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October 8, 2008

Colorado: Land of Paradox

Tom McLaughlin

The election seems to hinge on battleground states and I visited one of them recently. A trip to Colorado Springs, called “The Springs” by locals, proved to be an enlightening experience.


Very few yard signs for either candidate had been planted. The ones that sprouted were equally divided between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.


When talking to people, and I have a big mouth, they seemed very reluctant to communicate about the election. When informed that I was an Obama supporter, my fellow Barakies then breathed a sigh of relief, glad that they had found a fellow ally. They talked in low hushed tones, not wanting anyone to know where they stood.


The McCainninites had a different tactic. They listened to me about what was going on in Maryland and then changed the topic or suddenly had to some place to go. Contrast this to “In the Streets” in Frederick, where I was helping Sixth District Congressional Candidate Jennifer Daugherty and Senator Obama. Here, Republican hurled epithets, yelled something indecipherable – or flipped me off.


The airwaves, bombarded with ads for both sides, are mostly negative. I watched many and came away convinced this election had two candidates: The Devil and Lucifer. Okay, maybe the analogy isn’t a good one to Biblical people, but you get the drift.


I tried to get a sense of the people by reading the local Colorado Springs newspaper – The Gazette. One issue that came to the forefront concerned the homeless. They are numerous and panhandle quite aggressively.


A solution put forth by the Social Services agencies urged people not to give money to the destitute but to donate to them. This would, they theorize, force the homeless to come to the organization where they would get meals, health care and rehabilitation to re-enter the work force.


An editorial in the October 2 issue of the newspaper stated they were very opposed to the social agencies and urged citizens to ignore them. The final paragraph stated: “If you’re inclined to help people who fall through every crack, then give directly to people on the street. Just ignore these outrageous campaigns that tell us to fund programs, but never to help an outstretched hand.”


By contrast, The Springs supports a fantastic pioneer museum. Filled with rich western artifacts, it holds two floors with carefully collected and displayed items. This is a must for every visitor to the Pikes Peak area.


The zoo, another must, houses an endangered species collection native to Colorado. The placards inform that most of these animals were hunted to near extinction. The area seemed overjoyed to find one moose still alive. However, someone went out and shot it. Conservation does not seem to be an endearing quality of the people.


The Springs also supports large areas of shops in Old Colorado City and Manitou, two adjacent districts. Art dealers, galleries and restaurants and other liberal endeavors remain open year round in this seemingly very conservative area.


Colorado Springs is a study in contradictions. Museums, zoos and art shops vs. the conservative disdain of social agencies, hunting animal to near extinction and voting Republican.


How Colorado votes in this election may determine the next President of the United States. How it will vote, in this land of paradox, is anyone’s guess.


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