Between a global pandemic that shut down the economy and has killed 100,000 people in the United States, peaceful protests over the death of black man at the hands of a Minnesota policeman that turn to riots and looting when the sun goes down, swarms of locust in India that blot out the sun, the start of hurricane season in the Atlantic and divisiveness over what to do with Elk Avenue and possible mandatory face mask orders in Crested Butte, why wouldn’t we all be looking for a brighter future? It has been a tiring few months in the world. It is exhausting.
And then I feel the need to try touching on racial tensions while living in one of the most white places in America. But I will give it a go…
A few significant gatherings took place in the valley within a few days of each other this week. The Crested Butte high school graduation came off in a burst of positivity Saturday as students took part in a wonderful community celebration of an important milestone that provided them hope for the future. That graduation felt full of heart and soul and Crested Butte love. It conveyed a message of faith in the future.
On Tuesday evening, a cross-section of community came together in both Gunnison and Crested Butte to protest the killing of a black man in Minneapolis by a policeman. The local marchers were supporting change for the future because as so much of America appears to burn, the future doesn’t look all that positive for everyone. But there is hope that the recent death of George Floyd may somehow bring about systemic change for many of our fellow citizens. The Crested Butte and Gunnison gatherings drew hundreds of people who felt compelled to send a message about the present so the future might be better for others.
According to data posted online in 2017, Gunnison County residents are about 88 percent white. About 1 percent are listed as African Americans.
It is not honestly easy to relate to the struggles of most black men in America up here in a predominately white enclave in the Rocky Mountains. But the killing of George Floyd has seemed to impact most of us in its brutality and blatant inhumanity—as it should. We are all Americans after all, and while we live in a bubble, we are still part of this country and the things it represents. Unfortunately the death of George Floyd represents a sinister scab that just can’t seem to heal in our American culture.
For most of us up here, we do not have to worry about our sons being stopped by police because of the color of their skin. For that I am grateful and admittedly privileged. We do not have to worry when our sons take a run in the neighborhood. We do not have to worry that our sons may not come back from the convenience store because a warped police officer views them with suspicion. But many in our America do have that worry every day and that is not morally right.
The world is a weird place right now, even up here at 9,000 feet. We cannot help but feel the impact as we deal with the coronavirus one minute and cities set ablaze both literally and figuratively the next.
It is during times like these that I sometimes question whether we are lucky to live in paradise away from the ugliness that arises in the “real world” or if that makes our lives too out of touch with a reality that is sometimes ugly but embedded in our culture. Is it the ignoring of a truth or just a good choice that has granted a different life while not having to see hard realities?
Honestly, I feel fortunate to have made that choice to live here and raise a family in a place many consider a fantasy. It is a place where people prefer trails to interstates. It is a place where the air is fresh and the colors vibrant. It is a place where cattle cause traffic jams and a quick lunch workout is not spent inside the gym but in the beauty of a pristine landscape. Most people don’t get this. We are blessed.
But the real world is out there and on a practical level I think we will see a lot of people come here this summer to get away from the murky problems of urban life and search for a taste of what we almost take for granted. And I think some will want to stay—so I see the real estate market going off this summer. Why work in downtown St. Louis where cops are getting shot when you can live and work in downtown Crested Butte where the headache of the day is getting around that darn Townie Takeover at 4:20 on a Thursday afternoon?
In the meantime we are where we are and it is sometimes tiring these days. But based on what I saw Saturday, there is hope that the children of this village might somehow contribute to a better world. Based on what I saw Tuesday there is hope that as far away as we are and as much as we live in a bubble, there are some things we cannot ignore when our sensibilities of fairness and justice are assaulted—and we can somehow contribute to the change for a more equal country.
There is a lot of angst in the world right now. There were significant gatherings this week in the valley. The people involved sent a message about the future. The people involved sent a message about hope—and for that at least, we can be grateful.