B-word: not the solution 

Between the Lines

To be honest, not many words in the English language bother me anymore. When you work in the newspaper business your entire adult life, sooner or later you've heard every version of every profanity, hate rhetoric and creative taking of sacred names in vain.

Deadlines will do that to you.

But one word in particular always has bothered me, and still does, especially when it's used in an improper context. It will never make any comedian's list of "forbidden" material, such as the late George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words." But it still makes me shudder, as it has again in recent weeks.

That word? Boycott.

This time, the term popped up from several sources in the aftermath of City Council approving more than $200,000 for the installation of 10 surveillance cameras at strategic locations around downtown Colorado Springs.

On one side, supporters claimed the cameras would help make the area safer, or at least make it feel safer. If residents feel downtown isn't as dangerous, perhaps they might go there more often. And if the cameras could assist law enforcement in any way, all the better, right?

Opponents didn't (and still don't) like the "Big Brother" aspect, spending all that money just to watch people. We could go on and on, but those arguments have been covered.

Anyway, after Council took action, with Mayor Steve Bach saying the cameras might be added in other locations around the city if the first ones make a difference, that bad word suddenly surfaced.

OK, the opposition said, we'll just boycott downtown. We'll purposely avoid going there to patronize the businesses, restaurants and bars. Let them suffer, and perhaps that will convince the city to change its mind. There's even a Facebook site, with 87 "likes" as of Monday.

But using the b-word is going too far. It's not like every single downtown business from Sparrow Hawk to Sonterra Grill spoke out for the cameras. It's just one more case where two wrongs don't make a right. Anyone certainly is justified to disagree with the cameras, but a boycott isn't the way to retaliate.

And if any city should know that, this one should.

Ironically, it was 32 years ago this Thursday — on April 12, 1980 — that Colorado Springs became the "ground zero" dateline for one of the darkest moments in our nation's Olympic history. That day, meeting inside the downtown hotel now known as the Antlers Hilton, the U.S. Olympic Committee voted to go along with President Jimmy Carter's demand and boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The reason? Because, a few months earlier, the Soviet Union had, gasp, invaded Afghanistan.

I covered that meeting (though media weren't allowed to watch the actual vote), saw the devastation among athletes and leaders, and followed the aftermath as the USOC nearly disintegrated. I remember the emotions and pain of that boycott weekend, capped by Vice President Walter Mondale flying here to address the Olympic family, as vividly as any family funeral.

This proposed boycott now, more than three decades later, certainly doesn't have the world (or even the state) watching Colorado Springs. But it's worth mentioning as a cautionary tale.

Actually, the b-word has resurfaced in other ways. One is a movement to boycott Starbucks, because its parent company supported efforts in January to legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Washington. That stance has spawned a "Dump Starbucks" movement, with letters to newspapers including the Independent ("Boycott Starbucks," April 5) leading to predictable responses, as you'll see in this issue.

In the case of Starbucks, the boycott call is actually having a reverse effect, with many same-sex marriage supporters pledging to patronize the coffee giant more often. But there's no such response defending downtown Colorado Springs. Just the angry outcry from some who are repulsed by the surveillance cameras and see a boycott as their best way to fight back.

It's not.

There are better ways of taking on the downtown cameras. One would be keeping up with the actual police-report numbers, before and after. Another would be making sure the "volunteers" manning the monitors aren't overstepping their responsibilities.

But not the b-word. That won't solve anything.


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