(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
I’m honored to abuse this space to opine on the political downfall of the once liberty-loving state of Colorado. But the state has lost something more than personal and economic freedom, though it’s harder to put a precise measurement to it.
We have lost being, well, being nice. I miss Coloradans being pleasant, helpful and joking around with each other, particularly with strangers.
Coloradans used to be light, pleasant, enjoyable. In a different age one might use the word “gay.”
Coloradans have become rude, judgmental and tribal. Maybe it’s bound to happen as more groups control and command how other groups should live, work, commute — even talk.
Growing up here, Colorado seemed damn near without classes, without a sense of one group of people being superior to another group.
There was a time you’d see two men walking down the street, each wearing jeans and plaid flannel shirts. One of them could be making a living throwing chains on an oil rig, the other could be the wealthy owner of a petroleum company who owned that rig, and you wouldn’t have the slightest clue who was who.
Folks weren’t always out to find personal offense as they seem to be now. Today to be a Coloradan is to be righteous, angry and always a victim.
I was just reminded of it again:
I’ve been lobbied by friends and family to try this wild new thing called “Trader Joe’s,” which they claim has been around for decades. Personally, if you can find something at Costco, is it really worth buying? Why buy a bottle of ketchup when you can buy a barrel of it that can rot in your cupboard? That’s just good plain man-thinking.
So, to prove I can try something new I took my son to Trader Joe’s in the most accepting, tolerant, friendly town in the state, Boulder.
You might recall my 18-year-old son has Down syndrome. It is very obvious by his appearance he is severely developmentally delayed. Whenever my son, Chance, and I are together it’s playtime. We joke and clown around, trying to include those around us because, well, it’s fun.
When we got to the Trader Joe’s checkout there were two open stations, one with a male attendant, one female, both in their mid-twenties. Playfully I said to Chance, “Which lane should we choose, the one with the guy or the lady?” And then smiling at both, letting them know I was playing with my son, I said tongue-in-cheek, “I think you should choose the one with the pretty girl.”
At this the male clerk turned this playful moment into a teachable moment for this clearly un-educated, hateful older man. He schooled us by saying clearly for all around, in the opposite of a playful way, “F*** the binary. F*** the binary!”
Apparently, I sinned by delineating him from his coworker based on obvious biological sex.
As we were leaving, he volunteered his next opinion to us, “Ignorance is bliss.” I assume that was directed at me, and not my mentally delayed son.
Yes, this was only one little vignette, but it is perfect example of the new Colorado. It’s the intolerant bullying of the new enlightened, tolerant class. And they are here to let us know who’s in charge.
They are empowered, even at work, to basically say, “F*** you, you’re ignorant,” to a customer twice his age, and enjoy the superiority of knowing they’re making the world a better place in the process.
Colorado now has a fractured social stratum. There are those who are regulated vs. those who demand ever more regulation of others; those who are victims vs. those who are accused oppressors; those who write the new Orwellian speech codes vs. those who are chilled by them; those who enforce the new speech codes yelling, “F*** the binary” and those who just want to buy groceries with their kids.
Some will read this and think, “Really, Caldara? We took Native Americans’ land here in Colorado, treated immigrants inhumanely, (and on and on) but privileged little you misses the days when young people didn’t use their voices for needed social justice.”
Maybe. Maybe I have become the new Archie Bunker. But then most of the people I know who also grew up in Colorado, including my liberal friends, are also turning into Archie Bunker — and remembering a more friendly time here.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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