Aspen should change its name to ‘Paris Hilton’
Paris Hilton is in jail, and the Hopkins Avenue tree lopper still walks unpunished among us. What are we to tell our children about the quality of justice in America today? Who belongs where?The first thing we might want to tell them is it’s not the person who actually topped those trees who is the villain in that situation. He was simply a functionary doing the bidding of some spoiled, rich ass. These sorts never have the guts to do their own dirty work. Any prosecutor on the planet worth his salt would give the guy with the chain saw total immunity to get to the real culprit, the selfish homeowner who wanted to improve his view. Of course, if there were anyone worth his or her salt in city government, this whole thing wouldn’t have been covered up to begin with. It’s not too hard to figure out whose view was improved by the maiming of those trees. I can’t understand why the peasants around here don’t spend more time in front of these castles waving their torches and pitchforks. It’s the closest thing to justice they’re going to get.Oh well, maybe Paris Hilton should consider committing her next crime in Aspen. Aspen used to love things that matter. Now Aspen loves the rich, and their money. People want to be just like them and have the things they have.Last Sunday I watched an opinion piece by Ben Stein, one of my least favorite commentators. He was pointing out, and bemoaning, the fact that there’s a lot more serious stuff happening in the world than Paris Hilton going to jail. Of course he’s right, but what’s new? Western culture is divided into two groups: People who know that human beings dying in Iraq is more important than celebrity misbehavior, and people who don’t. The latter group voted for George Bush, and that’s why there are all those people dying in Iraq. And we wonder why some countries hate us.My point is that we might as well stop grumbling, because it isn’t going to change anything. It’s old, it all goes without saying. This generation of morons will give way to the next generation of morons, and that’s the way it is. The same is true of Aspen. No amount of crying is going to bring the old Aspen back. One generation of spoiled rich asses will give way to the next, and there’s nothing anyone, even Mick Ireland, can do about it. The chances of reversing this trend are about the same as the chances of Paris Hilton walking out of jail and applying for Mother Teresa’s old job.I don’t know if Ms. Hilton really belongs in the slammer. It seems that her sort of transgressions rarely merits jail time. I also don’t know what sort of punishment is usually meted out for the destruction of public property; I would think that butchering trees is more serious than, say, graffiti, something that can be painted over or cleaned off. Perhaps a big fine and being publicly despised by the last remaining decent people in town would do. I personally think we should set aside one day a year for everyone to get together and egg the guy’s house.The fact is that it’s all theoretical anyway, because nothing’s ever going to happen. Aspen protects the rich, most places do. The problem comes when it backfires on them, as it did in Paris’ case. She’s become a victim of her own beauty and superficiality; people are holding it against her now.My feeling is that Aspen has become much the same – beautiful but superficial. The last vestiges of soul and character have died or been driven off, and what’s left is nothing more than a trinket for the rich to covet. Aspen is Paris Hilton, and I think people began to notice a while ago.I don’t know exactly when it started. I’d be back in Vermont or in some other part of the world, and get a negative reaction when I admitted that I was from Aspen. “I don’t think that I could live there” was the sort of thing I’d hear. I guess at the time I’d chalk it up to jealousy, or that the individual didn’t understand how beautiful and egalitarian Aspen was. In retrospect I think these people were seeing Aspen for what it had become, while I was still seeing the Aspen I had fallen in love with years ago.As far as the quality of justice in America today goes, I don’t think we have to tell our children that the city of Aspen may have to do a little time for its infractions, but I don’t think it’s going to get off scot-free, like the tree lopper, either. Aspen’s punishment is that it’s attracting people who think it’s just dandy exactly the way it is. They have less and less patience with old-timers weeping about how far the town has fallen, and the good old days. As the city continues to slip farther and farther downhill, the kind of people it attracts will continue to think it’s just fine as is, causing it to slip farther and farther downhill, because they have no idea what it was like when it really was a great place to be. Finally it will attract nothing but low-life, rich, scumbags who’ll cheerfully knock the top off a mountain to get a view of the mountain behind it. At that point I will consider it my civic duty to suggest that Aspen change its name to Paris.
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