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Vail Daily column: A difference in disasters

Don Rogers
My View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

The avalanche of news outside our nest left me with two images:

• A climber at the Everest base camp ducking behind a rock as mostly air blasts the tents away. God help the poor souls still in theirs, now sails.

• Neighbors sweeping up the ruins of rioters in yet another American city protesting a black man’s death in the hands of police.

We feel closer to Kathmandu than Baltimore. Must be the mountains. Our issues with ethnic differences are muted largely by abstraction in this case. More Nepalese live here than African Americans, after all. The Mexicans, including the undocumented, came here for jobs. Our underlying dynamic is different, if also sometimes fraught.

I suspect we have more locals in Nepal than Baltimore, too, climbing or trekking when the earthquakes struck.

Baltimore blends with Ferguson blends with New York and Cleveland and sympathetic protests in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, D.C. For us, these are curiosities and quick, ancient judgments watching cable and reporters enjoying the moment maybe too much.

I know black and white remains a big deal, a huge divide, and I can’t declare it’s never been a deal with me because I’m old and white and you know. I can’t help but have the taint of privilege by accident of birth.

Still, my ears perked at NPR interviews this week with young black men in Baltimore declaring their anger has little to do with race. Half the police force there is African American. Black officers as well as white treat their poverty-stricken neighborhood — Freddie Gray’s, too, as it turned out — with equal disdain, they said.

Of course, this only fed my belief that class and culture are the main drivers of our societal ills far more than race or religion. That is, poverty is the root devil in our world.

This extends to Kathmandu, among the poorest places on Earth. The same earthquake in our valley probably kills no one, though yes, we’d feel thoroughly shaken and stirred.

Poverty plays out in building structure as well as lack of education, crime, drug abuse, poor health, family instability, all of that.

Nepal’s authorities have long known the big one would come someday to Kathmandu, and could do little to prepare for the devastation that finally arrived.

Notably, our local relief efforts are all about the mountainous country on the other side of the world. Nuthin’ for fellow citizens in our own country. We get nature’s deadly whims much better than watching cities do it to themselves. I’m not sure the difference in scale matters so much as this.

In the end, the image of the neighbors cleaning up sticks with me the most, though.

What is that, hope?

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.


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