Letters to the editor
I am writing in relation to the so called accident on new years eve which involved 21-year-old Dan Watt and another person being run down by a drunken driver whilst walking home from Vail Village.
Essentially there are two points that I feel need to be made here – points for which this newspaper has shown unforgivable disregard.
First there was the coverage itself.
Exactly how the Vail Daily can hold itself up to be a serious “news” paper is beyond me when, the day after such a tragic accident, your editors decide that some fluff story about a VR employee incentive program is of more significance than the reprehensible act of selfish stupidity that has left one young man in a coma with certain brain damage and one with multiple broken bones.
Indeed your quarter page story was buried on page 8 behind such earth-shatteringly important stories as “Free-heeling with females” (a piece on female Nordic skiing) and “Smaller building projects prevalent in 2002” (a regurgitation of council building permit information).
If you are going to purport to be a community newspaper, surely your job is to tell the community the news, not to be running self-satisfying, contrite tid-bits that would be lucky to find their way into a miscellaneous roundup column in a real newspaper.
Rubbing salt into the wounds is your triumphant statement that the 2003 new year occurred without significant incident – sure, so long as your best mate was not rendered comatose by a drunken idiot in an SUV. But tthen, that’s not news, right?
Perhaps if he had been attacked by some underage kid with a knife things would have
been different. Different perhaps, because then the police curfew (which planners in this town have been patting themselves on the back about for a week now) would not have been effective, perhaps because knife and gun attacks are the “real issue” facing this country, perhaps because underage drinking is considered repugnant and perhaps because drunken driving is implicitly accepted in this state.
Which leads me to my second point.
If a man (or woman) picked up a gun and the same injuries were inflicted on two innocent people, you could imagine a week of front page news, with follow-ups and in-depth investigation into the psyche of this despicable person.
Meanwhile, a 37-year-old woman consumes enough alcohol to put her over 0.1 percent BAC (already double the legal limit of many countries) and then proceeds, without a thought to the consequences of her stupidity and with a total lack of regard to the well being of others, to climb into an SUV and drive it, in blinding snow, through Vail proper, where she mows down two pedestrians – and it is page 8 news.
Is this because we see this sort of thing so often? Is it because we don’t feel that killing someone with your car whilst drunk is as bad a killing someone with a gun (or a knife, or with your hands)? Or is it because the editorial staff of this newspaper have no grasp of what qualifies as community news?
Which no doubt leaves this paper’s editors in something of a dilemma. Either you are suggesting that drunken driving is not a repulsive and reprehensible crime to be vilified in the mass media, and therefore news of drunken drivers maiming 21-year-olds in the prime of their lives is worth little to the Vail community (page 8), or you admit a severe misjudgment on your part and make bloody sure that this community is made painfully aware of the consequences of drunken driving – a society outraged and now eternally damaged by the loss of one of its finest and most vibrant members, and a drunken individual vilified and excluded by the rest of us.
Editor’s note: The letter writer missed the A3-4 initial coverage of the accident. But while he actually is referring to a follow-up story, he makes a number of strong points about relative societal acceptance of drunken driving vs. other deadly crimes, and coverage.
In over their heads
It should be clear, in hindsight, even to the least politically interested citizen, what the vision for America’s future means to the two major political parties.
The Democrats apparently felt the nation was ready for a riskier route that included developing alternative fuels, strengthening the economic hand of individuals and consumers against economic exploitation and working with the world community to achieve a higher living standard for all while emphasizing an active interest in preserving the quality of ecosystems, both domestically and internationally.
The Republicans, true to conservative roots, preferred a less risky route. In order to avoid economic stagnation at home, they opted to strengthen the hand of American business to invest in itself, create jobs, products and services, and let the markets determine whose products and services would prevail.
To modern Republicans, it seems that individuals are less important to economic prosperity than are corporate bodies. Internationally, they thought staying out of conflicts would let other nations step forward to shoulder regional responsibilities.
On the way to believing government should be smaller and less intrusive, realpolitik sent them in the opposite direction of bigger and more expensive government. I’m sure no Republican wants to be credited with increasing the budget deficits of either the federal government or any state.
Most Americans seem to side with the conservative Republican agenda. The evidence is the president’s approval ratings. It is likely that we will all be further down their road before anyone realizes their programs have been tried before and found wanting. This is not to say that the current Democratic agenda, whatever its reality, is the better answer.
What interests me now is what is happening inside the Republican Party. Clearly, with little to fear from the Democrats, some Republicans themselves are beginning to recognize that all is not right with the Bush agenda.
My guess is that we will soon see the fractionalizing of the GOP into conservatives and moderates. Will there be room in this equation for Democrats? Not if they continue to snipe. As America’s backbench party, they would do well to let the Republicans lead the way, even if the road splits into two directions. One of those directions will also be theirs.
Our tolerance for foolishness in our government leaders can be amazing, but it should not bore us. Whatever Mr. Bush’s ideas are for creating a healthy American economy and nation, he is entitled to his ideology.
But his administration is making a mess of our nation’s foreign policy, and, in the process, alienating the world. I wonder if he is bold enough to let some of the back benchers come in and help out. His own people seem to be in way over their heads.