Stop the cycle
August 3, 2009
I’ve put my outsider’s cap on again. After seven years in the Aspen area I must once again admit to myself that when it comes to understanding what makes Aspen tick I am often like the street corner checkers champion who accidentally signed up for the chess tournament. For me, Aspen can be the universal epicenter of cognitive dissonance, and this Lance Armstrong Day thing has my mind roiling. Let me start at the beginning.
Aug. 26, 2002: my first day as a city of Aspen employee. There is paperwork to fill out, orientations to complete, a tour of city facilities, and the day ends with a viewing of a short video: “The Aspen Idea.”
In a nutshell, it’s about the “mind, body, spirit” concept that Walter Paepcke envisioned when he first came to town – Aspen as a place not only higher in altitude but also intellect, physicality, and philosophy – the triune of the human condition. A place where someone who aspires to improve can be challenged to do so. And someone accomplished can feel welcomed and accepted as a learned mentor (no pun intended). So when Aspen’s mayor ignited a cacophony by suggesting a Lance Armstrong day to honor the renowned cyclist and new Aspen resident, I was thrown into a state of stupefaction.
To me, the Armstrongs’ choosing to live in Aspen – among other places I am sure – seems like a natural fit with the whole mind-body-spirit thing. Someone so accomplished with so much yet to do in his life. The Aspen community would certainly want to unite in providing a warm welcome to someone so consummate in his endeavors.
So imagine my confusion earlier this week at reading the vitriolic comments of council member Skadron, then seeing the sardonic and disrespectful newspaper cover showing pictures of Mayor Ireland and Lance Armstrong with a red heart between them. Reading the letters, blogs and columns was just an exercise in teeth gnashing. It was as if Aspen instantly marshaled its private tabloid media machine, and Lance Armstrong was the target. Why? What would Walter Paepcke think?
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Just like those who read tabloid magazines, Aspen’s reaction to “Lance Day” says everything about us, the Aspenites who have participated in it, and very little about the subject of our interest. “Lance Day” is simply the catalyst, the mechanism, the means by which our community decided to grind through its own angst this week. Lance is simply the famous but innocent bystander – collateral damage. Once this cycle ends we will simply find another innocent catalyst.
So please join me in ending it now. Lance day or not, let us all welcome the Armstrong family to Aspen, wish them the best, and hope that they find this place as magical as we do and that they become longtime residents.
And yes, those wristbands are still pretty cool.
Paul W. Menter