John Colson: ‘New normal’ looking a bit different today

John Colson
Hit & Run

Been noticing anything outside of the “new normal” these days?

In case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, it’s this:

• Traffic on the valley’s roads and highways seems to be quickly resurging to its pre-COVID-19 levels as Colorado, like the nation at large, “reopens” from the pandemic lockdown, after months in which the roads were even quieter and emptier than they were back in 1978, when I moved here.

• Just about all of the valley’s public-access points to the backwoods have been swamped by hikers, bikers and horseback riders, once again showing the resurgence of activity brought on by the “reopening” (I put that in quotes because it seems an awfully innocuous word for what we’re looking at in our near future).

• In a surprising number of places I’ve been seeing people wandering around bare-faced, meaning not wearing the protective masks that any public official with the sense he or she was born with will tell you that wearing a mask remains a critical public-health precaution against the pandemic despite what some of our national leaders are telling us.

What all this apparently indicates is that Colorado is not immune to the kind of irresponsible, reckless and, frankly, dangerous mindset that has taken hold in much of the U.S. — the belief among some that the virus either was a hoax perpetrated by the “liberal elite” supposedly running this country, or it simply was no big deal and now it’s gone.

I find it interesting that, at the same time as the COVID-denial movement threatens us all, we also are seeing a resurgence of the old Pizzagate conspiracy theory, most likely involving the same tiny subset of our population willing to believe any story that backs up their own ignorance.

Readers will recall, I’m sure, that back in 2016 the pro-Donald Trump crowd, desperate to throw any and all mud possible at Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, ginned up a fake controversy accusing Clinton and the “elite” of sponsoring a child-trafficking ring out of the Washington, D.C.-area pizza joint known as Comet Ping-Pong.

One of this mad bunch even showed up at the pizza parlor with an assault rifle and opened fire on a closet (the gunman got a four-year prison term for his stupidity).

The basis for the Pizzagate lie, of course, was a cobbled-together mishmash of logically insupportable assumptions, whispered hate campaigns on the internet and the bizarre association that Clinton’s team liked pizza and ate regularly at the Comet, which was owned by a friend of one of Clinton’s aides.

As an aside, I recall reading back in the early COVID days that research showed an affinity among COVID deniers and so-called “climate deniers,” meaning the right-wing nut-base that refuses to believe scientists’ assertions about the growing threat from climate change.

In a stunning transference of illogic, this pathetically ignorant swath of our population apparently has concluded anything a scientist says cannot be believed. This is despite the fact that our planet is undergoing a cascade of increasingly catastrophic climate-related events, and that more than 125,000 people have died from a virus that has shown unexpected tenacity as its grip tightens on the globe.

I mentioned earlier that our local residents and visitors have been inundating our roads, hospitality businesses and trails in a surge undoubtedly tied to their frustration and pent-up need to get out at any cost.

Statistically, this is reflected in the published figures of “contacts” between Pitkin County Open Space rangers and the public increased sevenfold from March through May of this year (385 “enforcement” contacts) over the same period last year (52 such contacts), and 15-fold in May alone (211 contacts this year, 14 last year).

User numbers on trails from Smuggler Mountain above Aspen, to Prince Creek near Carbondale, also are way up this year over last year, according to published accounts.

I couldn’t find any statistical accounts of whether our local surge of backcountry use has swelled the numbers of those infected by the novel coronavirus, but nationally the numbers tell a chilling tale.

In those states that hustled to open up as quickly and as completely as possible, following the lead of Trump and Republican governors eager to do his bidding, the number of COVID case numbers has been swelling, the ratio of positive tests for the virus has been rising, and it is generally believed by many scientists that a considerable upturn in both infections and deaths can be expected in the coming weeks and months.

In summary, I believe that our president failed to respond quickly enough to the virus as it was getting started on its romp around the world, thus endangering our whole country, and that he has been too quick in telling everyone who would listen that everything is OK and the virus is fading from the scene, when it obviously is not.

Oh well, I guess it’s just another day in the life of a nation being run into the ground on the whims of a supremely self-centered fool in the Oval Office and the toadies he has gathered around him.

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