Community? What a pain
October 11, 2006
I can hear the traffic on Highway 82 from my house.At almost any hour, day or night, I hear the endless stream of cars and trucks heading up to Aspen to work or going home at the end of the day.Even at 4 in the morning, when the world is still and all I can see is moonlight and mountains, I hear the roar of engines from the valley below.Needless to say, I don’t like it. Needless to say, I don’t have any choice. We love the spot where we live, so we put up with the noise.Perhaps oddly, that was what came to mind when I heard that people are complaining about the lights at the Aspen High School football field.I thought about it because the damned noisy traffic on the highway is a symbol of so much that has gone wrong with our community. Symbol? Hell, it’s a direct result.The workers driven out by high real-estate prices. The construction crews taking part in the endless rounds of destruction, reconstruction and expansion. You know the story. We don’t need to go through it again – these are the people who clog the highway and fill the valley with noise and pollution.And the lights at the playing field?If the high noise is a symbol of what’s gone wrong, the lights are a symbol of what still remains of our real community. Kids playing football, with parents and fellow students on the sidelines cheering them on.Call it school spirit, if there’s room in our cynical universe for such a thing.It’s a reflection of a real community. A reflection of something important. A reflection of so much that we’ve lost. A reflection of what we’re struggling to save.Now, at this point, I’m tempted to focus on small issues. I’d love to talk about the homeowners near the school who just can’t stand to be bothered – but there’s a larger point.When we talk about community, we want it to be all warm and fuzzy. What could be better than community? It’s like mother and apple pie, right?Well, yes – but apple pie can be mighty fattening. And mothers … well, we all know about mothers. They’re wonderful, but even the very best are, after all, real human beings.And a community – a real community – is like that. Wonderful some of the time, difficult and demanding some of the time. Worth it, for sure, in the end, but not always easy along the way.Community means sacrifice.It comes up time and time again. We have zoning laws and growth controls. We have noise ordinances and speed limits and parking meters. It means the rich don’t get to do anything and everything they want with their land. And it means that a lot of the rest of us don’t get to live in the town we still consider home. And it means others have to give up any dream of making a real profit on the “affordable” home they have fought so hard to buy.And it means after all that sacrifice, we still have to keep on fighting.We have to be nice to our neighbor. We have to turn down our stereo. We have to pick up after our dog.We have to look out for one another, even when it isn’t convenient. Even when it’s damned annoying.A great community is like a great marriage. You have to work at it. You have to compromise.So, the next time the lights come on at the high school field, don’t squint … smile. Be glad we have a high school. Be glad they have a football team. Be true to your school.Be true to your team.Follow the light. Get out there and cheer!Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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