Letter: Civil discourse starts at home
We have an election coming up, and some people say the most preposterous stuff. There are at least four things that concern me about this. First, these folks may actually believe what they say and others may, too. Second, Pitkin County is a small community and many of the most egregious statements are about members of our own community. Third, these kinds of attacks are no longer limited to campaign season, they seem to be non-stop, year-round, year in and year out. Finally, if we want civil discourse in Washington, we’ve got to learn how to speak respectfully about one another in Pitkin County.
As Republicans in Pitkin County, we’ve become used to being called “racists,” either directly or by code names such as “poll tax” supporters or vote suppressors. Or we’re told that we’re racist because we disagree with the policies of the current president. We heard plenty of this at the Aspen Saturday Market this summer and in homes here in the valley.
We’re also called crazies. John Colson had a column in The Aspen Times last week that was stunningly incorrect about Ronald Reagan’s policies on mental-health treatment centers. That would be bad enough, but he ended his column with the following, “And, more importantly, how many of our uncared-for, mentally ill citizens are Republicans themselves, and therefore responsible for their own predicament?” I realize there are a couple of ways of interpreting that statement, but mental illness is a terrible affliction, not to be trifled with in any way to score political points or otherwise.
Then there’s the recent email circulated by two of our neighbors in Old Snowmass and Woody Creek to people they believe have political views similar to their own. The email is addressed to “All High IQ Voters,” implying that those who do not agree with the writers’ political perspective are dummies. It’s not surprising that some people believe they’re intellectually superior to others, but it is surprising that they’re advertising it.
There’s a column by Mick Ireland in one of the local papers, fulminating about the various Republican candidates in this year’s election. It would take a volume to address all the false statements and innuendos in the column, but one that stands out is Mick’s series of accusations concerning a political event held at Rob Ittner’s restaurant. Mick argues that by allowing Bob Beauprez, the Republican candidate for Governor, to hold a “fundraiser” at the restaurant, Rob lent support to the candidate’s positions.
This is not true, and I would know because I arranged the April 2 event. It was a meet-and-greet, not a fundraiser for the candidate, who at that time was running for the Republican nomination in the June 24 primary. We did the same for other candidates who were vying in the Republican primary. The candidates all paid the restaurant’s bills. There was no financial support from Rob. Mick wasn’t at the Beauprez event, although he would have been welcome at this public gathering. On the other hand, perhaps Mick attended the private fundraisers (not meet-and-greets) that have taken place at Rob’s restaurant for John Hickenlooper, Gail Schwartz, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Many people ask me how they can possibly tell what’s true and what’s false in the propaganda that inevitably goes with political campaigns. My rule of thumb: If it sounds too bad to be true, it probably is false.
It’s possible that we will see a change in the U.S. Senate and the Colorado State House on November 4. If so, you can be assured that the Pitkin County Republicans will not forget that civil discourse starts at home.
Old Snowmass, chair of the Pitkin County Republicans
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With much sorrow I heard of the passing of a good friend Bruce Berger. He was a man for all seasons, a pianist, prolific author, environmentalist, and lover of Aspen.