n Aspen: basketball, not bombs | AspenTimes.com

n Aspen: basketball, not bombs

Basketball took precedence over bombs in Aspen Thursday … at least in a few of Aspen’s hangouts.

Local lunch spots equipped with televisions – the Red Onion and J-Bar among them – seemed more tuned into March Madness than the Middle East yesterday as U.S. military forces continued their assault on Iraq.

“Why? Who’s winning?” joked one bar patron when asked his opinion on the conflict.

College hoops reigned locally until 5 p.m., when evening news programs regained control of the airwaves – and the attention of local viewers.

At the J-Bar, Wales native Alan Hodgson watched a CNN update on the contributions of British forces in Iraq. Hodgson recently learned that a few hometown friends are among those ground troops currently moving across the Kuwaiti border toward Baghdad.

The conflict has been “worrying” for Hodgson, especially as a visitor to a country now at war. Thankfully, living in a small town like Aspen offers refuge, he said.

“I’m glad I’m not in a larger city,” he said.

Bob Schell of Washington, D.C., is in Aspen this week for the first leg of a lengthy vacation. Unfortunately, his wife is still at home, in an area considered to be at the top of the terrorist hit list.

“We’ve been through a lot lately, with the snipers and everything,” Schell said.

Watching the day’s events unfold on CNN, Schell remarked that he’s still not sure a full-fledged attack on Iraq is the right way to combat terrorism against the United States.

“I’m like everybody else – I’m on the fence,” he said. “There’s a bad guy over there and everything, but it’s a a difficult thing to judge. I don’t know if there’s a solution. Everyone seems to think if you knock out Saddam, it’ll be all right, but I don’t know.”

Kate Bulkley, a former Aspen resident now living in London, was a bit more outspoken on the subject.

As an American living abroad, Bulkley has had the chance to compare and contrast the policies of President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. According to her, Bush’s international policy leaves much to be desired.

“The approach that the Europeans have taken to this has been so much more sensible, sophisticated and sane,” she said.

Bulkley compared the current conflict with the Gulf War – both, she said, used as tools to further a president’s career.

“We’re waging a war based on Bush’s political agenda,” she said.

Though the Iraqi conflict sparked only scattered debate around downtown Aspen, the subject was discussed thoroughly around the city’s schools.

Aspen Middle School Principal Phyllis Taylor reported that students discussed the new war in individual classrooms, allowing teachers to present age-appropriate material.

“I noticed, as I walked around the classrooms today and yesterday, there was an outline of the events or maybe some of the important names in the news on the blackboards,” she said. “Some teachers will even tape parts of the news and go over some of the material in class.”

Taylor said that teachers are also trying to avoid overexposure, giving students a break from the 24-hour news channels they might find at home.

That seemed to be the philosophy at Aspen Elementary School, where the district’s youngest charges could find refuge from war talk.

“It’s business as usual today,” said Principal Barb Pitchford. “[But] obviously, if the question comes up, we’ll give the basic facts as we know it.”

Aspen High’s history and government classes included the conflict in Thursday’s lesson plan, students said. Groups gathered to watch live broadcasts on television and the Internet.

Four AHS sophomores even dropped by GrassRoots Television studio Thursday afternoon to review the day’s classroom debate for TV host Jerry Bovino’s program, “Eye On Aspen.”

Their segment will air at 10 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 a.m. Monday.

Program participant Tyler Baker opened the discussion by admitting that the war in Iraq “is kind of hard to understand altogether” for most of his peers.

“But I think the main reason we’re over there is to provide peace,” he said.

“We’re not really causing a conflict here – we’re trying to prevent one,” agreed classmate Colter Van Domelen.

Jordy Friedland sat down with his parents last week to discuss the possibility of war. As the youngest son of a local business owner, Friedland’s thoughts turned to a recession.

“On a short-term basis, it will be bad for the economy … but on a long-term basis, I think it will provide peace,” Friedland told GrassRoots Television.

Fellow sophomore Montana Neiley seemed a bit more pessimistic about the outcome of the war in Iraq.

“As long as there are people in the world, there are always going to be people who hate each other,” she said. “There are a lot of innocent people who are going to die because of this.”

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