Culture Clash in the High Country
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published August 5, 2013 on The Washington Times website.
OURAY, Colo. — Just because the mountain air is thin at 7,800 feet and the New Age is evident in various ways doesn’t mean that Coloradans have totally lost their sense of reality.
In Ouray, for example, a town that is arguably the most scenic in the nation (nickname: “the Switzerland of America”) the town council on July 15 adopted a moratorium on retail marijuana shops.
Colorado’s voters, who went for Barack Obama in 2012, also legalized possession and sales, but they left options to localities over whether to allow dope stores to open. In Ouray, voters will decide in 2014.
Elsewhere, petition drives led by three plumbers have put two state Democratic legislators on the ballot in a September recall election — state Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron. They are in the cross hairs for their support of a sweeping new gun-control law in the Rocky Mountain State.
Also, another sign of relative conservatism is that you have to go into Denver and college towns like Boulder to encounter the plethora of Obama-Biden bumper stickers that are still ubiquitous in the Washington, D.C., area and other Democratic strongholds.
Out in the Colorado high country, where ranches stretch as far as the eye can see (Ralph Lauren has 17,000 acres in the San Juan Mountains, the Double RL Ranch), an Obama bumper sticker would be about as welcome as a visit from a hungry grizzly bear. Oprah probably had one on her car when she came in 2011 to film a special on the ranch, but I didn’t see a single such sticker at the ranch rodeo last week in Montrose. There were some faded Romney stickers and a couple of “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate frames.
In many towns in Colorado, cowboy culture thrives alongside the New Age, which has crept in under cover of respect for American Indians’ religion. Politically, they are miles apart.
I did see a couple of Obama stickers in nearby Ridgway, Ouray County’s other town. My guess is that they weren’t locals, but I could be wrong since there is New Age culture there, too. However, in Ridgway, where much of “True Grit” was filmed in 1969, John Wayne is still king. The Duke is on T-shirts, mugs, posters, you name it. The True Grit Cafe is across from a park where they shot the hanging scene.
During my Colorado sojourn, except for glances at Fox News and The Washington Times website, the world of Washington politics seems far, far away. I have picked up very little political discussion while eavesdropping in cafes, airports, parks and other public areas.
Part of this lack of interest in politics is probably because we’re between elections. Things perk up in even-numbered years. Another reason might be that, in our hyperpartisan era, people are scared to reveal political beliefs lest they offend.
In Colorado Springs, I met with an old friend just back from Israel. He did an informal survey near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and asked people about prospects for peace between Jews and Muslims. Depending on the age of the respondent, the answer was utterly predictable, he said. People over 30 saw the Muslim world as irrevocably committed to Israel’s destruction. People under 30, however, were walking versions of the “Coexist” bumper sticker, in which all religions are viewed as equally benign or aggressive.
“They believe in only two things right now,” my friend, who is a best-selling author, said of the young people. “Tolerance and the environment. Seriously. That’s all I heard. It’s the same in Colorado.”
He and his wife pulled their kids out of public schools near Colorado Springs because they were being fed homosexual propaganda and a zealous environmentalism that tolerates everything except biblical Christianity.
Although there still is a strong current of dissent, particularly among Christian teens, the constant flow of digital opinion reflects the liberal brew cooked up in government schools and the professional cynicism of Stephen Colbert’s “Colbert Report” or Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” The result is a Manichean universe in which you are either a good person who tolerates all things, or a bad person who discriminates between behaviors.
Colorado, with its proud Western heritage, which includes the Utes and other Indian tribes, er, Native Americans, is riding the edge of a cultural storm that has turned the state purple.
Right now, there is precious middle ground. The state is up for grabs. Only when young people wake up and realize that the New Age is not a road to freedom, but a modern path toward dependency, will they warm to conservative politics, my friend said. He also predicted that the nation will reject the Obama regime only when the pain level reaches crisis proportions.
If freedom is to be preserved in Colorado and the rest of the United States, the spirit of the Duke will have to ride tall in the saddle again.