Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Smokey the Bear Gets Political, or, This Time It's Personal

I will be re-posting essays I write for Drinking Liberally Philadelphia http://bit.ly/fvjLTk. Here's last weeks entry about the political implications of the fires in my home-town of Colorado Springs:

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(Original Post: http://bit.ly/LQhy7r)

In case last week you're head got caught in stair railing again, my home city of Colorado Springs was in the news. And as is always the case when C-Springs as we like to call it, it was bad news. In the past it's been about the religious wing-nuttery http://bit.ly/N61QFM or their first cousin conservative crazy-pantsery http://bit.ly/zsMOiA. Then there was this guy http://bit.ly/elZ6wL. For some reason C-Springs makes the kind of stories This American Life loves.

Now before I rant about the news, I want to preface it by saying emphatically, I love Colorado Springs. It sits at the base of the Rockies with every imaginable outdoor activity within reach, and the political/religious majority aside, people in the West are genuinely friendly. And the weather, global warming notwithstanding, is perfect; sunny, mild and dry. That being said it's hard to be from the Springs.

A little bit of history. The Springs was a relatively small mountain town with a bunch of military bases, including Central Command, previously located at NORAD nested deep inside a mountain topped with massive radio towers, a sight that never seemed out of the ordinary growing up.
In the late 70s and early 80s there was in influx of people from other states because taxes were low and there was plenty of open spaces to colonize. Organizations like Focus on the Family and New Life Church thrived.

As teenagers we had bumper stickers on our junker cars stating "Focus On Your Own Damn Family," parked outside coffee shops where we ranted about how the latest property tax proposal designed to fund schools was killed by the voters. Over the years I have witnessed my nice smallish town taken over and destroyed by zealotry.

There was also a move to develop the hell out of the town. Politicians bought buy developers pushed to build communities in places they didn't belong, either in to the Western foothills where your tiny dog/child will likely be eaten by a bear/mountain lion, or to the East in the arid plains, where no matter how hard you try you won't have that perfect green lawn you saw in Lawn & Garden Magazine.

So with this massive growth, increased conservatism, military and religious influence C-Springs was bound to turn into the conservative Utopia born from the wet-dreams of Pat Robertson and Grover Norquist.

If ever there was proof that the small government, pro-capitalism experiment has failed, my home town is that proof.

Not only are parks not mowed, street lights turned off, public pools privatized http://bit.ly/AF53Lg but essential public services like Firefighters cut to the point of uselessness http://bit.ly/MYpU0p (thanks to Brendan Skwire for that one).

The locals have been made so terrified of taxes as to be completely irrational. They would rather spend more of their own money to turn on one street light rather than have the government turn them all on for cheaper. They criticize Obama for showing up and giving Federal support for a thinly stretched local Fire Department, while their Tea-Party mayor begs Obama for money that his constituents refuse to give.

It is painful to watch places I frequented and see homes of old friends burn to the ground, but it is almost more painful to see my neighbors ask for help after decades of refusing to pay into a system designed to benefit everyone, especially in emergency situations like a Wildfire.
The proof is in the burnt pudding. The effects of Global Warming have never been more evident. Colorado's arid climate is made even dryer and has exacerbated a fire that my home city could barely put out.

Conservatism in practice doesn't work, and the consequences of it's implementation in my home town have been dire. Unfortunately the people there like to elect anti-tax slum-lords who are then jailed for tax evasion http://bit.ly/Njcefk.

*Audible Sigh

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