It seems like the federal government is waging a war on us here near the border of southeastern Colorado and New Mexico. Why do we have to spend so much time defending our way of life?
Editor’s note: We’ve covered the ongoing dispute over the use of the skies over southeastern Colorado and northern New Mexico for low-altitude military flight training. Below are comments made by Rachel Snyder at a public hearing in late January at Trinidad State Junior College regarding the Ft. Carson Combat Aviation Brigade Stationing Implementation Draft Environmental Assessment. They were reprinted in The Trinidad (CO) Times.
My name is Rachel Snyder and I am a full-time resident and property owner in Branson, Colorado.
I am not a rancher, am not married to a rancher, and in fact, have no blood family in this area. Neither am I a card-carrying member of The Grassland Trust, the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, or Not One More Acre!
I moved to Branson from the Front Range several years ago — exercising my inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Against this backdrop, I now find myself eye to eye with an impossible-to-ignore, gargantuan elephant thrashing about in a very small room.
Simply put: Why is my government waging an ever-escalating war against me and my neighbors?
Why must so many individuals and families invest so much time, energy, money and heartache defending our way of life against the very people who have sworn to defend our rights at all costs?
Why the rampant marginalizing of southeastern Colorado?
Aren’t we Americans?
Had I been seeking the questionable joys of wave after wave of legal attacks, line-in-the-sand jockeying for control, obfuscation, endless profiteering by taxpayer-subsidized private military contractors, and governmental disregard of the people and places I have come to love, I may have instead chosen to take up residence in Baghdad or Beirut.
The planes, helicopters, and drones may not yet be here in full force, but the strafing has already gone on far too long.
Southeastern Colorado may not look like much on a satellite image, but this is hardly a vast and valueless wasteland. Look more closely and you can see young children riding their bikes on a school playground. Step into town on your own two feet and you’ll see chickens in the yard; elders visiting in the sun; ranchers hauling hay, water or livestock to or from their drought-stricken acreage.
When folks around here aren’t forced to drive a hundred miles or more for yet another meeting, or to miss supper yet again while they gather up papers and prepare remarks — we are doing what our fellow citizens all around the United States of America are doing: raising children and grandchildren; building businesses; fixing up the house; attending church; loving the living and dying; and yes, participating in local government, paying taxes, and voting.
In addition, many Las Animas heritage families are giving their generational lifeblood to put food on American tables and, not inconsequentially, raise the pulse of our local economy.
Yet, in how many other places across this country are mothers and fathers and grandparents and aunts and uncles forced to get up every morning knowing the terrible swift sword of the US Department of Defense hangs just above their heads?
Aren’t we Americans?
One must pause to wonder if some bargain has been struck somewhere in a room without windows, thereby selling southeastern Colorado to the most powerful bidder. While a slumbering democracy moves at glacial speed, the souls of Las Animas County weep for the incalculable loss that looms.
In 1776, the colonists decried the King’s tyranny for a litany of reasons, including — as stated in the Declaration of Independence — “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”
My vision of America does not include an omnipotent military joined in unholy wedlock to insatiable war contractors and empowered to lay siege to its own citizens. War is neither a viable nor sustainable enterprise worthy of ceaseless and unremitting buildup.
How many of our broken veterans could be served by the money being spent to wear down the bodies, minds and spirits of the people of southeastern Colorado?
There are those of us who feel uncompromisingly zealous about the priceless grandeur of this singular region of our extraordinary state. We look toward the highest levels of government, and we ask: Who will steadfastly stand tall for proper guardianship of the fragile biosphere we call home, be it accorded private or public ownership?
Once the land and sky have been desecrated, what is in between eventually ceases to matter. That includes me and my friends and my community and my neighbors in southeastern Colorado.
Aren’t we Americans?
Rachel Snyder can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.