New Year's in Backbone

(John Andrews in the Denver Post, Jan. 1) Times Square? Overrated. You haven’t really done New Year’s Eve until you’ve done it in Backbone, Colorado, my imaginary hometown. Up at the head of Cottonwood Creek in Chaffee County, close to timberline in the shadow of the divide, we don’t get TV or the Web and don’t miss them. Rockin’ Dick Clark can go fish, we say. In Backbone on the last night of the year, things start at sundown with a potluck at the church. Families from town and the nearby gulches all gather, and the unattached folks of whatever description are made to feel like family. Later there’s ice skating on the pond, with a bonfire for s’mores and hot cider, plus the appropriate adult beverages. Yarns from the Old Prospector are in demand at the fireside.

About 11:00, everyone heads for the town hall, decked with greens, alight with kerosene lamps. Principal Dina Roman leads the singing, then there’s a kids’ joke contest. Gib Gray, editor of the weekly – like his father and father’s father before him, clear back to Bonfils’ time – reviews the year’s headlines in saltier fashion than anything you’ll see on “Nightline.”

Shortly before midnight, the lamps go down and the mayor quiets everyone for “Alone with Your Thoughts,” an interlude of year-end gratitude and resolve, one of our best-loved Backbone customs. At the stroke of 12:00, Father Ed offers a prayer of hope. Then lights blaze and all cheer the turning of another page on the American experiment of freedom under God – January 1 properly welcomed.

Our family spent the holidays not up on the divide but down in Denver, close to grandson Ian and great-nana Patty. Still, the slowed-down pace since Christmas has allowed for time alone with my thoughts, tracing the threads of two dozen Post columns I wrote in 2005. Walking through all the topics in Gib Gray fashion, one sees a steady effort to “bring back backbone” by mapping the divide between what’s good and true and what isn’t.

The aim is be a thoughtful yet assertive conservative voice in a paper where those are not overabundant. It’s conservatism with roots, upholding liberty under law and personal responsibility within moral absolutes, honoring Madison and Locke, Burke and Eliot, Cicero and Augustine. We try for depth beyond the RNC talking points and relevance beyond the news cycle. Readers’ disagreement is invited and respected; there’s no pretense of having all the answers.

Here at the Backbone column, during the year just ended, we have argued that the human dignity and opportunity Americans cherish grow from the divine justice and mercy celebrated on such holy days as Christmas and Easter. We have argued that July 4 should also be sacred as the birthday of government by freemen’s consent instead of brute force, a blessing to all mankind.

We have worked to reunite the Right from feuding factions into a vigorous majority supporting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – concerned that the Left with its dream of a perfect collectivized world not blunder our country into a 21st century nightmare.

Curbing the runaway courts through judicial term limits, tapping the market forces of competition and choice to clean up the monopolistic mess that is CU, halting the silent invasion of illegal aliens that cost Officer Don Young his life, and taking the seriously the Islamo-fascist enemy’s zeal to destroy us – these are some of the issues addressed here in past months. All go with us into 2006.

So does the old year’s bitterly fought Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights issue, the question of restraining government growth before it smothers self-reliance and civil society. So does the issue of America’s will to win in this new world war, the question of “Why not victory?” as raised in this space last September – and subsequently by President Bush. Elections in Colorado on Nov. 1 and in Iraq on Dec. 15 illuminated but scarcely resolved these big concerns.

Another year is another chance, Backbone editor Gib Gray likes to say. Thank you for the chance to think things through together in 2005. Let’s do it even better in 2006.