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Sheldon: How did we get here, America?

I got a message tonight from a friend who has been supportive of my writings and political leanings. She suggested, in attempt to seek healing for our nation, that I lose some of my anger, that I return to civility. I think she was right.

Like most of us, on either side of any political aisles (hate that term but can’t think of a better one), I am perplexed, concerned, disappointed and embarrassed with what is happening in our country.

Tonight, I read 70% of Republicans believe our election was a fraud. That is a lot of millions of Americans who place more stock in the musings of one man than they do in their fellow hundreds of millions of American citizens. This morning I read that our president, after losing both legal challenges and recounts, is resorting to plan C: Bringing Republican state legislators to D.C. to strong arm them into believing and acting upon his conspiracy theories and false claims. Claims not only unproven, but now disproven. Today I can add that after being refuted by these lawmakers in Michigan he is attempting the same tactic with Pennsylvania lawmakers.

I have always followed a business maxim I learned years ago: 98% of the people you deal with are good people and only 1-2% are bad. So, I ask, how do approximately 45 million Americans believe one man over pretty much everyone else? How can hundreds of millions of your neighbors, friends, elected officials, plumbers, doctors, scientists, business owners, students, military and intelligence personnel, journalists, pundits, bandits and full wits all be wrong? And only Donald Trump, right?

Recently, a formerly respected mayor claiming that Venezuela’s Hugo Chaves orchestrated our fraudulent election with George Soros. By the way, Hugo has been dead for seven years.

He claimed the entire state of Michigan’s votes should be thrown out because he said someone saw a food truck with ballots in it. No pictures, no proof, just “hey this person said he saw no food in the food truck.”

His cohort told us through tears at the same press conference that democrats developed voting machines with the help of communists that were programmed to count only Democrat votes and switch Republican votes. Yet these machines, made in Denver Colorado, were used in states where Trump won handily. And, again, no proof of this claim.

This election also gave us newly elected representatives in Congress who believe the Clintons drank the blood of children in a pizza parlor basement, only there is no proof. Hell, there is not even a basement in this pizza joint. It would be humorous to read this in Mad Magazine, only this conspiracy theory is also believed by millions of Americans. And these people won election by supporting these claims. And the president has done all he can to not refute these falsehoods.

How did we get here, America? If Trump is merely the symptom, then what is the disease? Where has common sense and rational thinking gone? Under the gaslight would be my guess.

History has seen this before and mankind has suffered. Yet we made the same mistakes. Allowing our free press to be maligned. Asking no substantiation of facts. Holding no one accountable. Having elected legislators fail to stand up and do the right thing.

For eight years now, we have watched a man with no proof or verification spout lies only to tell us tomorrow he will show us the proof. Yet tomorrow has never come with this man.

Where is the proof Obama was not born in the United States? Where is the proof he won the popular election in 2016? Where is the proof his campaign was spied upon by Obama? Where are his promised tax returns? And where oh where is all this proof of election fraud? Trump recently claimed that Georgia’s hand recount was fake. Seriously? Fake?

Please tell me again why you believe a historical conman, cheat, 7-thousand-fold civil litigant/defendant and philanderer about anything? Because you wanted to believe he would drain the swamp? Let me clue you in: there are swamp people everywhere, in every profession and in every corner. But they are the 2%, not the 98%. The swamp in D.C. is no worse than the swamp anywhere else in American life.

I believe his message is what millions of Americans wanted to hear. What they wanted to believe. The fantasy that all politicians are bad. The belief that the American system is rigged against our life blood: common Americans. That all our problems, all our ills, all our woes could be blamed on one political party. And that America could be great again if we would only place all our unrequited love on one man. Like the Wizard from Oz, an awful lot of us fell for a charade. But there really is no boogeyman to blame everything on.

Here is what I think. I think America can be great again if we get back to what made us great. Intelligence, hard work, acceptance, diversity, kindness, self-reliance and democracy. And faith. Faith in each other and faith in those who lead us. We put these officials in office by vote and we can take them out by vote.

The election must stand, and it must stop being questioned with false claims.

We need to believe each other and in each other. And in our democratic process. Your neighbor is not a bad person because they stand on the other side of the abortion issue. Or the tax or health care issue. Or because they vote for people who have liberal or conservative views like they do. Or because they pray at a different church, temple or mosque.

Unfortunately, we have been manipulated too long America. The last four years have been the climax. It is time for this play’s major action to see some resolution. And conclude in reuniting our country. In the end we will reclaim our dignity and respect for each other and our country. Ultimately, America has always been about us.

Steve Sheldon is an Eagle resident.

Mazzuca: Double jeopardy

Life will go on regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, but the recent election pulled back the curtain on a very troubling aspect of our political process. It appears the mainstream media and much of voting public has either forgotten or has never understood the underpinnings of our republic.

Born out of the enlightenment, our founding documents are the philosophical descendants of Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, great thinkers whose core philosophies were studied and expanded by the Founding Fathers and formed much of the basis for our Constitution.

The founders wanted a government that allowed for as much personal freedom as possible while still protecting the life, liberty and property of its citizens. They understood too, that the power of the federal government had to be limited, so they provided us with the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

Most know the First Amendment provides for freedom of speech, press, assembly, petition, and religion; but how many realize of those five guarantees that “freedom of the press” was intended to be the unofficial fourth branch of government?

The founders envisioned a free press as the watchdog to keep the government in check by informing the citizenry of potential abuses to our liberties. As Thomas Jefferson told us, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” But over the past four years “the press,” i.e., what we refer to today as the mainstream media, has not been a neutral arbiter of ideas or information; in fact, quite the opposite.

The first priority of those seeking power is to control information, which is also the first step toward creating a totalitarian state; compelling one to ask, why has the media relinquished Jefferson’s mandate?

Once upon a time, newspapers investigated and reported their findings. But today the big media outlets such as the New York Times create the narrative, then their agenda-driven stories are relayed to newspapers across the nation to be read by millions.

One would have to live under a rock not to see the media has been openly hostile to the president. In fact, the only other time in American history the media coalesced into a single mindset to crush a presidential candidate was prior to the Civil War when the southern press excoriated Abraham Lincoln relentlessly. So, while the incessant negative coverage of the president by the mainstream media inured to the benefit of the left, America lost one of its primary checks on governmental abuse.

What should be of equal concern was the passage of Proposition 113 in Colorado, the measure assigning the state’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.

“The national popular vote is a very straightforward concept,” said state Sen. Michael Foote, “One person should always equal one vote, and the presidential candidate who gets the most votes should win the election.”

Ah yes, the epitome of bumper-sticker mentality — reducing the wisdom of the founders to a catchphrase. Mr. Foote obviously feels he has a better understanding of the Constitution than did Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson, so let’s be thankful he’s not doing something really important like teaching American history to our children.

This ill-considered vote makes Colorado a part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Fortunately, it cannot take effect until its members control 270 electoral votes (it’s at 196 now) — and if or when that occurs, America will be fundamentally changed forever.

My April 2019 commentary, “The Electoral College debate” received a Colorado Press Association award for Best Serious Column Writing, which I encourage you to read. After reading it, I think you’ll better understand why the Electoral College is absolutely central to our form of government, because without it, our republic is no more secure than any of history’s many failed democracies.

The late Edward R. Murrow cautioned, “Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions,” which is exactly what politicians like Sen. Foote are doing; they’re reducing the unqualified genius of the Electoral College to a pedestrian process.

By circumventing the Electoral College, we would effectively relegate ourselves to a pure democracy, something the founders were adamantly against. As James Madison lectured, a pure democracy soon becomes the tyranny of the majority.

It’s been said, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And while societies come together slowly, history has shown how they can unravel quickly when they eschew that which brought them to greatness in the first place.

Quote of the day: “The Constitution is not a document for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain government” — Patrick Henry

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes biweekly for the Vail Daily. Follow him on his blog at butchmazzuca.com.

 

Norton: Getting motivated, staying motivated

One question that I seem to be getting more of these days is around motivation. Not only are people asking how to get motivated, but they are also asking how they can stay motivated.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t really last. Well neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily,” Zig Ziglar said.

Ziglar certainly knew a lot about how to motivate us and more importantly how to keep us motivated. And he would also be the first one to remind us that motivation is temporary unless it is coupled with action. It is one thing to be motivated about setting a goal or getting inspired by the thought of a new project, and it is something completely different in taking the actions necessary to achieve our goals or complete our projects.

Sometimes we can use a motivated mindset as the spark that leads us to take the actions necessary for our productivity or success. For some of us, this is how we are wired. When we are feeling good and life is better than good, finding sources of motivation is easy, our creativity is inspired, we are filled with hope, and we end up crushing our tasks and to-do lists. When we are feeling motivated, we may exercise a little longer and push a little harder. When we are feeling motivated, we may make better choices in what we do, what we eat and how we treat our bodies.

But what happens when we aren’t feeling so good, or when life isn’t going quite the way we want it to be going? What happens when we really don’t feel like exercising, going to work or staying on our eating plan? And let’s face it, we all have those days from time to time, don’t we? Again, for some of us, we can adjust our thinking, fill our minds with powerful and positive thoughts, and motivate ourselves to get after whatever it is that needs getting after. We can turn on a song that gets us fired up. We can listen to a motivational talk or read an inspiring book or quote. For many others, it’s just not that simple.

Motivated behavior happens when we are first motivated by behavior. David Sandler and many other experts have written and spoken about doing the behaviors even when we don’t feel like doing them. Sandler said it this way, “It’s not how you feel that determines how you act. It’s how you act that determines how you feel.”

How many of us have had the experience of not feeling like getting our workout in, but after the first few minutes on the treadmill, we were fired up to keep going. For those of us in the profession of selling, we have all had those moments or days when we knew that we needed to prospect but we just didn’t feel like it. And when we don’t feel like prospecting, we can easily become demotivated, talking ourselves right out of picking up the phone. But knowing our career and income depend on prospecting, we start doing the behavior, and once we begin it’s almost impossible to stop us.

Even the act of picking up a motivational book and choosing to read it is doing a behavior. Spending a few minutes to think about what motivates us is a behavior. Selecting our most energizing song and pushing play is a behavior. This underscores that motivated behavior happens when we are first motivated by behavior. And once we become committed to doing the behaviors that will motivate us the most, layering in some form of daily motivation as Ziglar mentions in his quote above, it will help us along our journey of becoming motivated and staying motivated.

How about you? Are you in search of how to get or stay motivated? Are you doing the behaviors whether you feel like it or not? I would love to hear your story at mnorton@tramazing.com and when we combine our behaviors with our motivation, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is the grateful CEO of Tramazing.com, a personal and professional coach and a consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator to businesses of all sizes.

Van Ens: Count your blessings

Like wearing a comfortable pair of slippers, counting our blessings on Thanksgiving Day inspires down-home gratitude. Showing thanks invigorates life, particularly during turbulent times that test our patience and upset our composure.

How does counting blessings strengthen our resolve and build coping skills when life feels as if it is sliding backwards? In her upbeat commentary “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Jennifer Breheny Wallace highlights many benefits from practicing gratitude. “Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power — and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely,” Wallace observes. “For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off ‘thank-you.’ It’s a mind-set, a way of seeing the world” (The Wall Street Journal, February 24-25, 2018, p. C-1).

As leader of Puritan parishioners sailing in 1630 to the New World aboard their ship the Arabella, preacher John Winthrop gave a sermon, inspiring grateful hearts. He employed a glowing metaphor that shines in presidential speeches uttered by John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama and especially Ronald Reagan.

“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us,” declared Winthrop, who later distinguished himself as an early governor of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony.

He went on to warn that if God’s people, who ventured into a Promised Land like the ancient Israelites did, showed ingratitude toward a benevolent God, they would be reduced to a postscript in the Christian story, a mere blip on history’s screen. “So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us,” Winthrop warned, “we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”

Ronald Reagan added the adjective “shining” when he described this beaming “city on the hill.” He loved to tell success stories about our nation that sometimes sounded like yarns Reagan spun that are not based on facts. In his 1989 farewell address, Reagan wrongly assured Americans, “The [city on the hill] phrase comes from John Winthrop to describe the America he imagined.” The president concocted this misconception because he habitually imagined our nation at its best.

Winthrop did not invent this luminous imagery of “a city on a hill.” Rather, he borrowed it from Jesus who expressed in The Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid,” (Matthew 5:14).

Puritan preacher Winthrop used this imagery in 1630. Our nation was born in 1776. God did not give this parson clairvoyance to peer into the future and perceive America’s origins as the city Jesus pictured.

Abram C. Van Engen, associate professor of English at Washington University in Saint Louis, corrects Reagan for wrongly equating the U.S. with the city of lights on a hill. In his book As a City on a Hill, Van Engen points out, “For most of American history when people heard the words ‘city on a hill,’ they were discussing discipleship [following Jesus], not citizenship.”

The Puritans believed they were sailing toward another “Eden” in the New World that God prepared for them. But these travelers did not regard themselves as founders of the U.S. They shared gratitude for God’s gracious protection and unflinching companionship when life turned sour, not sweet. During times when pandemics raged and occasional sunny days reflected paradise, these Puritans showed thanks, despite hindrances that slowed their advance.

Most Americans did not object to the expressive license Reagan took, mistakenly equating his “shining city” for our nation. In his 1989 farewell address of the U.S., the president glowingly spoke of our nation, making it synonymous with “… a free, proud city built on a strong foundation, full of commerce and creativity,” and added a grand crescendo of eloquence, “If there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get there.”

Carried away by exuberance rather than authentic gratitude, Reagan overlooked a dimmer vision of this city seen by Bruce Springsteen, singer-songwriter of gritty America where unrewarded blue collar workers subsisted. Springsteen was peeved that in the 1984 re-election campaign Reagan’s team used Springsteen’s anthem “Born in America” as their signature campaign tune. They bragged how “Morning in America” had dawned on the city on the hill.

Springsteen’s real America vied with Reagan’s sunnier version of it. “There’s really something dangerous happening to us out there,” Springsteen prophesied at a show in Pittsburgh. “We’re solely getting split up into two different Americas. Things are getting taken away from people that need them and given to people that don’t need them, and there’s a promise getting broken.

“In the beginning the idea was that we all live here a little like a family, where the strong help the weak ones, the rich can help the poor ones. I don’t think the American dream was that everybody was going to make it, or that everybody was going to make a billion dollars, but it was that everyone was going to have an opportunity and the chance to live a life with some decency and some dignity and a chance for some self-respect.”

This Thanksgiving, be grateful singer Springsteen, nicknamed “The Boss,” sings of Jesus’ vision for us to heal the broken-hearted and help those living in the shadows to reside in a “city on the hill,” glistening with fair opportunity for all people

The Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations that make God’s history come alive.

Suszynski: The trappings of a gnome house

A successful gnome house has a few things going for it. One, the roof must be sturdy. You must test the roof with water to make sure it only leaks a little. Two, the beds must have mattresses made of fresh grass. If the grass browns overnight, you must replace it the next morning. Three, the kitchen must be usable and the biggest fixture of the house.

These are rules I stipulated in third grade with my best friend Emma. When the school year started, the only thing that could pull us away from making these little homes during recess was when the local firemen visited to play soccer.

We had a few blueprints: the lean-to house that we propped against the fence, the long house with a big dining room table, and finally, my favorite, the gnome treehouse.

I also taught my younger brother, Gabe, how to make gnome houses. We were at the age where he still followed me around and I liked having an assistant builder. One day, as we worked on a single-family home, we set out gnome food to bake in the sun (mashed dandelion paddy). I was lying on my back when I heard rustling and turned on to my stomach to face a very large bull snake. Gabe told me he recalled it a little differently when I asked him if he remembered this.

My family is all home for Thanksgiving: in our physical home and also at home with each other. Every Thanksgiving, we ski together, and then we gather around the kitchen, our legs still recovering from the early season fatigue as we mash the potatoes and slide pecan pie into the oven. This year it will be no different.

Homes are enclosures for our memories. Homes are places where we house things. Two writers that I greatly admire, Rachel Cusk and Sandra Cisneros, write of home and memory in their essay collections.

In “Coventry,” Cusk writes in her essay “Making Home,” “Like the body itself, a home is something both looked at and lived in, a duality that in neither case I have managed to reconcile.”

This idea is perplexing as Cusk states only if the person is concerned with what people garner from looking. Cusk’s manifestations of home are a little austere, but she is brilliantly calculated in how she formulates them. I have seen pictures of her house, the dull gray color that pervades her cottage by a gray sea contrasts greatly with the loud, ochre yellow house I grew up in. Upon her own observations of a friend’s home who “runs her house with admirable laxity,” she says, “My friend has been able to give her children exactly what she wanted to give them — love, authority, the right advice — where for other people these things got mixed up and snagged on one another.”

Cisneros spends most of her essay collection, “A House of My Own,” moving from home to home. The important note is that while she did write this collection of essays at various times in her life, she is still drawing upon memory to construct homes long gone. The physical act of writing is a backward looking one.

Cisneros states: “The science writer Jonah Lehre claims we never revisit a memory without altering it. If this is true, then perhaps all memory is a chance at storytelling, and every story brings us closer to revealing ourselves to ourselves.”

In the same way I am constructing for you my memories of the gnome houses I used to build, possibly with erroneous details, I am making home. Gabe had recalled that we both emerged from the house to see the snake sniffing our dandelion paddy pies. But it is worth noting that we both remember that the snake liked our food.

In the introduction of Cisneros’ book, she says “We tell a story to survive a memory in much the same way the oyster survives an invading grain of sand. The pearl is the story of our lives, even if most wouldn’t admit it.”

During this time of year, home has always been important and during this year, home has come to encompass almost everything. Home is the gathering place, the haven, the office, the getaway, the place in which the avoidable becomes unavoidable. Home is also the mountains. Home is the snow. It is both the place I have looked at most and lived with longest.

All the invading grains of sand, my brothers, mashed potatoes, the snowstorm, is doing its work to polish the story of our lives into a shining pearl.

A successful gnome house has a few things going for it. One, while the roof must be sturdy, the people inside must be sturdier. Leaks do happen, which is why it is always helpful to have a few hands to place the buckets. Two, while it is important to turn a bed, it is more important that we are always consciously moving toward greener pasture. Three, the kitchen is a gathering place. While this should be the biggest fixture of the house, it is only the biggest because the family that uses it is big with love and needs plenty of space to laugh while they slice the turkey.

Curious Nature: Celebrating (with) nature

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,” “Rockin’ around the Christmas tree,” and “A partridge in a pear tree,” all evoke memories of frosty mornings and saccharine treats. These three song lyrics, along with many more holiday traditions and celebrations, all share the common denominator of celebrating winter holidays with vegetation.

After all, what would Christmas be without a tree and wreaths adorning our doors? It would be like New Year’s Day without black-eyed peas, Kwanzaa without persimmons, or Hanukkah without olive oil.

Few other holiday seasons devote the attention to trees and plants like those celebrated in the depths of winter. The winter holidays we celebrate today are a conglomerate of old-world winter solstice celebrations and modern religious revelries.

The history and legends regarding the role plants play in our holiday festivities are intricate and often not well understood. Beyond the typical Christmas tree and wreaths, many people exchange gifts of poinsettias and Christmas cacti, kiss under the mistletoe, and Jews around the world honor the olive oil that sustained the Eternal Light through the celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

In the celebration of Hanukkah, menorahs were traditionally lit to honor the miracle when the olive oil expected to last just a few days lasted the total eight days that it took to get more oil. Olive trees, Olea europea, responsible for providing olives that make olive oil, are native to the Mediterranean, the region that is also regarded as the birthplace of modern civilizations and the Fertile Crescent.

There is evidence of Neolithic peoples collecting olives as early as the eighth millennium BC, and the tradition continues to this day. The story of Hanukkah comes from a time when Antiochus IV, son of King Antiochus III The Great, ruled the Seleucid Empire and drove Hebrews from their customary lands in and around Jerusalem, between 215 BC and 164 BC.

Maccabee, the leader of the Jewish rebellion, took back the temple only to find barely enough olive oil left to light the Eternal Light, showing their constant devotion to God, for one night. Miraculously, the lamp burned for the eight days that it would take for fresh oil to be pressed. Thus, without Oleae uropea and the knowledge to press the fruits and produce oil, it is possible we would have neither the Festival of Lights nor one of the more recognizable symbols of winter celebrations, the menorah.

From plants that saved a civilization and empowered a persecuted culture, we jump to a legend of an important plant that might just ensure our species continues to reproduce. Mistletoe, Viscumcruciatum, is a semi-parasitic shrub that can be found hanging above doorways, arbors, and anywhere we so-called romantics may try to sneak a kiss.

It is believed that kissing under mistletoe may have had its beginnings during the Greek festival of Saturnalia. Those who are credited with developing modern culture believed kissing under mistletoe would bestow fertility to the couple and Scandinavians at a similar time period believed it to be a plant of peace and would call truces under the plant or warring spouses would “kiss and make up” under the plant (keep this in mind as the in-laws extend their stay or the Christmas roast gets overdone!).

Plants play an everyday role in our lives and they take a focal point during our winter celebrations as we brace for the impending cold. It has long been understood that we protect what we use and know, and we are more likely to care for a species if we understand the role it plays in our daily lives.

During the holidays this year, I urge you to learn about the greenery you bring into your home and celebrate not only with your loved ones, but also celebrate the amazing and transcendent species that deck your halls and bring joy to all this holiday season.

Peter Suneson is a former Walking Mountains Science Center staff member and currently the outreach and education specialist for Eagle County Open Space. This holiday season you can find him snowshoeing or splitboarding in the backcountry looking for that perfect tree to deck his halls.

 

Letter: A sad day for our community

So very disappointed to see the photo of the Children’s Garden of Learning sculpture being carried away making the displacement of the school so final. Reminds me of 1980 when we lost our Donovan’s Copper Bar lease and John’s first response was to remove our sign.

When government does not have appropriate priorities and fails to recognize the importance of location or understand the necessity of quality child care in every community, the entire community is diminished.

Very sad day!

Diana Donovan

Vail

Letter: 254,271 dead and counting

On Nov. 3, We The People overwhelmingly elected Joe Biden as the 46th president, by a much larger margin than President Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Yet President Trump still claims that he won!

There are 254,271 Americans dead and still counting from COVID-19. Well, if President Trump thinks he won, why is he not acting like the president? He has not interacted with the COVID-19 Task Force for months. He has his supporters denying that that there is a health risk. There has been silence on an economic stimulus by this administration and the GOP-controlled Senate.

He wants to take credit for the vaccines, (great, it is not yet available and will need to be distributed after he is no longer in the White House), yet credit is not the issue — it is the safety of the American people. And there are 254,271 dead and counting.

In the meantime, Trump has refused to allow the Biden administration access to important information regarding COVID-19, vaccine distribution, intelligence, foreign relations, the economy — the list is endless. He has also refused the necessary funds for the transition. This refusal causes significant harm to the nation’s health, economy and general well-being. And there are 254,271 dead and still counting.

Instead of acting like a president and upholding his oath to protect the American people from risks both foreign and domestic, he is playing golf and undermining our democracy. It is time for Donald Trump to act like a president or get out of the way and allow the peaceful transition of power to occur just like the 44 presidents before him. And there are 254,271 dead and still counting.

Stephen Gordon

Eagle

Letter: So much for customer service

I understand, in the midst of a pandemic, Vail Resorts is in uncharted territory and is trying to make the 2020-2021 ski season work. I do not understand their lack of basic customer service at this time when there are so many questions about their new reservation system. Holders of the expensive Epic Pass deserve better. Calling their customer service number is a joke. You get a “We are experiencing high call volume. Please try your call again.” and then a hang-up. Calling the corporate office customer service number was no better. I found myself in an endless loop, literally.

If you pressed the designated number for “reservation help,“ you were looped back into the same menu you were in over and over. I tried the number for purchasing a pass thinking surely they would want to take my money. (I purchased my pass a long time ago but thought I might be lucky enough to talk to an actual person who could direct me to where I could get my question answered.)

I was on hold for over an hour, heard two “phone rings” and was promptly hung up on! I decided to try the “chat” feature on their website. I am now 1,346 in the queue to get my question answered. I will be attended to in approximately 638 minutes. Are you kidding me? You can do better than this, Vail Resorts! I hope their reservation system turns out to be better than their customer service. If not, pass holders are in for a world of disappointment this season.

Valerie Glimp

Eagle

Newmann: Banana split

One of the most endearing (and enduring) legacies of the old Banana Republic leaders was abiding concern for family. When power transferred (often in a variety of curious ways) from one head of state to another, the new leader’s family could always be assured of some top government jobs. Whether they were actually qualified for those jobs became a moot point. They’d somehow figure it all out — or maybe not. Either way, no big deal.

What really mattered was … they were family, with total and utter loyalty. Throw some other questionably qualified (but loyal) cronies of the Top Banana into the mix and, eureka, you had a government. And that very loyal government often had a very handsome payroll for those lucky enough to be a part of it. With a few kickbacks thrown in for good measure.

Maintaining loyalty became of utmost importance. If anyone in government was seen to be a maverick … well, that could be a problem. Any disagreements with the Top Banana’s line of thought could lead to losing one’s job. So best for all concerned to toe the line — even if the line consistently changed.

If you were one of the lesser minions, forget it. You were either with him or against him. No middle ground. And, certainly, no dissent. Dissent, no matter how logical or legitimate, could easily be construed for sedition. Bad. Very bad.

And the populace. Well, you just had to make sure to tell those folks what you thought they wanted to hear. If you said it long enough and loud enough some of it would start to stick. And then become truth. Or a facsimile thereof. No need to follow up on any promises. Just make some new ones. Keep your folks happy. And on your side.

Any channels of outside expression, such as an independent press, posed a threat. The lies that could be spread through such nasty media might cast doubts on the Top Banana’s overall mastery of all things. So best to make sure that these “fakers” were exposed … and that the Top Banana’s own favorite sources of information became the mainstays. Enter state media. Or something very similar.

The military … well, very important to have the military on your side. Very important. You never knew with all those very ambitious generals and colonels. One of them might want your job. Soon. So best to pay lip service to the service … and try keep them under control. Maybe put a few generals in the inner circle. But also make sure that if anyone got overly ambitious — or contentious or disloyal — that person was labeled as a loser and shown the door.

Any transfer of power in the Banana Republics was always a messy affair. The leaders became accustomed to being the leaders and did not cede their roles easily. The scene was usually a bit contentious if they did have to leave office. Departing was generally a hurried and chaotic affair, usually done without even so much as a brief briefing for the incoming leader. Out the door. Gone.

So it went in the old Banana Republics. The repetitive cycles. The comings; the goings. Stability constantly destabilized.

They were curious places, those old republics. Very curious indeed.

Tom Newmann splits his time between Beaver Creek and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at tsnmmf@xtra.co.nz.