Lum: Playing by the rules |

Lum: Playing by the rules

Su Lum

In the typical fashion of our overesteemed species, we just had to love the North Star Nature Preserve to death.

We couldn’t tiptoe through the woods and fields, couldn’t wade in the still waters enjoying the peace and beauty — no, we had to start bringing in the rubber duckies, the machetes, the submarines, the inflatable dolls, the brass bands and the 175 guests for the Labradoodle’s birthday party, and hey, damn, they’re going to start cracking down on what we can and can’t do out there.

When my ex-husband Burt and I left for Alaska in 1961, we were a couple of left-wing beatniks who had grown so weary of uptight Eastern “don’t” rules that we went as far away as possible to escape them.

Don’t park here, no fishing there, no stopping on this bridge, no spitting, no looking cross-eyed — every time we turned around, we ran into a “Don’t” sign.

Over the 27 days it took to make the journey, the thicket of “Don’t” signs got thinner and thinner. Then we reached Anchorage and saw what 40,000 people, the population at the time, could do when left to their own devices.

Anchorage could have been a model city, being virtually brand-new and having the advantage of hindsight to learn from and avoid the mistakes other communities had made over the centuries. Instead, it embraced the entire history of human wrongheadedness, resulting in very messy vitality indeed.

That was more than 50 years ago — perhaps it has improved. Now I’m a left-wing skeptic who thinks the human race hasn’t done a good job of advancement.

The upshot is that we’re not very good at keeping control of ourselves and never have been, and the problem lies in those whom we allow to have the power to do the controlling for us.

On the small end of the scale is Stillwater (aka the North Star Preserve) getting pummeled and trampled until the “No Trespassing” signs go up. Along the same line, the road to the Bells and Pyramid Peak was so jammed with devotees and leaf-peepers that it is now accessible only by bus.

Of course the most obvious one is what we let happen to Aspen itself.

A little further up the line, Colorado is in danger of having the legality of marijuana overturned because we’re just not mature enough to handle that freedom. If you can’t handle the freedom, the freedom will be taken away.

But the most alarming is the way the entire world is racing to abuse its way off the Internet. In a few short years, just about everyone on earth has become addicted to the Internet, and all the centers of power on the planet would love to seize control of it. Something is bound to give.

Let us hope that it won’t be the next and ultimate world war.

Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks we should not take out pet pythons to Stillwater. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at