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Britta Gustafson: It’s time for radical self accountability

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

Taking a proverbial temperature in Snowmass Village, it doesn’t seem that we have reached fever pitch … yet.

But in this climate of uncertainty, where our minds are left to wander, can we keep cool?

With all this social distancing, I felt compelled to peruse Facebook for the first time after a three-year hiatus. And it’s just as I remembered. Filled with noise, boasting, public shaming and clueless cacophony.

But a few productive local conversations caught my attention. I was reassured we have strong minds in this community and the capacity to innovate, but it still seems we stunt productivity when shifting blame, pointing fingers and venting. I think that’s the principle trouble with conversing online.

Yes, there is plenty for us to feel enraged about in an era of pandemic. And because of this, I think we feel adrift. Who is leading the way forward? We look to the federal level and find nothing but politics and fear mongering. It certainly feels safe to assume that there is probably no leadership coming down the pipelines.

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Snowmass residents seem to be craving order, by definition that’s what makes up a civilization, and we gravitate toward leaders. I think, even as an unintentional nonconformist, predictable rules can be comforting. But as each day seems to dawn with a new set, we feel as lost as school kids on an endless spring break.

Perhaps that’s why outrage turns inward and blaming local government inaction feels empowering. Still, misappropriating frustrations and sometimes personally attacking our local leaders doesn’t seem productive.

If you think of energy as a collective, we are all experiencing trauma to varying degrees. And life is hard when coupled with uncertainty, fear and lack of unity.

But I see some genuine leadership emerging. Reed Lewis, Jonny Boyd, I’d vote for you! And other local business owners who are adapting, journalists and editors who are taking pay cuts while shouldering twice the local news load and still finding ways to give of themselves. And there are outspoken community members who have creative suggestions for which I’m grateful. Keep leading the way.

And as you do so, let us all keep our collective energy productive and charged with hope, using caution and civility when we formulate our suggestions. It’s easy to yell at the coach from the stands. But please offer up some innovation, if you want to get in the game.

Local government may be lacking in visible response, but isn’t it hard to see the response from your front porch? And by the way, we are still printing a paper, at a loss.

We have leaders, civilians and elected officials alike. And if you don’t know our mayor, you should know that she is a compassionate, diplomatic, rational community leader. She is down to earth and anything but self-serving. Above all, she doesn’t deserve undue criticism; her hands are often tied. Government is almost dysfunctional by design these days. If she could, she would.

You also should know that beyond all of her hard work around our town, her valley-wide efforts and volunteering to chair the Pitkin County Board of Health, she also takes time to make daily phone calls to many of our most vulnerable citizens, and on top of that, she has even been delivering life-sustaining supplies to those in need. I’m pretty sure that’s not in her elected job description.

Like all of us, she is navigating blind in unmapped territory. We are fortunate to have such a thoughtful and energetic leader. Please, let’s not criticize her character. This isn’t a time for schoolyard behavior, we aren’t in the Oval Office.

Our collective energy should be put to good use. Avoid backroom gossip and overzealousness, instead let’s talk about local food sourcing, private funding opportunities, self-sustaining methods; let’s keep it civil and get super creative.

First call to action: radical self accountability.

Second: flexible, innovative, design thinking.

Third: use precious communications wisely; there’s no room left for simply complaining.

Let’s hold ourselves accountable for our behavior and actions right now. Be our own leaders and set our own boundaries before this storm hits, because it’s going to hit soon, and hard.

Let’s accept the public trade off for health and safety. Find that balance between needs and wants. And more than anything, let’s attack the virus — not each other.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.


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