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I’m With Stupid – February 3, 2017

by Todd Hartley

For the most part, in penning this column each week, I try not to write about local issues. The title is “I’m With Stupid,” after all, so I don’t want anyone I know to feel guilty by association should their name or cause appear in some rant of mine. This week, however, the real world intruded upon Aspen’s little bubble of unreality, so the topic of discussion will concern a business about a block from the center of downtown.

For those unfamiliar with the story, here’s what happened: A woman brought some memorabilia from Donald Trump’s inauguration to Suitable for Framing to have the stuff framed and the owner said she couldn’t fulfill the woman’s request. This much everyone agrees upon. What happened next is unclear.

According to the accuser, who is the would-be customer, the storeowner denied her service because she was a Trump supporter. According to the business owner, the request couldn’t be fulfilled because the memorabilia was damaged by water and couldn’t be professionally framed. In any event, the accuser didn’t get what she wanted, yelled something at the owner and left the business in a huff.

After the incident, the accuser, feeling she was the victim of discrimination based on her political views, took her story to the Aspen Daily News, and the Aspen Daily News spoke with the owner, who said she couldn’t frame the water-damaged items but would be happy to frame anything else. The accuser declined the offer and no story was written.

Back in the old days, that would have been the end of things. The accuser and the accused would have had their differences and life would have gone on as normal. But that was before social media, before the accuser could go on Facebook and go public with her claims of discrimination, and before people from all over America who know nothing about the incident could freak out over it.

Based solely on the accuser’s Facebook claims, numerous right-wing media outlets picked up the story and slammed Suitable for Framing for its allegedly discriminatory practices. Fox News even had the accuser on the “Fox & Friends” show to air her views. None of these media outlets spoke with the owner to get her side of things; they just let her have it, and their coverage led dozens of people who’d never heard of Suitable for Framing to say really mean, unjustified things about it online.

Now, this is all going to be speculation from here on out because I don’t know anything about this, but let me address all the things that I consider wrong with this whole affair.

First, if the owner honestly turned the accuser away because of her political views, she was wrong to do so and not a very smart businesswoman. But why were the accuser’s political views a part of the conversation to begin with? Did the memorabilia spur contentious talk, or could it be that the accuser was looking for a fight?

I’ve never met or spoken with the accuser, and she declined to be interviewed by The Aspen Times, but here’s an excerpt from a 1,200-word letter that she asked the paper to publish: “You voted for Trump? Racist! You support his policies? Close-minded they label you! Peace they preach? They protest, riot, and vandalize in our streets if they disagree with you. There is no holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ with these people.”

To me, that clearly sounds like someone with a political agenda and an ax to grind. I’ve always found it’s best to tune people like that out, but at the very least, I think it’s silly to give them huge megaphones to spew their rhetoric.

The bigger problem, though, is the accuser’s use of “they” in her letter, because it illustrates the huge divide that is tearing America apart. This was a personal disagreement between two women over some picture frames — nothing more, nothing less. To use it as a springboard to make blanket statements about half the people in the country is ridiculous.

But that’s the way we do things now. We hear anecdotes about people who claim things that reinforce dumb stereotypes that we already have about “them,” and we use them as an excuse to say stupid, uninformed things that only contribute to the level of rancor and hate. The powers that be have us at war with ourselves, and until we all shut up, there will be no catharsis.

Todd Hartley refused to serve Todd Hartley spaghetti based on his view that he didn’t feel like cooking.

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