Carroll: Don’t fence me in | AspenTimes.com

Carroll: Don’t fence me in

The other day a longtime reader with conservative leanings accused me of being a liberal. Because apparently leaning toward the left is a crime.

"When did you make this radical transformation?" he asked.

"What did I write that makes you think that?" I replied.

He said he couldn't remember, but he just figured that a Southern transplant like I am would have more conservative leanings than have been reflected in this newspaper. Maybe he assumed that I previously wore my white hood and robe to the same bed where I stored the guns under my pillow in the home where my kids were spanked and in a town where schools are segregated.

He's not the only one who's taken me for a bleeding-heart blabbermouth for Aspen's paper of record. I hear that almost as routinely as I field complaints about our website's Google questions (they just take two seconds of your time! Really!).

Likewise, I get it from the far left, as well — those who think we should inject liberal ideals into everything we write and publish and who dismiss any notion that sometimes a conservative take isn't so bad. After all, to do otherwise betrays the progressive posture that has defined this town for more than 60 years.

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Well, here's a newsflash: I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Rather, I'm an unaffiliated voter with no designs to join the ranks of a political party just so I can vote in the primary elections.

Sure, I could loftily claim that I'm unaffiliated because being in the news business requires that one must maintain a set of ethical values devoid of any bias, but that would be a pile of baloney smothered in pretense.

Over the years I've been a registered Democrat (until I realized how much they are like Republicans), a Republican (until I realized how much they are like Democrats), and even a member of the Green Party (until I realized I was a poser, given that I go through plastic water and sport-drink bottles as if I expect to find a prize at the bottom of each one). I flirted with the idea of becoming a Libertarian, but I knew I surely would catch myself in some type of hypocrisy like firing up a joint at a gun-control rally, so I settled for being nothing.

Being unaffiliated is the ideal way to approach life in the voting booth, at least for me. You're not beholden to a specific set of your own party's rules, values or unbending egos that spawn government shutdowns. It's much like believing in God or some type of higher power but not being committed to any religion.

As for my voting history, the first time I entered a ballot booth came in Louisiana's gubernatorial runoff election in 1991, when I chose the skirt-chasing racketeer known as Edwin Edwards over the neo-Nazi Klansman David Duke. Spoiler alert: Both are no longer in prison for their various transgressions.

And that's where I'll leave it when it comes to my voting record.

As for the issues, I'm against most any kind of pointless and politically fueled war — be it on religion, Iraq, women's rights, drugs, Christmas, whatever.

Does it make me a liberal because I believe we should do everything to protect the environment? Or that I support Pitkin County's affordable-housing program? Or that I'm skeptical of many development proposals that come down the pike of Aspen City Hall? Or that I don't hunt?

And does it make me a conservative because I don't support every single tax hike that appears on the ballot? Or that I don't think the Second Amendment should be abolished in its entirety? Or that I think America's veterans should be treated with the same, if not more, humanity and dignity as those animals PETA aims to shield from harm? Or that I love to fish?

The good thing about writing for a newspaper is that it doesn't matter which political party you claim because both sides have you pegged as favoring the other. And that means you just know they'll keep reading you if only just to keep hating what they think you're going to say.

Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at rcarroll@aspentimes.com.