The star was turned on this week. We can see it from the front windows in the living room of this old house. It is the Flagstaff Star, a Boulder tradition for decades, a large shape strung with light bulbs on the side of Flagstaff mountain. It used to be associated with Christmas and many years ago, it would be made into a lighted cross for Easter each year as well. But in more recent years, the star was lit on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Downtown Boulder Association would hold an event on the Pearl Street Mall complete with Santa Claus. At the right moment, someone would flip the switch and the star would go on. You could see it miles away, too. Coming to the top of the hill on Highway 36, with Boulder spread out in the valley below, one could see the star way off in the distance on the side of the mountain. The star is huge and is visible from way out east county as well.
But that tradition is no more.
Beginning last year, the star is turned on November 11th for Veterans’ Day, meaning it is no longer even remotely associated with Christmas or even the secular holidays. Not that I have anything against veterans! I am very thankful for them but the conversion of a tradition that was originally so closely tied with Christian Christmas now stuck on another remembrance seems jarring. It has taken the joy and anticipatory excitement out of the star for me.
Years ago, when the girls were still little, we would watch on that Friday night after Thanksgiving from the front windows of this old house until the star came on. Every year, we would drive up Flagstaff mountain where Baseline Road dead ends into it and climb up under the great frame work of lights. As the girls got older, they would make that pilgrimage with their friends. One year, my younger daughter and her girlfriend were sitting under the star on a cold December night, looking out at the lights of the city of Boulder, when they looked to the right. There in the woods, at the edge of the clearing that held the star, was a mountain lion, watching them. The girls decided that maybe they had had enough time under the star and moved cautiously down the steep slope and back across the road to where the car was parked. Fortunately, the lion seemed well-fed and merely curious or this story might have ended very differently.
We have such fond memories but now, it is simply on for weeks and weeks in the winter, not really connected to anything. It feels a lot like life in some ways. So many moorings that people had religiously, ethically, morally all seem to be unhooked from their original foundations. There are no absolutes, all truth is relative, we make it up as we go doing whatever feels right at the moment. In our desire to be inclusive and to live well in an pluralistic society, we have lost the ability to stand for something. In our fear of offending someone, we have turned everything to mush. We have eliminated dialog out of fear of dis-respecting different traditions and beliefs. Why can’t the schools, for example, share joyfully and naturally what everyone believes in December instead of pretending like no one believes anything? Manners and decency have gone by the wayside and in trying to not be offensive, we offend everyone. I sure hope some wise men and women follow the star to Boulder and help us realize that we are painting ourselves into a corner with political correctness.
Who knows? Maybe the star will go on for Halloween next year because somebody decides it “fits.”