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Revealing our prejudices

New Year's resolution: no more making fun of the Gazette ... We would have cheerfully stopped this adolescent nastiness, but for the fact the daily launched an unprovoked first strike last weekend! Under the heading "Did He Really Say That?" in its four-page-long Sunday business section on Jan. 2, the G twitted our publisher, John Weiss, for making the modest claim that, with the addition of Rich Tosches, the Indy's columnists and essayists are the best in the land, with the exception of the overpaid bozos at the New York Times.

OK, so maybe there are one or two papers whose lineup of columnists approaches ours -- not to toot our own horn or anything -- but of the Indy's four regular columnists (Kathryn Eastburn, Cara DeGette, Rich Tosches, and yours truly), three have won major national journalism awards for their work in the Independent. The fourth (Rich) hasn't won any -- at least not while at the Independent -- because he's only been here for a few months! And although lots of papers can make similar claims, I know of one that can't -- yes, it's our very own Bible-deliverin', right-wing rhetoric spoutin', columnist-deprived daily newspaper.

Meanwhile, it's dismaying to note that Terry Putman and the city Parks Department are quietly maneuvering to tear down the historic John Bock house on the Red Rocks property. The so-called TOPS working committee, a group of citizen volunteers that advises the Parks & Rec board on matters pertaining to open space, recently voted to recommend demolition. These folks have no power per se, but the nature and timing of the vote was suspect, to say the least. The item was added to the agenda just prior to the meeting, so there was no opportunity for citizen comment or input.

This recommendation from the TOPS committee will be considered by the Parks board at its next meeting, slated for Jan. 13. Conveniently scheduled for 7:30 a.m. at the all-but-inaccessible and out-of-the-way administrative headquarters of the Parks Department at 1401 Recreation Way (way to keep out those pesky citizen activists, guys!), it will most probably be yet another example of lazy citizen volunteers going along with the received wisdom of equally lazy bureaucrats.

Here's why the bureaucrats want to tear the place down: It's rundown; it's of no historic or architectural significance; the city has no money to maintain or restore it; and it wouldn't cost anything to tear it down anyway. Ignore, for the moment, the fact that these assertions are both wrong and stupid; let's consider the mindset that's driving the decision.

Suppose that, instead of the Bock House, there was a Native American site on the property. There'd be no question of bulldozing it; we'd move swiftly to protect it, as an irreplaceable part of the history of the Pikes Peak region. But as a historical artifact, the Bock House is just as irreplaceable, just as historically significant, and just as important to our understanding of the past as would be the Native American site. Yet by destroying the one, and preserving the other, we reveal only our own prejudices, and the depths of our own self-loathing.

What we seek to do in Red Rock Canyon is to create an artificially pristine landscape, one whose recent history has been erased by governmental fiat. Never mind that Red Rock only exists as open space because of Bock's decades of eccentric stewardship; let's eradicate any trace of his presence. And never mind that this beautiful structure could be a caretaker's cottage, or a visitor center, or a visiting artist's studio and workshop -- that's just too much trouble. And never mind that no private landowner in his or her right mind would tear down such a beautiful and useful structure; we're the guv'mint, and we do things our way!

We need to get away from the cramped, stingy political correctness that seems to animate this particular land use decision and think creatively. We ought not to be so ashamed of our own past that we have to destroy it -- the Bock House, a late-modernist architectural masterpiece, ought to be preserved and celebrated, just as Mesa Verde is preserved and celebrated. Once bulldozed, it's gone forever, just as a looted Anasazi site is forever lost to posterity. But once preserved, it's there forever -- or for as long as Colorado Springs exists.

Two hundred years? 2,000? More? Who knows? But long after the G and the Indy have vanished, our city will still be here ... and history will judge whose columnists were better.

--johnhazlehurst@earthlink.net

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