“No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”
—Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Tyler Washington, June 1804
Given the timing of 2019, this town is transitioning quickly from one of the most “local” of weeks to one of the most “touristy.” Crested Butte Bike Week has been embraced by the locals for two main events: the Chainless Race and Bridges of the Butte. Both are costumed parties that draw locals for the fun and a good cause. The Chainless is an afternoon party on Kebler Pass that this year extended into a raucous celebration of Matty Robb’s life at Big Mine Ice Arena. The Bridges bounced back from a potential 12-hour neutering to a full-fledged 24 hours of fun that appears to have been kept under control and achieved what it was meant to do—raise funds for scholarships to assist people with disabilities to come to the Adaptive Sports Center while letting bikers of all ages fly their freak flag into the wee hours. Both events are a chance for locals to make a statement through their costumes and their actions.
Now we move onto the day that draws more people to town than any other. The Fourth of July normally draws upwards of 10,000 people for the 11 o’clock parade. Good luck with your cell phone connection. More than any other year I am hearing locals say they are skipping it this year. They cite the crowds, the mellowing of the parade in general, the lack of desire to celebrate America with Donald at the helm. For me, the saving grace is to be close to Third and Elk so I can listen to the parade MCs, Than and Josephine, crack on the floats and the crowd. Plus there will be enough locals remaining to grab a day beer with friends who normally go missing this time of year because it is so busy.
It is America’s birthday and while I am no fan of Donald, the great ongoing experiment in representative democracy is worth celebrating. I am reading the book Freak Kingdom by Timothy Denevi right now, a biography centered on the first 10 years of Hunter S. Thompson’s professional life that explains some of the reason for Thompson’s passion. He hated the government at the time and particularly Richard Nixon. The events of the time are not dissimilar to today and in some ways much worse. The book focuses on Thompson’s “manic 10-year crusade against American fascism.” So while to many, Donald and his actions are uniquely disturbing, the point is that it isn’t the first time the country has been confronted by such challenges emanating from the government. It is important to continue to remain aware and fight back against those actions that attempt to take power from the people. One of the ways is through freedom to speak your truth.
I love that in this place the people have a voice and they use it. Read the letters and essays in the last couple editions of the paper. Community members are addressing issues ranging from what it is like to be a new citizen of this country, and whether the Popular Vote movement is good, to more specific local issues dealing with logging, climate change, paid parking, the library, poop and e-bikes. Yeah, poop.
The fact that people can freely voice their opinion and make a few waves is, to me, one of the successes of this country and this place. Pity the person whose only counter-argument is a whiny charge of “fake news” as opposed to a debate based in reason and truth instead of wishes and lies. When Donald accuses the press of being an “enemy of the people,” that to me is a fascist action based in fear. Reread the Thomas Jefferson quote at the top of this page. When Trump accuses the New York Times of “treason” for running a story on government action against Russia as he did this week, even though the paper claims to have run the story in question by Donald’s national security advisors, it shows a dangerous ignorance to history, depth of perspective and even his own administration’s current reality.
It is all part of this America. And America has never been perfect—just better than most other places. But it takes a constant vigilance by the people to keep it so.
This is the week when we see a lot of America from conservative Texans to liberal Boulderites and everything in between on the streets of this small town. So embrace the great democratic experiment. Savor the memories of those unique Crested Butte celebrations, the Chainless and Bridges. Enjoy the parade if you stay here or have a good time on the lake or in the woods if you choose a less crowded way to acknowledge the Fourth.
But most of all, do not shy from utilizing the freedoms that come with this country—in particular the freedom to speak your truth.