Chad Klinger: A virtue-signaling dystopia? How ‘Mr. Aspen’ sees Aspen

In a 168-page commentary by a former wisenheimer local newspaper columnist, one doesn’t expect to find the breadth and depth of Alexis de Tocqueville or the wit and wisdom of H.L. Mencken when it comes to vibrant, insightful social analysis.

But in his newly-published book “High Attitude: How Woke Liberals Ruined Aspen,” Glenn Beaton has his moments.

Here’s one of them: “Aspen and the rest of America changed in the ’60s, in some ways for the better but mostly for the worse. America recovered, but Aspen never did.”

I guess this explains why, when I first came to the valley 14 years ago for the first time in 30 years, I was seeing men my age looking and acting pretty much as they had, say, in 1970 — with pony tails, tie-dye, a religious belief in the redemptive power of art and “sustainability,” and an absolute giddiness in anticipation of the first pot dispensaries following the legalization of a drug that profits no man, apart from the money to be made.

Let’s face it: Aspen and its environs constitute a uniquely hybridized subculture that, like most others, is intoxicated by its own importance and largely dismissive of what it has taught itself to dislike.

Enter an alien intelligence, with origins in conservative Colorado Springs and a truly liberal education leading to endeavors in both civil engineering and the practice of law and ultimately to his present career as a freelance gadfly, who likes to hold one of those illuminated, magnifying cosmetic mirrors up to our faces, revealing, well, whatever it reveals.

And while he is at it, he also provides us with a basic literacy in our prior history. Like most people strolling down Main Street, I didn’t know Paepcke from Plato, as Beaton puts it; but thanks to his book, I’ve developed a considerable appreciation not only for Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke, but for people named Wheeler, Fiske, Litchfield, Pfeifer, Anderson, and other “founders” of present day life in Aspen.

And, alas, I am also far better acquainted with the adventures of people named Thompson (a person for whom “narcissism is too generous a term,” says Beaton), Braudis, Grabow, Sheen and Mueller, Sabich and Longet, Trump and Maples, multiple Kennedys, and many others — those who prompt Beaton to opine that “if America in the ’60s was like a conventional mom and dad who occasionally got drunk and passed out, (post-’60s) Aspen was like their 13-year-old kid who got into meth and never recovered.”

His history of the place, from Ferdinand Hayden’s 1873 survey through Skico’s contemporary paternalism, is basically a parade of foil characters who mirror each other’s virtues and vices. To appreciate the integrity of the Aspen Center for Physics, for example, one only need consider the steadily more partisan, virtue-signaling, woke drift of the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival and Aspen Music Festival and School.

To understand true, selfless, largely-anonymous virtue, as distinct from feel-good displays of moral superiority, one only need consider the men and women of Mountain Rescue Aspen.

It’s all there in front of us. What Glenn Beaton does is sharpen our vision and periodically allow us to laugh.

You can get the book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. This review was published in The Aspen Times. Chad Klinger lives in Snowmass Village.

3 thoughts on “Chad Klinger: A virtue-signaling dystopia? How ‘Mr. Aspen’ sees Aspen

  1. A most excellent review, and I have added Glenn’s book into my saved cart for my next purchase. I will most likely read this book later during the upcoming summer as I will be in The Philippines for an extended visit and this is when I catch up on my book reading.

    That illuminated, magnifying cosmetic mirror Glenn holds up to Aspenites sounds reminiscent of the classical gothic horror story “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.

    Woke, self-absorbed, preening Aspen liberals undoubtedly look into their mirrors with narcissism and unearned self admiration while deep down, their ugly souls are rotten to the core, much like Dorian Gray’s hidden portrait.

    A curious side note … Aspenites is also a term for an extinct genus of cephalopod belonging to the Ammonite subclass from the Triassic Epoch.

    I suppose this term works great in both describing an ancient mollusk that has been extinct for millions of years and the regressive and stagnant thinking of Aspen’s navel gazing gentry.

  2. Living in Breckenridge through the late 70’s through the mid 90’s, having made many trips to Aspen and living around the mountain trustafarians, looking forward to reading the book.

  3. Hard times create strong men. .
    Strong men create good times. .
    Good times create weak men. .
    And, weak men create hard times..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s