Colson: Nuts running rampant? Blame Ronald Regan

with John Colson

Aspen needs a nut house, according to a recent story published by the Aspen Daily News.

Of course, some would say the entire town is a nut house, and that what Aspen really needs is an encircling wall with a chained gate and guard towers at every corner.

I’d expect the state’s Republican Party to endorse that solution, as a way of locking down all the liberal money that flows from Aspen checkbooks into the political coffers of Democrats.

And I’d expect the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to give its endorsement, too, since everybody knows that Aspen is a place where the use of drugs is seen as the equivalent of catching a cold — it might make you act kind of weird for a while, but you’ll get over it and there’s no sense in locking you up for it.

And those boys and girls at the DEA really hate anything that smacks of going easy on drug users, or worse, drug dealers.

Why, the agency has more than once tried to find something — anything — to show that former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis was a doper or a pusher himself, to no avail.

So, yeah, the DEA would love to see a wall with towers go up around the town, and to give each agent a tour as a guard in one of those towers, just for a little while, to give vent to their hatred for all the town stands for in terms of the failed War On Drugs. Talk about your out-of-control nuts jobs.

Anyways, back to Aspen’s need for a nut house.

According to the news story cited above, “suicides, depression and mental breakdowns have reached epidemic status in Aspen.”


I’d say that the term, “epidemic,” seems a little overblown. Sure, we’ve got a lot of homeless people who look and act a little nuts, and no one can doubt that we have more suicides and depressives than seem appropriate for our population.

But an epidemic? I don’t know.

The story notes that there is only one psychiatric hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City, and that sole facility is in Grand Junction.

So, is this a sign of lagging public support for the mentally ill among us here in the mountains, or evidence of a greater need for such places in the cities that hem us in?

Or is it simply an acknowledgement that, generally speaking, there are more nuts in the cities than there are in the high country?

Again, I’m not sure. Are you?

I must admit, we have our share of crackpots and paranoiacs up here. Once more, look at the homeless population, which sports an awful lot of people who seem OK with being excessively dirty, living beyond the bounds of your “normal” suburban lifestyle, and talking to themselves in loud and argumentative voices any time of the day or night.

But, wait, wasn’t that how “normal” people described “hippies” in the ’60s? Were hippies all crackpots? And what does that say about where we’re at today, when all those hippies have grown older, fatter and more conservative, and actually run the country?

Take a look at the driver in the car next to yours while stopped in traffic some morning. I can’t count the number of times I’ve glanced over to see my fellow traveler locked in a heated argument with his or her windshield, gearshift, or some other inanimate equipment.

Should all drivers who chatter to themselves be locked in a padded room for a while, so they can resolve whatever differences exist between them and, say, Harvey the invisible rabbit?

I think not. We couldn’t build enough padded rooms to house them all, for one thing.

I agree that we need better facilities for dealing with the dangerously deranged, the people who obviously have slipped a cog in their mental machinery, grown violent and might harm themselves or others.

Putting them in jail, which is what often happens, certainly is not the answer, especially when no crime has been committed.

But mental hospitals are expensive. We’ve got billionaires who need tax breaks and illogical weapons systems that must be built, so what’s a country to do?

I recall that, about 30 years ago, a certain Republican president decided he could save huge amounts of federal money by emptying out our mental hospitals.

Ronald Reagan, like Richard Nixon before him, associated psychiatry with communism, meaning he believed the insane were kind of like Poland — people who should be freed from the yoke of their oppressors, regardless of the consequences — and acted on that belief.

So, are Reagan and his followers to blame for Aspen’s overburden of mentally ill citizens?

And, more importantly, how many of our uncared-for, mentally ill citizens are Republicans themselves, and therefore responsible for their own predicament?

Think about it.