Hurtful gossip has no place in Aspen BOE election |

Hurtful gossip has no place in Aspen BOE election

If you’ve ever been hurt by malicious gossip, you can relate to the gut-punch Anna Zane experienced after being targeted by a nasty email campaign for wanting to bring her extensive experience and consensus-building skills to Aspen’s school board. When the email chain hit my inbox, its easy-to-refute, vicious fabrications about my friend took my breath away.

So, I replied to the emailers, refuting their baseless claims and asking why they cast Anna as villainous. I urged them to contemplate this parable: Seeking redemption, a gossiper asked his rabbi how he could make amends. Told to scatter in the wind and then retrieve all a pillow’s feathers, the gossiper exclaimed, “impossible!” The rabbi responded, “Precisely, just as it is to repair the damage caused by your words.”

To the credit of one offender, I received a response acknowledging — and later apologizing for — the error in not asking questions of Anna before sharing the email.

In fact, all isn’t fair in love and war….and elections. Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” So, spreading outright lies not only undermines trust, it erodes mutual understanding, community relations, social solidarity … and friendships.

In his recent Real Time monologue, Bill Maher mentioned a taxi-driver from Sarajevo’s “war-torn hellscape” who told him that what’s happening in America is “what I saw in Bosnia – next-door neighbors who despise each other,” prompting Maher to conclude, “hate on this level can only be sustained for so long before becoming actual war.”

As I wrote the emailers, America is human history’s greatest experiment as the only multiracial, “multi-label,” self-critical democracy that hasn’t — yet! — descended into tribal chaos. How do we keep it that way while addressing society’s biggest problems?

We can start by listening to our nature’s better angels – don’t spread malicious gossip!

Melanie Sturm