Colorado Springs, at an elevation of 6,035 ft., is a city in Colorado at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains. It lies near glacier-carved Pikes Peak, a landmark in Pike National Forest with hiking trails and a cog railway leading to its 14,114-ft. summit. The city’s Garden of the Gods park features iconic red-sandstone formations and mountain views.
Colorado Springs. Home to Focus on the Family and New Life Church. Ted Haggard and Billy Graham’s playground. One army base, two air force bases, and the Airforce Academy. The “Evangelical Vatican”.
Do you really think that Colorado Springs would have been for us? If your answer was “yes”, do you even know us a little bit?
Colorado Springs got onto our list because of a home sitting opportunity and for its appearance on the top of “Best Places to Live” and “Most Desirable Places to Live in the US” lists. Colorado Springs had most of what we wanted objectively speaking. We want affordability. Check. Good breweries. Check. Bookstores. The Great Outdoors. Check. Check. What we discovered in Colorado Springs was that the main ingredients may be there, but a city has to have the spices and flavor that we like so much.
While we do not want to live in Colorado Springs permanently (even the two months we stayed was too long), Colorado Springs helped us to focus in on some of our non-negotiables like a desire to have a spot to swim and not feel drowned out by pro-gun advocates who actively protest proposed legislation that would limit gun magazines to less than 15 rounds. It is a city that has seen not one, not two, but four mass shootings, including the infamous 2015 Planned Parenthood massacre that left three people dead. It is a melting pot of American conservatism with the military, evangelicals, and the far-right political. We did not feel at home in that mix, not at home politically, ideologically, or in terms of our values.
Yet, it is more complicated than that. There is no city that is one-sided, which is what makes this country a fascinating place to be. The first blush may be “conservative”, “evangelical”, “military”, we believe that as American people we have more in common with each other than we have that is not alike. We may have different priorities and we may have different ideologies about how we can get to the same goal. It was with that relentless desire to have an open mind and the value of shared human experiences that allowed us to find common ground with lots of people we met out and about. In fact, we got into some deep political conversations with people who shared our opinions and those who did not.
Given the deeply religious roots in the city, it was also troubling to see the extent of the homelessness crisis in Colorado Springs. The cost of living in Colorado Springs skyrocketed in 2017-2018 and homelessness rose with it. The response of the city, including camping bans and police sweeps, and not allocating funds to sheltering people, is inhumane and will only cause a cascade of related issues. We also learned about a lack of mental health services in the area that is so dramatic it is called the “Suicide Belt”. It is important to us that a city takes care of its people–and we did not see that in Colorado Springs.
On the flip side, we did find Colorado Springs to be a fantastic jumping off point for adventures throughout Colorado and a truly beautiful home base. So that part was pretty ideal. Pikes Peak, standing at a staggering 14,100 feet tall, was the inspiration for the “America the Beautiful” tune. So, the beauty is practically subjective, but don’t take our word for it, take the words of the song: “purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain”. Majesties. We don’t just throw that word around, do we? There are the Red Rocks, the snow capped mountains, and the mountains that are truly purple when the sun hits just so.
This post turned out to be deeper and more philosophical than most, but life IS politics and life IS values. Don’t you agree? Our quest to Date America has given us an even greater appreciation for the diversity in this country and has given us greater skill around talking about and justifying our values. While Colorado Springs is not for us, we are grateful we stayed as it clarified some of our desires for our future home.
PS: If you are interested in the politics of Colorado Springs, give this article a read and give a listen to the This American Life episode it references.