Elizabeth Milias: A Confederate Flag, a swastika and a MAGA hat

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant

I’ve often referred to councilman Skippy Mesirow as “the gift who keeps on giving,” notably because his penchant for over-sharing on social media provides a never-ending stream of cringe-worthy entertainment and, more often than not, political foibles.

But when the elected official went a step further in the days following the events at the Capitol in early January by posting a photo of a sign featuring a Confederate flag with the words “lost the war,” a swastika with the words “lost the war,” and a MAGA hat with the words “you’re next,” simply put, I’d had enough.

Not unlike his earlier incendiary posts, this photo quickly made the rounds, and I was able to have the following statement read into the record at the subsequent council meeting: “I was shocked and disappointed at this post. A public official in Aspen should never inflame hatred in this manner. There has been a bad pattern of identity politics from this councilman and it’s no way to de-escalate the problems in our world today. I was horrified, threatened and am fearful based on his bellicose words. At what point do his personal views and his public role coalesce to become something I should personally be worried about because my politics are different than his?”

I was not alone. The level of disgust was widespread and palpable. Many wrote to council and other letters were published in the paper. Consistent within the messages was the agreement that local citizens should not be subjected to Skippy’s personal political agendas; they are unprofessional, insubordinate, ignorant and illustrate a level of incompetence that seems to be getting worse as time goes on.

Unfortunately, at the time, council declined to act on this latest inflammatory incident. By refusing to condemn it, they all but condoned it. This lack of leadership from city council demonstrates their willingness to continue to accept Mesirow’s abhorrent behavior. I later learned that several councilmembers responded to correspondence from a constituent, acknowledging the incident and its inappropriateness, but outlining their conundrum; they see Mesirow as a spoiled kid who, by virtue of being elected, is entitled to respect as a peer. Never mind this kind of communication is not deserving of any respect. However, for our sitting electeds, doing nothing, not even censure, was the path of least resistance. And, as a result, for all we know, they agree with him.

While my politics could not be more different from Mesirow’s, it is really not at all a conservative-liberal issue, rather, the complete failure of an elected official to abide by the fundamental tenets of his office. It is one thing to exercise one’s First Amendment right to free speech, and something else entirely when one’s actions impugn his public role as an elected official. And just think, in a matter of weeks, he will be an “elder” at the council table when new members are seated. Unless he is properly reprimanded, some kind of example he promises be.

Skippy, and likely several others on council, has obviously fallen into the trap of treating intolerance that crosses political ideologies as an “us versus them” rationale for justifying one type of intolerance as morally superior to another. Nothing about this is OK. Nor is it funny or cute. And it needs to stop.

When contacted after the incident, Mesirow quickly took to social media to mop up the mess he’d made, but in his inimitable fashion, only made it worse. Who on Earth “sloppily” re-posts anything with Confederate flags these days, never mind swastikas? That this grievous photo was allegedly “sandwiched” between Ronald Reagan and a message of bipartisanship makes no difference to anyone. He shared it, widely. And his claim to desire “a post-partisan” nation through “bringing people across ideologies” rings incredibly hollow. The worst, however, was the doubling down on an interest in “lowering the temperature.” Sadly, Skippy, you did just the opposite.

Censure is a powerful tool, a formal statement of disapproval. It is a public condemnation of an individual whose actions run counter to the group’s acceptable standards for individual behavior. A public shaming, if you will. It’s time.

Let this column serve as my formal request of city council that Skippy Mesirow be censured for this most recent careless and vitriolic act in hopes that his future public communications reflect not only messages and behavior appropriate for an elected official, but also espouse the empathy and “post-partisan” ideals that he claims to desire. Rachel Richards, you’ve been in local politics for a long time. Please leverage your tenure and experience as an example of maturity for your young colleague. Ann Mullins, as you prepare to leave council, please do what is necessary to preserve the level of decorum that you brought to the table over the past eight years. Torre and Ward Hauenstein, you two are up for re-election. Please demonstrate some real leadership.

No, Skippy is not up for re-election this round. He has two more years on council. Contact