Boulder as Utopia

August 2006

Boulder has an image in the national media as being green, tolerant, liberal and giving. Utopia, if you will. Boulder writer Kimberly Dellaca-Badgett, who lives a block from the Justice Center, disagrees. Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle today, she has plenty of criticism for the city and its residents. This much she'll give Boulder credit for:

Inhabitants of this city take pride in the image of Boulder as utopia. Boulderites joke with a sly wink that Boulder is 20 square miles surrounded by reality. There is a meditation room on the third floor of the downtown Shambala Center which is open to anyone who would like to practice lunchtime reflection. Boulder has the second-highest grossing organic food market in the country. Trails run from back yards to serene mountain ranges. Boulder is one of only three counties in Colorado that did not vote for George Bush.

Then come the slams, such as this one:

....scratch the surface of the utopian bubble and you'll witness people punching each other in the organic market's parking lot over the last available space and you'll find yourself questioning why people who claim to be against the "oil war" didn't bring their bike anyway.

Her point:

Boulder is all about doing the right thing, as long as the right thing doesn't require making a sacrifice or a contribution.

I don't think that's quite true. That certainly hasn't been my experience with the hundreds of Boulder residents I've gotten to know over the last 35 years. If I have one criticism of Boulder, it's the bad traffic and the prevalence of giant strip malls along its major thoroughfares with one chain store and restaurant after another marring the scenery and robbing the city of character and individuality. She also writes that the Ramseys' conservative lifestyle made Boulder residents turn against them.

Inhabitants of Boulder are so convinced that a non-Boulder lifestyle is wrong that when JonBenet was killed, few people in town offered sympathy to the Ramseys. The killing was seen as a by-product of the Ramsey existence, of the conservative life. Violence is what you should expect when you aren't a feminist vegan who eschews leather shoes and practices bikram yoga. Boulder has always carried the suspicion that if the Ramseys had behaved properly, JonBenet's life would have been saved. When you put your 6-year-old daughter in makeup and parade her around on stage, you've made a choice to live on the dark side and you get what comes to you. Boulder was smug when JonBenet was murdered. If the Ramseys' life went to hell, it was proof that the conservative life was the wrong one. The Ramseys never stood a chance in this town.

I think Ms. Dellaca-Badgett is being too harsh on Boulder residents. If Boulder residents turned against the Ramseys, I don't think the Ramseys' lifestyle was the major factor. The Ramseys were comfortable in Boulder before their daughter's murder. They had friends with views just like their own. They didn't view themselves as outcasts, but as part of the community. What turned the people of Boulder against the Ramseys in my view is not "Boulder norms" but the same thing that turned the rest of the nation against the Ramseys: being subjected to incessant and irresponsible reporting by the news media endorsing the unsubstantiated and cruel allegations the city's biased police department made against the family.

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