There is nothing uncivil about taking a stand
August 3, 2012
Regarding the recent, perhaps cynical, “civility” effort in Aspen, I’m sure that no one is opposed to a genuine effort in that respect. Indeed, true vigorous thought and principle can only be obtained through an honest, and civil, discourse. That doesn’t mean that disagreeing in the plainest and, maybe for some, hurtful terms isn’t civil. It’s all about honesty, and if you cite facts to make your argument, those facts need to be true and honest. So it’s less about “civil” and more about true.
The only truly “uncivil” activity that I’ve seen recently in Aspen has been in the City Council elections and the adoption of the Aspen Area Community Plan. We all know what happened: the Sick-of-Mick campaign, the homophobic “Get Jack-off” campaign and the disingenuous attempt to rewrite the content of the Aspen Area Community Plan to, supposedly, correct its “tone.” There have also been vicious personal attacks, and I’ve been a victim of those, as most of us who have been who are trying to stand up for anything important.
So, I guess what I’d urge this new “civility” effort in Aspen to focus on is its citizen participation and an education effort regarding the facts. It’s OK to disagree, in fact, that’s healthy. This initiative shouldn’t dull the discourse. Never again should the Aspen Area Community Plan be re-drafted because of “tone,” as if Aspen can’t take a real assessment of what has happened in terms of land use since the plan was updated (the failures of “infill,” etc.). If we can’t tell the truth because it might hurt the feelings of some who were involved, then there’s something seriously wrong with our community discourse.
Some of the elected officials have been honest and true about the failings of their various land-use initiatives. Mostly that’s been on a city council level: Mick Ireland, Torre and Steve Skadron. It’d be great if the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners could show up on the same level: Stand for something important, that’s what you were elected to do. (The outgoing Jack Hatfield should be a model there.)
Instead of a canned “civility” mantra that doesn’t have much to do with what’s really going on in Aspen, let’s ask all of our current elected officials to model an Aspen “sensibility” that has endured for decades – one that isn’t mindlessly polite, without substance, or that panders to the “business community,” as if nothing else matters. Stand for something concrete and get it done. Sometimes it’s OK to be outraged. It’s OK that you vehemently care about the environment and also about the people who live in your community. Go for it. That’s what you were elected to do.
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Passion for a just cause is never uncivil.