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We interrupt our usual rants and celebrations of life at the apex with a reminder: The real world may put an end to the good life we take for granted.This resort and others are engaged as always in a struggle to identify and justify our insulation from the harsher realities of life on this planet. Black Lives Matter, climate change and income inequality are, for too many of us, abstractions. We march for George Floyd; we worry about the future of skiing in a warming world; we lament our valley gradually evicting the have-nots and transforming our beloved gathering places into competitive venues for the display of wealth. A quarter of the teachers at Aspen School District are expected to leave next year since many of them can’t compete with Airbnb and third homes for a place to live while those in affordable housing dare not leave for fear that, if they do, the next stop is Rifle.There is no visceral response to any of this. We remain politically unengaged. Nobody is running for office here with an agenda to radically change direction. We could have had a school board election that addressed why critical race theory is a bad or good idea and whether we are teaching the painful parts of our own history. We could have had a county commissioner contest with candidates advocating for a freeze on new development or a tax to build the housing we need outside the city of Aspen. Someone, somewhere could have said, when the climate is warming, why did we approve the removal of 3,500 trees — and are we committed to not letting it happen again?But we didn’t and we don’t have that kind of election anymore. It’s become platitudinous in the extreme. Everyone’s for housing, but no one has a plan for building any or, more importantly, creating the revenue streams that would make a meaningful difference outside the cities. Nobody is even suggesting that we replace exotic blue grass on our lawns with less water-intensive plants that don’t need 36 inches of water each year. Local-serving business is no longer on the agenda.While we carefully document our vertical feet accrued, our number of days skied, our bowl laps and selfies, we turn ever inward to a parody of ourselves as insular, self-absorbed elites. It’s an image that masks the real problems of this valley: its homeless, its untreated mentally ill, its families evicted to make way for more profitable short-term rentals.And then Ukraine happens. It will be interesting if the brutal occupation of a democracy is shrugged off here as a real-world problem irrelevant to our self absorption. Thus far, I don’t see much response in social media like Facebook, in letters to the editor, in resolutions at council or commissioner tables. Nationally, the Libertarian faux news media limits the controversy to whether the election of an autocratic plutocrat would have prevented Russia’s autocratic plutocrat from crushing his neighbor. Hard to imagine Captain Bonespurs in the trenches with President Zelenskyy.I am part of a generation that grew up practicing duck-and-cover at our desks and in the hallways of our schools. We were carefully instructed on how radioactive Strontium 90 could assimilate into our bones by mimicking natural minerals. One could calculate, as I did, the impact of a super nuke on Chicago and whether the blast radius would encompass my suburb. The answer is yes.The duck-and-cover drill has morphed into shooter drills for this generation since we are incapable of restraining the gun lobby from making open carry of heavy weapons a constitutional “right” grafted onto the Second Amendment by an unyielding minority. Our milk-cow politics means no state House or Senate candidate is willing to call this travesty for what it is, lest a minority rally for her recall in a low-turnout special election.I doubt nuclear war is imminent, but Armageddon is more likely than it was a few months ago. Long-term economic clouds and climate change should be a wakeup call for all of us — not an excuse to party, but a call to participate.Mick Ireland thinks democracy depends on our dedicating some pert of our lives to understanding that we are all part of the real world. [email protected]
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