?
If she was just someone on the street being interviewed, we would have a laugh and forget it. But we constantly see people like this who should have professionalism and resposilbility, just simply be dumb.
It's also just you opinion that she bettered your community, someone else is sure to think otherwise.

Posted by: Zord | June 25, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Your excuses don't make sense. I'm assuming one must run for the office Ms. West holds. Therefore, I'm assuming that she has spoken in public before. I don't buy that she "misspoke." What a cop-out. Before she expresses opinions about boycotts that affect the lives of millions of people, she should do some research. She is a classic example of what is wrong with government. I think Arizona should boycott Milwaukee beer. Let's see, Arizona population = 6.5 million...Milwaukee = 953,000. I would say the numbers are on Arizona's side.

Posted by: mavisdavis2010 | June 25, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

what a sad article, and what a silly comment from the person who said Peggy had "miss spoken" (speaking of illiteracy)! you either know where the state is or you don't. she clearly doesn't. and then to say that what she really meant was that she "didn't like the AZ law"? sure. yeah. that's how I would have articulated it too. NOT.

the other amusing point is that this woman is a Democrat...but because it's the WaPo we are not told that. if she'd been a Republican, the headline would have screamed "GOP official doesn't know where Arizona is."

Posted by: michiganruth | June 25, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

One might want to ask Peggy West if Arizona is the 57th State.

Posted by: barbel1 | June 25, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

That was OBVIOUSLY not a simple case of nerves. It's pretty clear that she has absolutely NO clue what she's talking about or what she's "fighting" against..... and if she's going to get so rattled speaking in public,then maybe she shouldn't be a public figure. What an idiot.

Posted by: Scottygrl | June 25, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

When politicians outside the state of Arizona feel the need to weigh in on the laws in our state, they better make sure they do their homework first before they put their foot in their mouth. Ms. Peggy West has managed in one short statement to make herself, her city, and her state look very foolish. Ms. West, please visit Arizona and see first hand the reason why this law needed to be passed before you call for an uninformed boycott just because it seems like the "cool" thing to do.

Posted by: PAB081 | June 26, 2010 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Peggy is stupid.

@ritalagreeneyes, Peggy did not "Mis-Spoke", she went into detail as to why Texas was on the Border and AZ was not.

If the Voters in her Town elect her again they deserve her. I would not hire her to pack boxes in my shipping Dept. because I would not want the Boxes shipped to the Country Montana.

Peggy is a typical Democrat Liberal who wants to be "POLITICALLY CORRECT" and boycott a State for no reason. AZ does not want her money anyway. I live in Florida, RI, Texas and AZ. I have cattle ranches and all my workers are American. I am not forced to hire Illegals.

If Peggy was a real woman she would retire from the Milwaukee County Job and go back to school to get her High School education, at least.

I don't know how she can serve her County Justice when she does not even know the 50 States?

I know the American Education is poor in some areas, but come-on...

What we really need to do is Boycott Peggy's School's.

Posted by: russatethehomework | June 26, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse

>> Ritalagreeneyes: "I know this person very well; she does know AZ shares a border with Mexico. She misspoke, it’s hard to get up and speak in front of people."

She's a public official who -- if you research her Facebook page -- trumpets her ethnic background and openly boasts that she's the first Hispanic female to hold her position in Milwaukee. So, if she's willing to openly brag about herself and her accomplishments, I'm sure she's ALSO adult enough to be held accountable for whatever words -- right or wrong -- come out of her mouth.

>> Ritalagreeneyes: "I think her thoughts were racing faster in her mind, than her mouth could get out what she wanted to say, the way she wanted to say it."

To be fair, when watching the clip, I think this is actually true. The whole "distance from Mexico" bit seems too stupid to believe. So, I'm of the mind that she actually did get emotionally flustered by the topic, and was referring to Wisconsin, and not Arizona.

>> Ritalagreeneyes: "I think she sees TX as a state that has more of a problem with immigration than AZ."

Ah! And finally we come to the heart of the matter and why she IS a laughing stock and total bone-head. Simply because she IS a public official that was using a public forum to shoot off her mouth, for which she DIDN'T have ANY command of the facts. It's a good bet she's never even read the Arizona law, but since she's a Liberal... and given her ethnic background... she made up her mind right from the start, without doing a lick of research.

So, for doing THAT, she deserves ALL the online public mocking that is headed her way. And in true poetic justice, hopefully the people of Milwaukee will realize she's an embarrassment, at which point she'll lose her $67,000 government job as well. After all, why should Milwaukee taxpayers foot the salary of someone who is truly a 13-watt dim bulb?

Posted by: LA_screenwriter | June 26, 2010 1:26 AM | Report abuse

Hey Peggy

oops, I mean Rita,

maybe next vacation you take you can go on down to the Arizona border and do some research.

Posted by: ladyruth54 | June 26, 2010 1:32 AM | Report abuse

While Ms West showed phenomenal ignorance in her statement I wonder, with the heightened sensibilities just how many illegal aliens their County will take in? It's all well and good to spout off about Arizona, but we currently have 450,000 illegal aliens in our state draining what's left of our budget. This is like the civil war where northern and eastern states, with their higher morals waving in the breeze, told the south to free the slaves but keep 'em down there! Put your money and commitment where your mouth is and take 20 or 30 thousand of these people.

Posted by: rhill24 | June 26, 2010 3:28 AM | Report abuse

kinda brings a "hole" new meaning to the term "Cheese Head"

Posted by: ontopdave24 | June 26, 2010 4:16 AM | Report abuse

Here is a working link. (They/Peggy are doing their best to remove the videos.)

She did not mis-speak. The people of Milwaukee (as ritalagreeneyes says) do NOT understand what she is saying. They are ridiculing her just as equally as the rest of the country. What Peggy West was saying, she was stating as matter-of-fact in her mind. She did not read the AZ bill. She only used the first hit on a Google search as a point of fact and reference. And she represents a district? A government position? How truly sad. What is obvious here, is that she didn't know anything about the bill, so she Googled it. She saw a picture of Obama with the gov of AZ and well, that was enough for her. Wow. Just wow.
What she is completely missing here, is that illegal immigration is ILLEGAL. No matter which state is affected by it. We are affected by it as far north as WI. To boycott AZ, is to say you agree with and support breaking the laws that are in place regarding immigration. It's a shame that the citizens of this country have the impression now, that those of us from Wisconsin are as dumb as her.

Posted by: ccjohn14_6 | June 26, 2010 4:16 AM | Report abuse

OMG I only heard about this because my boyfriend lessons to Mike Belling in Milwaukee . So of course being from Arizona I just had to lesson to the pod cast. I laughed my butt off! I love Milwaukee but really?? I mean can she really be that dumb? I mean I have lived in Tucson most of my life and have seen the problem first hand. She definitely needed to do A LOT more research before opening her big mouth. I'm just saying

Posted by: mlwclh1997 | June 26, 2010 4:53 AM | Report abuse

We are all so busy blaming and finding blame in this country, conservatives, liberals, TEA party ad nauseum...if we don't wake up to solutions and start living in them, we are doomed. Yes it is that simple. WE MUST PUT OUR EGOS ASIDE!

Posted by: stmike1300 | June 26, 2010 5:27 AM | Report abuse

"Beyond Enchantment?"

Sure. I was in Texas and we knew if we went far enough west from Lubbock, we would be in New Mexico "The Land of Enchantment." Or something like that.

So if I kept on going west I would get to Arizona. Neat. Beyond enchantment - what ever that might be.

Now I know they want the laws enforced. Others want the laws on the books to use as a threat to keep the illegal workers in line.

Now who is enchanted. And who should be set free.

Either enforce the laws or get rid of them. Do not set up a slave system that rides on them and pretend to be righteous.

It will never work.

Posted by: gary4books | June 26, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Typical leftist. CLueless, stupid, vapid, and oh so sure of herself.

One has to ask - when will the saturday night live roasting begin? Can the uber-suphisticate Fey play this gomerette?

When will Robinson and Dionne and Milbank chime in?

Oh, she is a sister.


Posted by: VirginiaConservative | June 26, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Yes Ms West is a direct representation of the problem in this country and should do the only dignified thing and resign her post with some sort of speach saying "I am doing this because I am obviousluy unqualified for this position ect, ect". She speaks out of the wrong end of her body with out any grip on the facts. What I find even more disturbing is the fact that Alexandra Petri who wrote this article tried to spin this, to make it seem like this was due to the information age, and the fact that we have infomation at our finger tips, and this is a problem with us all. Hey news flash: I have no problem locating AZ on a map or for that matter all of its major cities and I can do the same for all 50 states because I am smater than a fith grader. The only reson there is even a hint of slap against Ms West is she (Ms Petri) really had no choice, this is just so stupid and bad that she had to make a few critical statments about the woman to have any credibility at all; as such that it could be spun with any chance of credibility. this article and most from the Washington Post are so slanted left that I am surprised they even published this article at all. You will notice there is no mention that she is a Dem in this article. The other thing all of you folks out there should think about is that She (Ms West) probally voted and the people that elected her probally vote (obviously). Each of those votes effectivly cancels out yours. It is like the person who got a great SAT score by guessing at every question, or the person who cheated their way through college. It sullies those of us that did our due diligence or researched, or studied or worked hard. Ms west and Ms perti are prime examples of why nothing surprises me in this country any more. Look at Obama's resume, how the hell did he get elected president with a resume like his. I am more qualified to be president. OH I know he can read off the speach someone else wrote for him and the majority of this country are complete and utter morons, and most did not even care or know abot his credentials. Again nothing can surprise me any more!

Posted by: acdxxx | June 26, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

How can you tell if a liberal spoke? A crew of apologist come forward to say "what they meant was". I'm sorry but in what country do they speak what?

Posted by: elcigaro1 | June 26, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Peggy just "misspoke". That's a code word for lied or didn't know. SHE JUST MIS-SPOKE. When a CONSERVATIVE MIS-SPEAKS THEY SHOULD RESIGN. BUT, WHEN A LIBERAL MIS-SPEAKS, THEY JUST MIS-SPOKE.


Posted by: barrysal | June 26, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

All Peggy needs to know regarding the Arizona law is the bad people in Arizona are being mean to the good people and the bad people won't share their ice cream with the good people.

Posted by: montezumasrevenge | June 26, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Can we really believe anything that comes from the mouths of the MSM? THE GENERAL WHO WAS NO GOOD, NOW IS THE SAVIOUR. L O L.

Posted by: barrysal | June 26, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I wonder why the Libs took this video off of YouTube. Could it be that it shows how stupid they are???

Posted by: barrysal | June 26, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"So where is Arizona, exactly?
I have always been under the impression that it was somewhere to the left of Texas, but that could just be a political statement."

Lol! Great opener. Ms. Petri, thanks for writing this piece. :)

Posted by: bender1 | June 27, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

There are about 500,000 illegal Mexicans who know where Arizona is. But since Arizona has wisely enacted tough, anti-illegal immigrant laws, those cross-border banditos are quickly learning which states will offer them safe haven.

When the crybaby, illegal immigrant sympathizers see 500,000 foreign squatters at their front door, they may not be so sympathetic anymore.

Maybe they will want tough, new laws too.

Posted by: battleground51 | June 27, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

to all,

SADLY, i must tell everyone reading this thread that Peggy West is SMARTER & "more in touch with FACTS" than BHO, our DUMB-bunny VPOTUS, Princess Pelosi & a host of other SELF-important FOOLS of the DIMocRATS party.

that's why the DIMocRATS will LOSE in 2010, 2012 & the elections beyond.

we Tea Party Patriots will NEVER let the American voters forget ever again what PITIFUL EXCUSES that the DIMs are for "leaders"
we will also forever remind the voters WHY they cannot TRUST the DIMs to run anything more complicated than a hot-dog stand.
(exhibiting ARROGANT, SELF-important, IGNORANCE is NOT "leadership".)

to any DIMocRATS, who may be reading this post: WHEN are you going to kick the FILTHY KLANSMAN & KKK national officer, Robert KKK Byrd (DIMocRAT of WV), out of the Senate & into the street onto his pointed/little/HOODED, head?
(fwiw, TOLERATING a KLANSMAN in your party is as EVIL as BEING one!)

yours, TN
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | June 27, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Video removed.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | June 27, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Elected officials in one state plotting to harm the people and economy of another state! I don't think that is part of their official duties. Should any American official be undermining the legal government actions of other states? This Peggy West is not ready to be a county official.

Posted by: allamer1 | June 28, 2010 1:37 AM | Report abuse

The video can be viewed here, with a little commentary at the beginning:

From Federal officials attacking this law when they haven't read it, to people like this who haven't read a US map ...

Posted by: Nemo24601 | June 28, 2010 6:28 AM | Report abuse

Just fill in "Colorado" where she said "Arizona" and it works. A minor error.

The big mistake is protecting the law by not enforcing it. It is not enforced becasue that keeps all the undocumented workers as slaves. The law is a threat to them but they stay to live under its shadow.

It is an evil system and the best way to get rid of it is to enforce the laws.

That is what it is about. Not about the border and which states line up on it.

Posted by: gary4books | June 28, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

"When the crybaby, illegal immigrant sympathizers ..."

Come on. Make some sense. We are an aging population and we do need workers. Where do you propose we get them?

You say unemployment is up?

So0 it is, but many of the open jobs are not getting filled. And when Our economy does recover, who will take care of our growth? Workers from the Middle East? China?

Mexico is a friend and a good resource for labor. We had better say "Thank you" and treat them right.

Posted by: gary4books | June 28, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

I once gave a map quiz to a university student from California, who located Cuba in the Pacific Ocean because she grew up hearing about the dangers of a communist country 90 miles from the US coast. Geographic knowledge, even cartography, has always been shaped by situational perspectives; just take a look at medieval maps. In the twenty-first century, we are shocked by the geographically challenged precisely because scientific instruments, including satellite technology, have done so much to map every inch of the earth and oceans. I always tell my students that just because we have access to more information does not mean we are any smarter. In fact, the converse may be the case; undue reliance on bits and pieces of information spit out by the latest gadgets will make you stupid.

Posted by: legalese | June 28, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

How did an obscure bureaucrat's inability to correctly place Arizona translate into "we can't find Arizona"? When a hack journalist wants to defend an indefensible law by suggesting those of us who utilize new technologies are somehow not qualified to hold an opinion on a racist law propagated by showboating Republicans hoping to hold onto their seats in November.

Posted by: dnahatch1 | June 28, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

This article references the South Carolina beauty queen who messes up geography but typically does not tell the rest of the story.
Poor Miss South Carolina is a product of the politically correct education system which teaches that everyone in the Western Hemisphere is American so when I heard her qualification question she replied with "United States Americans" which is an awkward way to say American. Everyone else in the Western Hemisphere is known by a geographic related name such as Bolivian or Columbian. Even in North America we have Mexicans and Canadians. So we are the only Americans, not United States Americans or North American Americans only. The politically correct terms taught in our schools are screwing up our children. This supervisor who doesn't know that Arizona shares a border with Mexico, the country, not New Mexico the state which some think is another country is a product of this school system. She also uses the politically correct term "undocumented people". The politically correct Washington Post has removed the video but it is still available on You Tube.

My guess is that she is a Barack Obama supporter. Just a wild guess, but it is people like her who got him elected.

Posted by: rlg007 | June 28, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I don't know who is dumber, her or the folks who voted for her. Didn't they teach geography at MATC, where she got her bogus degree? I'm in Kansas and planning a trip to Chicago, do I have to travel by way of Arizona ? Mis-spoke ? You just can't fix stupid !!!

Posted by: oldlcop67212 | June 29, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I sure hope this civic-minded individual is not forced to resign due to this minor faux pas.

If so, I am sure that this Administration will look at her credentials and realize that she is fully qualified to become the next nominee for the Supreme Court.

Or, perhaps, the next ambassador to New Mexico...

Posted by: normfromga | June 30, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse -

She is the stupidest woman in America. Here is the explanation: Active in her community, Supervisor West was named the 2004 Hispanic Woman of the Year by UMOS, Inc. A committed believer in community service, Supervisor West volunteers for UMOS, Inc. and Mexican Fiesta. Was it one of those groups who paid her to say that?

this is a direct contact form for the ignorant Ms West. PLEASE contact her and demand her resignation! - want to make a complaint about this anti-american pig?

I live in Wisconsin and I am SO sorry and SO embarrassed by her remarks. Believe me, the people of this fine, patriotic state do NOT share her views!

Stand with Wisconsin (And Against ILLEGAL Immigration) on Facebook.

God Bless America - and God, please strike Peggy West, she won't be easy to miss.

Posted by: lauren-stephens | July 1, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

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