What was the point?
One of the main goals of the Sister Cities program is to promote peace throughout the world. Eben Harrell’s front-page article in The Aspen Times on March 18, 2004, “Aspen sister city former Nazi haven” was not written from the perspective of peace. One person can sabotage the countless hours that many dedicated volunteers have given to create a program that helps to improve international relations.
In January, we hosted a Sister Cities exchange student from Japan; at that same time the film “Fog of War” was released, which shows excerpts from the U.S. fire bombing of the civilian population of Tokyo, that has been acknowledged as a war crime. Both of our sons have visited Japan. The Japanese people have shown an inordinate level of forgiveness to participate in an exchange program with citizens of a nation which has committed such atrocities.
We are currently hosting a junior in high school from Bariloche, Argentina. He has lived with our family for two months. He did not understand the intent behind Eben Harrell’s article. Our student has no relation to Nazi Germany, he has arrived in our community in good faith; we are sending our son to his community of Bariloche, with the highest hopes for a positive exchange.
When the students from Aspen arrive in Bariloche, it would be easy for their local paper to run an article about Aspen explaining that Governor Pitkin (for whom our county is named) “called for the extermination of all Ute Indians.” I’m sure that would produce some very welcoming questions for our students. Perhaps a good investigative reporter could shed some light on the haven Aspen currently provides for some of its notorious citizens and guests.
It is possible that Eben is oblivious to the hurt he has caused with his inflammatory article, in his broad-brush attempt to right past wrongs. What I question is why The Aspen Times would print the article with its sensationally large headline; what positive point were you trying to make?
I suggest that Eben commit a few months of his life to hosting a child from another culture. Make his meals, do his laundry, help him with his homework, nurse him when he’s ill, comfort him when he is homesick. The time spent might engender the compassion necessary to apologize to the people involved with the Sister Cities Exchange program for the time they will have to give to repair the damage of his undiplomatic remarks.
Enormous unconscionable wrongs have been committed throughout time, to multitudinous cultures of people. The people of the Sister Cities Exchange program are making their best efforts to provide relationships between individuals to promote a peaceful future.
The Aspen Times could make a conscious choice toward highlighting the efforts of those committed to peace or unconsciously choose to stir up the embers of hatred and thus, perpetuate war.
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“Confluence,” shot in the Aspen area, will launch its pilot episode online Saturday.