In Carbondale, catharsis |

In Carbondale, catharsis

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Contributed photoJacque Whitsitt, Basalt Town Councilwoman; Amy Kimberly, KDNK development director; Ro Mead, director of the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities; and Jane Bacharach, freelance journalist, react as Barack Obama is sworn in as president.

CARBONDALE ” It was a full and hopeful house at Dos Gringos Burritos in Carbondale on President Obama’s inauguration day, as roughly 40 people gathered to watch the historic proceedings on television and cheer on the new head of state.

The crowd was mostly quiet and attentive as the VIPs and political heavyweights paraded out to take their places and go through Tuesday’s preliminary speeches.

There were moments, though, when that quiet was broken.

For example, an announcer pointed out that the time was 12:05 p.m. and Vice President Joe Biden, who had been sworn in moments before, was for a short time the president of the United States. That was because Obama had not taken office and “George Bush’s term technically expired at noon.” That remark was greeted by loud cheers and whistles.

With Carbondale being Obama country, it was a solidly partisan crowd, though it included at least one longtime Republican who had broken ranks with his party and voted for the Democrat.

As for the significance of the moment, the most commonly expressed sentiments were those of hope and pride.

“Personally, it’s the first time I ever felt excited about voting since I became of voting age,” said Jennifer Johnson, a cranial-sacro therapist and Obama volunteer during the campaign. “And the first time I’ve felt hope for our relationship with the rest of the world, and hopefully with each other, too, in this town and the nation.”

After a nearby woman noted that she could put her “flag back out,” Johnson added, “It’s also the first time I don’t feel embarrassed to be an American.”

She explained that she had studied in Spain and Mexico, where people thought she was Australian or Canadian and she would not correct them unless asked directly.

“I wouldn’t have lied, but I was embarrassed about our government and our policies and what we had done in the rest of the world,” she said.

Said Sloan Shoemaker, director of Aspen Wilderness Workshop, “it means so much on so many levels ” personal, spiritual, professional. Mostly I think our work’s going to get a lot easier. We’ve got support at the highest levels now to figure out how to live sustainably on this planet and leave room for the creatures that we share it with.”

On a personal level, Obama’s inauguration gives him a sense of optimism.

“To be honest, the hope was gone; for eight years, it was gone. We were descending into our worst selves as a nation,” Shoemaker said. “In the meantime I had two children, and it’s been really hard, sort of reconciling that public [pessimism] and that private.

“But now it’s going to be a lot easier to go home and embrace my children, and mean it when I say their lives have the opportunity to be better than mine. So, it’s really exciting. I’m just thrilled.”

Brook LeVan, director of the Sustainable Settings experimental farm near Carbondale, expressed a similar sense of hope.

“The last administration didn’t talk to us, or didn’t listen to us, and there’s an idea out there that they’re listening to us now,” LeVan said. “I mean, it’s on the Web, their network’s all over out there, collecting different issues, things that people are concerned about. There’s a long row to hoe here, a lot to clean up. That’s the possibility, that he [Obama] can fix some of it.”

Sounding a note of caution, LeVan continued, “But we’ve got to find a whole new economy, which I don’t know if you can do in four years. We need a steady-state economy, not a growth economy.”

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