Roger Marolt: We have nothing to fear but sounding like a fool
I wonder what it is that people want to say who say they are afraid to say it for fear of retribution by our local governments and other potentially insulted parties. I bring this up because a local letter writer last week patted himself on the back by claiming someone had complimented him for saying something in one of his letters that this other person wished he could say for himself, but was afraid to because he owned a local business and was scared of what might happen if he did.
I’ve heard this fear expressed at times over the years and always wonder what it is that people think is going to happen if they say what they think about the city, the county or anyone else, for that matter, in a letter to the editor. Personally, I have said awful, slanderous, insulting things about many influential Aspenites, most local institutions and all familiar governmental agencies. I went so far as to call one old-timer a dork. I don’t recall any seriously negative consequences due to any of it unless, of course, you consider landing this gig as a local loudmouth in the newspaper a punishment, which it sometimes does feel like, now that I mention it. Not really.
It’s not like I’ve only been stirring things up since I started writing a column, which I know a lot of you think grants me constitutional authority to give people hell. Years ago when I wanted to remodel my basement, I had to go before the Snowmass Water and Sanitation board to address an additional tap fee they wanted to assess. The board president accused me of proceeding without the proper permit. I called him a scum-sucking, dirty, lying sonuvabitch. Even though the colorful exchange was conspicuously documented in the newspaper, I think the case was decided fairly.
I have wondered why Aspen Ski Co. hasn’t pulled my season pass for things I said about them. I would consider that to be about as serious a negative consequence possible in a ski town, and they probably could do it legally. That said, I said what I said anyway and lived to ski another day. I am not saying that I believe they respect what I had to say, but I give credit where credit is overdue: The folks at Skico are tirelessly tolerant and it increases their Aspen street cred.
I know Lee Mulcahy likely disagrees with this assessment. Skico yanked his pass and got a restraining order against him. However, I think he crossed a line and that line was a property line, which he leapt with a handful of protest pamphlets to disrupt Skico’s business by harassing their customers with, among other things. Just to be clear, this is different than speaking your mind.
I think it boils down to this: People around here are going to let you say just about anything knowing that the greatest punishment of all, in a highly opinionated town like Aspen where your voice can easily be projected to lots of folks who are paying attention, is that you can end up sounding like an idiot and then you have to head out into the streets and make eye contact with everyone. Been there, done that! It passes.
So, when people claim that they are afraid to speak their minds in Aspen for fear of what might happen to their businesses, I wonder about their priorities. These folks have given up their right to speak freely in exchange for money. Even if this were a real possibility, which is doubtful, you are pathetic for accepting that trade-off. If it’s not actually a real possibility, send your alternative facts in a love letter to the current president of the United States. I am sure he will send back an autographed picture of himself from 15 years ago for your troubles.
Ultimately, I think Aspen is a place where everyone can have a voice because everyone else is paying attention and will hear you if you just open your mouth. In this environment, I get it if you stay silent because you are shy. I get it if you are unsure of your position and fear sounding like a fool. I get it if you simply don’t care to speak out because you would rather go skiing or biking. But if you don’t speak out and claim you can’t because you fear some kind of retribution, I think you are a wuss making up excuses. I am not afraid to say that.
Roger Marolt knows that allies and enemies choose up new sides everyday in the playground called Aspen. Email at email@example.com
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