The problem with opening a Pandora's box is that it's so hard to put the lid back on.

Just look at Arizona. Suspicion, fear and even outright hostility toward a hard working ethnic minority has resulted in SB 1070, setting the stage for an ugly clash in the desert that may ultimately decide who we are as a people for generations.

For many of us SB 1070 is little more than thinly-veiled legislated racism, and cynically misguided politics at its absolute worst.

As I have mentioned previously, the bill is being ardently supported and funded by hate-based white supremacist groups, who are fairly salivating at the prospect of a race war. There used to be a time when keeping that kind of company made even the most conservative question their own direction. Those days appear to be over.

One Phoenix police officer said this week that enforcing Arizona's new immigration law would make him feel like a Nazi. Paul Dobson, a 20 year veteran, said: 'I could stop a person and start interrogating them, even if I don't have reasonable suspicion. It's horrifying. It violates our calling to serve and protect.'

And now some critics of the bill are even describing SB 1070 as a form of ethnic cleansing. Hubristic at it sounds, there's no doubt that it actually does target a racial minority, and that bolsters their charge.

When U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put on hold key provisions of the bill last month she received hundreds of death threats at her court offices within hours of her ruling. In fact, she was inundated. Shouldn't we be concerned about that?

Meanwhile on the ground in Arizona the effects of the law have already hit. Immigrant businesses like bread shops, restaurants, English language schools and clothing stores have closed down, turning thriving areas of Phoenix into ghost towns overnight as families are being torn apart.

It's estimated there are 500,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona and that most of them are sending their kids to school, paying their taxes and pursuing their lives in the shadows. And it's no secret that these people were working at some of the hardest work there is. Yet local politicians talk as if they were trying to rob the state.

'The majority of undocumented immigrants, in my opinion, and I think in the opinion of law enforcement, is that they are not coming here to work. They are coming here and they’re bringing drugs. And they’re doing drop houses and they’re extorting people and they’re terrorizing the families. That is the truth.'

This is the view of the state’s own governor, Jan Brewer, who apparently think's she's living in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, rather than a state where crime has actually decreased. I wonder if Brewer also lives in fear of the Canadians invading Phoenix and forcing their public option health care on her too?

Let's face it there are millions of people in America who WANT to believe that there could be thousands of headless bodies out there in the Arizona desert, courtesy of the cartels. These are mostly the same people who lie awake at night fretting over the President's missing birth certificate. And Brewer and SB 1070 are playing their deepest anxieties like a baby grand piano.

Looking into the future, it's very hard to see any good coming from Arizona's fateful decision. Because SB 1070 is more a provocation than a policy. It's a gold plated invitation to a circular shoot-out. It poisons the air before the administration tackles the tough business of immigration reform. It invites a nation of immigrants to bash immigrants. It may be too late to step back, but it's not too late to take a stand against it.