President Obama visited Colorado this week…readying for the next presidential election. This reminded me that in 2008, the talking (and screaming) heads making presidential predictions on TV moaned that Colorado was “hard to predict”. I laughed. Out loud.
Maybe we are hard to predict if you assume we have (or should have) the same concerns as folks in, for instance, New Jersey. But knowing a little about the state could go a long way in predicting which way we’ll vote.
Before I go on, let me issue a little disclaimer: I moved to Colorado from Florida in 1990. Things I write here are my observations and opinions. Obviously, I think they are accurate. But if you were born here or have lived here one, two, three decades or more…and think I am full of crap, then by all means, leave a comment saying so (and why). But if you don’t live here or if you moved here 3 years ago from *cough cough*
California somewhere else, you may find me…a wee bit unfriendly indifferent to your admonitions.
See, here’s the thing…we get a lot of visitors. And unlike tourists to some places, people don’t come to Colorado to lay in the sand, drink too much tequila, and listen to Jimmy Buffett. They do not come to shop. They come to ski…to hike…to hunt…to mountain bike…to climb mountains. They come because it is beautiful and amazing and offers new challenges. And people who live here do many of these things too. So we overlap with our own tourist industry; what brings in tourist $ is the same thing that makes folks who live here happy. As a result, we are pretty keen on protecting our environment – whether we are conservative, liberal, progressive, whatever. After all, nobody vacations in Colorado because we have oil. And we’ve seen that money come in and rage out as soon as the going got tough before. So yeh, we’ll stick to what works long-term and what makes life worth living, thanks.
You’ll find that even hard-core Colorado vegans don’t hate on hunters here. These are not yahoos running around with guns accidentally shooting aunt Mary because she looked like a deer. Hunters are one of the most organized and moneyed groups involved in protecting the environment here. And I already explained why that matters to all of us. Besides, when someone kills what they eat, and what they eat is elk, and what they used is an arrow…well, if you don’t think that is worthy of at least a wee bit of respect, then I certainly hope you aren’t eating any animal products of any kind, and certainly not from the store.
Folks who live the in the mountains may have some decent reasons to have guns too, even if they don’t hunt. You know, like scaring off a puma that has its eye on their toddler. So our thoughts on guns, even if we are liberal, may not mirror the east or west coast.
We aren’t keen on folks bringing coastal sensibilities into the mix either, especially when they don’t make sense in the environment. Folks who live in the mountains don’t and shouldn’t have an expectation that their flower garden will look like suburbia. We’ve seen a lot of that in the past few years and honestly, the general response is “Seriously?” Really, move to the suburbs. We have those here too. I live in one myself. I am all for it. Or let that expectation go. This isn’t Delaware; don’t move to the mountains and seek to control nature. Nature will win. If you live here awhile and don’t get that, you aren’t paying attention. So…sometimes we laugh at what people elsewhere may assume is normal. It’s not that we think it’s silly elsewhere; it’s just that it’s silly here.
Here’s another thing – we don’t have enough water. The Colorado river provides clean water to such places as…Vegas. We may like Vegas. We may hate it. But to us, that is our water. It starts with snow falling in our mountains…and you may not like it, but it’s pretty human to feel what nature drops in your backyard is yours. So….our water runs all the way out to California. And there’s not much of it. As a result, we think you should be as careful with it as we have to be. Fortunately, in times of draught, Vegas turns off the water falls. Otherwise, there might be blood.
Like anywhere else, there is some shameful history (see Sand Creek Massacre). And some amazing heroes too (see Little Raven). But if you follow those links, you will probably get a feel that this is not treated like ancient history here. Reality is, none of U.S. History is ancient, but in some places, it’s easy to shrug at the bad stuff and pretend. Here, history walks with you across the prairie, thirsts with you in the high plains desert, freezes with you above the tree line.
Life is easy here now, but the dryness, the mountains, the land, and climate are regular reminders not to expect easy. As a result, we are apt to be frugal in a whole host of ways. We may be silent with our thoughts and feelings. And we tend to get along just fine no matter how different our beliefs are – if we see each other as capable. There is a “live and let live” philosophy that applies across the board – whether it’s to a neo-hippie commune or a citizens militia enclave. The thought processes is something like: “If you keep it on your property and aren’t hurting anybody, we don’t care. Do you want some elk jerky?”
It is a wonderful place to live, to grow, and to think. And I can’t think of anything that discourages foolishness like the prospect of sunburned eyeballs and running out of water at 14,000 feet. So here’s the final word for politicians, of any stripe:
The first non-Native settlers here were Mexican farmers…then came the prospectors…and prostitutes..and everyone else. It required tough people and that toughness is part of the culture here. We don’t like liars and flim-flam men, even if they are saying things we (want to) believe. Regardless of political persuasion, we, all of us, are liable to have a strong independent streak. If we think what you are saying is a lie – or is just plain stupid – we aren’t apt to vote for you once. And surely not twice. And while we may not all agree on what that means and while we may not all agree on social programs or economic reform, we are all apt to consider if what you offer is good for Colorado and weigh that as heavily as anything else. Get it? Got it….good.