John Colson: Tempest in Aspen’s teapot, ironically spiced after councilman’s rant
Hit & Run
I noted with interest the latest tempest in Aspen’s political teapot, prompted by an Instagram video created by Aspen City Council member Skippy Mesirow.
In a debate as angry as it is ironic, people are weighing in heavily about the video, in which the frustrated solon went on what an Aspen Times story termed a “rant … about the crowds in town during peak ski season and that they are not the ‘right people’ to visit here” (a bit of twisted syntax there, but the idea comes across).
I don’t follow Mesirow on Instagram (OK, I don’t follow much of anybody on any social media platform, if you want the unalloyed truth of the matter), and did not see the video before it was taken down, reportedly by Mesirow himself acting out of some hazy, if belated instinct for political self preservation.
But from the Times’ story by Carolyn Sackariason, and a blizzard of comments both negative and positive, it appears Mesirow touched a nerve when he deeply condemned Aspen’s crushing overpopulation during the Christmas-New Year’s holiday.
Most of Mesirow’s critics came at him from the perspective of a booster of industrial tourism, eager to soak up the downpour of cash that falls from the sky during the winter holidays every year, and just as eager to call for the public flogging of anyone who expresses a contrarian view about the holiday crowds.
The comments in support of Mesirow’s lament were far fewer in number than those condemning him and his video, but I suspect that might be due to fear that they (commenters supporting Mesirow’s right to his opinion, or agreeing with him) would soon become targets of the same kind of vitriolic insults that were being hurled Mesirow’s way.
In case you want to verify my assessment, check out Sackariason’s Jan. 4 story and the comments at the end — it’s pretty illuminating.
Some of Mesirow’s critics contented themselves with castigating him for daring to question whether our annual flood of well-heeled humanity is a good thing.
Others questioned Mesirow’s right to live here with that kind of attitude, some demanded to know why he was driving around town while making the video, declaring City Council members are supposed to set a good example for the public by walking or using public transit; others made fun of his explanation (perhaps he meant it humorously) that his digestion was disturbed because he ate a rich meal of steak and buttered potatoes after going vegan for a while.
One commenter from New Jersey seemed to play into the worst fears of Mesirow’s critics, asking, “should we call ‘The Little Nell’ and cancel!” No explanation for the misplaced exclamation point, or the overuse of quotation marks, but once again, the idea came across.
Interestingly, more than one commenter indicated that the video will be Mesirow’s political downfall in a future election.
And at least one commenter made fun of Mesirow’s first name, as in: “what do you expect when you elect someone named Skippy to what should be an adult position.” Proper punctuation seems to have fallen victim to anger in the absence of a question mark at the end there, but that’s a fairly common occurrence in this type of word war.
I was a little surprised by the vehemence of some of the comments about Mesirow and his video, but then again, I guess it’s not that unusual in today’s hyper-vicious political atmosphere, in which our overall population seems poised to unleash all manner of hatred, violence and even death in keeping with our polarized politics.
I should note, however, that in the same edition as Sackariason’s story was a column in the Weekend section, “High Points” by Paul E Anna (a pseudonym), that referred to much the same phenomenon as did poor Skippy Mesirow, but a bit more gently.
Under the title, Tranquility Base, Paul E Anna lamented the fact that the Aspen airport becomes nearly unmanagably crowded during the holiday weeks, forcing him to “take a trip to … the Sea of Tranquility,” his own metaphor for deep breathing and other calmative mental measures to help combat stress.
I experienced the same airport-related “cluster” last week, but from the LAX airport in Southern California, where my plane sat on the tarmac for three hours while private jets took precedence over commercial planes and created a severe backlog that affected passengers thousands of miles away from Aspen.
“High Points” only runs in the Times’ e-edition online, so I was unable to determine if his quieter lament about a closely related topic generated any kind of similarly vitriolic reaction as Mesirow’s video, but I’m willing to bet it did not.
Which means it was the tone of Mesirow’s video that really irked his critics, perhaps more than the content.
Because the plain fact is that sentiments such as Mesirow’s have been around at least as long as I have lived here (40 years and counting), and they have only gotten more pronounced as time has passed and Aspen has become ever more reliant on the über wealthy and their desire for mansions on the mountainsides, high-priced shops and restaurants lining the streets, and preferential treatment at the local airport to the detriment of the travel plans of the plebeian public.
I take no position on whether Mesirow should have held his tongue (or his typing fingers) because of his role as a City Council member, though I strongly feel that he’s got as much right as anyone to express his dismay and frustration over Aspen’s rather ironic predicament.
Eamil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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