America’s recent wrongness, and basic rightness
I pulled the American flag off my cabin a few days ago. It had become incredibly faded and more than a little threadbare. It’s my understanding that there are protocols about displaying the flag and I’m not really sure what they are. Since the flag went up after 9/11, for what I consider the right reasons, I didn’t want to project any unintentional message as a result of a natural process of decay.
So I took it down.
Of course, in light of recent world events, I had another set of reasons for taking it down. I’m also planning to take the “IMPEACH BUSH” bumper sticker off my front door, but not until I can find a “DRAG THEM ALL OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE AND LINE THEM UP IN FRONT OF A FIRING SQUAD” bumper sticker to replace it. I’ve become a big fan of Bolshevik tactics. A flag will go back up when Bush is out.
Now this sort of loose talk may well be sedition, and the truth is I don’t really mean it, not even the “Impeach Bush” part. I don’t believe in impeachments and recalls unless there’s been some wildly egregious malfeasance; they seem like sour grapes on the part of people who lose elections. I never thought that Bill Clinton messing around with that broad fell into the impeachment category, and I’m afraid that President Bush totally disagreeing with me on almost everything doesn’t either. At least the mechanisms to give really rotten elected officials the boot are still out there.
Sadly, we seem to have come to a point in our national history at which we are beginning to bear a striking resemblance to our enemies. We become what we behold, from the outrages at the Abu Ghraib prison to Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan to Bush’s impressive American gulag at Guantanamo Bay.
In case you haven’t been following our local contribution to these horrors, Bishop Sheridan is refusing to give communion to Catholics who are pro-choice; this despite the fact that others in the Catholic hierarchy tell us that canon law requires judicial process before one can be denied communion. Sheridan must secretly envy extremist Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr and the theocracy he would make.
One can’t really blame the administration for this one, but it’s part of the climate. I don’t have a big problem believing President Bush is sincere and actually thinks he’s doing the right thing. I just think that the people he surrounds himself with, and people like Oklahoma Senator Inhofe, who doesn’t seem to know what all the fuss is about, have a moral compass with dollar signs at every point.
At times when things seem particularly gloomy, there are occasional moments that inspire optimism. This month’s issue of Vanity Fair magazine includes an article by Hunter S. Thompson and editor Mark Seal. The piece concerns a young Denver woman named Lisl Auman, who is currently in prison doing life without possibility of parole. Ms. Auman was convicted of a murder that was committed while she was handcuffed in the back of a Denver police cruiser. In his preface Thompson refers to “thugs in the Denver Police Department” as “100 armed goons with a license to kill.” In referring to the figurative rape of Lisl Auman, he states “the rapists are wearing big guns and Denver Police Department badges.”
While the facts of the case seem like something inspired by a Dick Cheney/John Ashcroft wet dream, the fact that we live in a country in which a journalist can make statements like that about a major police department serves to reinforce one’s faith in the basic rightness of fundamental American principles. I know Hunter isn’t fretting about the possibility of secret squads of Denver cops turning up in Woody Creek (knock on wood). As for me, my plan is to never be seen in Denver, Colo., in the company of Hunter S. Thompson, ever.
The regulars in Hunter’s kitchen have been living the Lisl Auman story for three years now. We’ve watched him slowly drag it up out of the darkness into the light, and now into the national spotlight. This is where it belongs.
It seems that many of our principles are being perverted and corrupted, but now there’s an opportunity for the system to right a wrong. The larger the stage, the greater the hope. Everyone should read “Prisoner of Denver,” by Hunter S. Thompson and Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, June 2004.
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Amid the pre-Thanksgiving gloom of grim pandemic news here in Aspen, across Colorado and the mountain west came a small but significant dose of hope in the unlikely form of an Aspen Music Festival and School announcement.