Marolt: Aspen has its own wall

Roger Marolt
Roger This

He didn’t convince me, but he got me thinking. That’s what makes the conversation linger. He’s a little bit Trumpian, while I am pretty much not. The fact that he’s a foreigner and not so emotionally invested makes it easier to listen without getting riled up. He’s also a friend, but we don’t put that on the line when we talk politics, so we talk frequently. It’s funny how calm discussions have more impact.

He said Trump was going to be good for our economy by getting people employed in meaningful work again. I see that as a bigger problem than the brain power of Trump, or anyone else, can handle. Globalization, not ill-conceived political agenda, is the mega-force moving jobs to places where products can be manufactured and services provided more cheaply. Technologically enhanced transportation and the internet deliver the products back to where money talks loudest. The only way to save jobs here is to lasso and shackle Innovation and Knowhow, two horses long released from the barn on the ranch of capitalistic ideals, now running wild across the globe.

America is not going to be great again (my, how I despise that slogan) manufacturing widgets and mousetraps like they used to, he said. America has to find new jobs in places they haven’t tapped, he told me, where they still have a competitive advantage. He couldn’t see my eyelids rise because we were on phone, so he must have heard the dry skin crackling from my face contorting in doubt.

“Take our very own Aspen,” he continued. “That is a product that you can make better than anyone else in the world and yet you produce a fraction of its potential. Aspen might add billions more to the U.S. economy. You have to it let it grow to help others.”

I reminded him that there is no political will locally to let Aspen grow. We like it the way it is. It’s our home and we have a right to protect it and keep it, well, smallish, if not quaint anymore.

He told me straight that I sounded a lot like the “racists” in Arizona and Texas who want the border sealed and Hispanics deported because they are afraid of the impacts of immigration, real and imagined, on their towns and lifestyles. He then speculated how many more families Aspen might feed by keeping people gainfully employed by doubling or tripling the number of hotel rooms and widening the highway.

A big part of the reason Trump won is that a ton of small towns across this country are suffering because a factory, mine, or processing center has been shut down. They have the will for their towns to expand but no longer possess a resource that anyone wants. Aspen is the exact opposite of that.

Are we selfish, insulated up here in our enclave for the ultra-wealthy? Have we effectively built a wall around our town with the building code and Aspen Area Community Plan?

We certainly have the right to govern our town the way we see fit — to protect our heritage, our small-town charms, our sense of community and ski runs that are uncrowded by the design of a pricing scheme that only the privileged can adhere to. But are we right in doing so? Why are people who are motivated to keep newcomers out of our country in order to protect their jobs and what is familiar to them not entitled to the same line of self-preserving thought as we are? Is it possible racism isn’t their motive any more than ours? Perhaps none of us want to share with anyone.

We make fun of tourists. We go nose up on newcomers. We demonically stereotype second-home owners. We may not be racists, misogynists or xenophobes, but might we be a bit misanthropic?

We’ve created a dichotomy of justification where either we or the border sealers are wrong. It’s enough to test the conviction of truly progressive thinking, if not our thorough examination of humanitarianism and morality.

Could the question of growth in Aspen really be as simple as my personal comfort at the cost of jobs for many more families that could benefit from our expansion? It’s a question of childlike simplicity.

I have been a proponent of keeping Aspen small in order to preserve its appeal to those who will pay largely to be here. Any degradation to the product by increasing its size would be detrimental to … me.

I wonder if the pause in that sentence is now permanently embedded in my mind or if I will eventually get over it. I apologize for the shock. I was nakedly honest for a split second.

Roger Marolt always feels blessed to be here and sometimes feels selfish for keeping others out. Email at


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