Saturday, July 22, 2017
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The red button, bad budget cuts, prom and bubbles

It is common knowledge that we in this mountain village live in a bubble pretty different from other places. After coming back from an extended bike ride (part of my bubble) the last few weeks, I began to wonder if I needed to check the internet and see if anything in the world had been blown up in the last few hours. Did the president push the red nuclear button instead of the red “get me a coke” button on his desk by accident? That’s right, Donald Trump has a red button on his Oval Office desk that when pushed summons a butler to bring him a Coke. Pretty cool as long as he pushes the right button…

With my kids now out of the Crested Butte Community School, I sometimes feel out of touch. But it didn’t take long for me to realize last Saturday that given the time of year, the weather (sketchy) and the number of teenagers wandering around in tuxedos and dresses, it was prom night at the Crested Butte Community School. It is an opportunity for the local kids to learn to formally socialize and act responsibly—or not. It is good to see such traditions in the valley. It is a tie through the Crested Butte bubble to the rest of the real world. It is something the kids see on TV and the internet so they give it a go with their small classes that probably feel more like family and a clan of siblings than a dating pool much of the time. Anyway, hang with me here. There’s a connection to all of this.

As I put my bike away, I wonder if North Korea launched missiles toward Seoul or if ISIS blew up an American embassy somewhere. I wonder if Trump gave the order between bites of chocolate cake to launch Tomahawks in Syria again or if he told the generals to send a few bombs toward Kim Jong-un’s haircut from our nuclear submarine that is apparently part of an armada off the shores of North Korea.

And that is probably what the internet wants. It wants me to get online. It is probably what the people running our government and the military industrial complex want as well. They want us all to wonder. They want us to be afraid. Maybe it really isn’t very dicey right now but it feels like it is. They seemingly want us to be okay when the government starts to cut social programs to fund more military, even if our military budget is beyond ginormous compared to the rest of the world.

The problem is that after a while people might feel the need to actually justify all that spending. More military probably makes some people feel all tough and confident. So maybe they send a few missiles here, send an armada there. They want to send a message everywhere. But some of the messages are being sent to crazy people. And that’s when it could actually get accidentally dicey. Is there a secret plan to deal with the nut in North Korea if he feels backed into the corner? Does Donald plan to use more missiles in Syria? What will Russia do if we keep that up? What will the brother of the girl accidentally killed by one of those missiles do to get revenge on the empire that took away his sibling?

So what is the connection to the scores of Crested Butte teenagers spending Saturday at prom and an increased military presence for the USA? While unlike teenagers in some other foreign countries, our kids don’t have to worry much about a drone sending a bomb into their midst. But they could end up being the ones to pay the price for all this fear and rising tension. If the conflicts explode beyond a missile there and a rocket test there, they could be the ones looking across the desert or the Korean peninsula at other people their age with guns.

Add this to the crazy mix and begin to wonder about our children and their future: The Trump administration and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson want to run the government like a business, so Tillerson is reportedly planning to cut 2,300 U.S. diplomats and civil servants—about 9 percent of the Americans in its workforce worldwide. Apparently Tillerson was taken aback when he arrived on the job to see how much money the State Department was spending on housing and schooling for the families of diplomats living overseas. By the way, the country’s entire diplomatic budget accounts for just over 1 percent of the total federal budget. And by the way, it is diplomacy and diplomats that are there to avoid the escalation of conflict into war.

So I will agree with Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said earlier this year that cuts to the State Department would result in a need to buy more bullets. And who will be in the line of fire for those bullets? I’ll bet a dime to a dollar it won’t be Donald or Rex or any of their clan. But there’s a better chance that it could be some of our kids, many of whom spent Saturday enjoying prom in the upper valley.

We all know that those residing here are fortunate and pretty much live in a bubble separate from the rest of the “real world.” But is it any different from Donald who presses a red button and a butler shows up with a Coke? Who seemingly cavalierly orders missile strikes between bites of chocolate cake? Who travels between the White House and a golf resort in Florida?

We all live in our bubbles but every bubble can be burst if we are not careful. I just wish our kids’ bubble wasn’t somewhat dependent on Donald…

—Mark Reaman

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