Letters to the editor

Thanks for the open forum

I want to compliment you on your editorial courage in publishing the letter from Ginny Godfrey [Dec. 15] strongly expressing disappointment regarding her unfortunate experience with the Catholic Church.

While you may be criticized instinctively, as a matter of reflex, by some offended Catholics, you deserve the plaudits of those who appreciate your effort to preserve a public forum that invites all points of view.

While not religious myself, I am not anti-religious, because I feel that when a large proportion of a population professes to practice religion, it can be an important source of moral discipline, which a fair number of members of our society apparently lack. There are many nonreligious people, however, who have a spiritual sensitivity and practice morality as a matter of personal discipline.

– Norman C. Smith
Asheville

Feeling for the Haywood Courthouse Commandments

Consider for a moment the matter of the tablets displayed in the Haywood County Courthouse, the ones bearing the Ten Commandments.

The courthouse was built in the 1930s, and evidently the tablets caused no particular problem until now. I visited the courthouse some years ago and saw the tablets in question. On practical grounds, it would seem a desecration of the architecture to take them down or erase them. I confess that, in their presence, I was not suddenly seized by a powerful urge to reform, but who knows, they may have that effect on some.

However, it would also seem they are not posted where they are commonly seen by the average person, whether he is ready to reform or not. If the tablets were displayed outdoors on the walls of the courthouse, passersby might see them, and the unbelievers among them might take offense. But we can understand if the average person never sees them unless he/she runs afoul of the law and finds himself in the courtroom.

Suppose a man, John X (not his real name) borrows a neighbor’s car without permission, drives to Vegas and gambles away a quantity of money he took from his employer without permission. He is captured, charged and now stands trial in said courthouse. Does he look up at the tablets and say, “Dang! If I’d only known”?

Or as the judge sentences him to a long prison term, does he look up at the tablets and feel a firm intent to reform?

I’m imagining a situation where an atheist (or equivalent) is on a tour of Waynesville. The subject is sightless, either born that way or lost their vision later. They are being shown around by another atheist (or equivalent), and as they enter the courthouse, the guide gasps, “Oh, this is terrible.”

“What?” says the blind person.

“The Ten Commandments, right up there in front. How offensive.”

The blind person says something like, “Um-m, yes, I guess so.”

If the law is to prevail, it seems to me the list in question must either be taken down or another put up next to it in Braille. After all, the statue of Lady Justice right next to the tablets is [inscribed] in Braille.

– Allen Thomas
Asheville

Subversion time

The fact that pagans use the expression “Merry Christmas” and other familiar phrases in no way betrays an acquiescence to the past two millennia of corruption and unreason.

What better time to “back door” the whole blooming system than the present, which is dominated by an effeminate Congress, a gay-infested military, an antiquated prohibition on reefer, a supposedly Republican candidate who espouses “compassionate” conservatism (which is another name for socialism), the race mongrelization of our country, the rampant spread of diseases, including AIDS, and a sitting-duck president?

The time is now — for some very fundamental changes in a society that is walking around in its sleep!

– Charles Mathis
Arden

I D.A.R.E. you to be nonconforming

The D.A.R.E. program (what does that stand for?) seems to introduce kids to drugs and paraphernalia at a young age. I know the cops ask the kids if any of their parents have such “contraband” at home, like bongs and joints. They ask if the kids hear words that might be incriminating. They can use this as evidence to search and seize.

I remember, in fifth grade, when the cops from D.A.R.E. brought in the giant glass case filled with drugs, colorful tubes, little metal things with feathers, the mystical-looking scales and bottles. The joints, I knew about — but my first glimpse [of] LSD blotter paper made me very curious what was so special about altered states of consciousness, and this fueled a furious passion to understand the world inside the glass case, which I continue to explore with awe and amazement.

In also examining the outer world, I see that the early introduction of drugs and paraphernalia to children tempts them into experimentation — it dares them. These inquisitive people are busted by parents and schools at a much earlier age, which alarms the establishment about the nonconforming-personality factor (the conforming kids usually experiment anyway, even if only with tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, sugar, caffeine, sex, gambling or other kinds of mind- or mood-altering activities or substances.) Then the establishment (the control freaks) can deal with the “problem” at an earlier age, while encouraging a more active prison mafia. That’s right: The prison lobbyists have one of the largest and most powerful influences in Congress.

The kids that get on the addictive drugs (like cocaine and heroin) at a younger age benefit the prison mafia through repeated arrests. But it’s the 600,000-700,000 cannabis-related arrests a year that really boost the economy of the police mafia.

People are going to smoke cannabis. It should be legal. We will fight for the right, because it’s a constitutional right. We will fight, because it’s a god-given right. Cannabis represents wealth — food, fiber and medicine; the Man would much rather you pay him to lock you up than … lose his job because you deserve the right to grow a plant. Got it?

– Brian Kester
Asheville

In defense of Peter Loewer

I write, for no particular reason, to defend Peter Loewer, who needs no defense.

No film critic — or critic at all — I read his pieces in the Mountain Xpress. I’ve read his garden books, illustrated with his delicate drawings. I’ve talked to him briefly on Biltmore Avenue. I was his residential mailman for three years. I’ve seen the garden he maintains.

He’s an easily excitable, fluttery, egotistical man. He’s Dylan Thomas’ father, “raging against the dying of the light.” With a keen eye for detail and a very American self-absorption, Peter Lion roars aprint in Xpress on annoyances orbiting the center of the universe: himself.

In other words, he’s a very typical American. Atypically, he has talent. Talent has become very diluted in the recent Asheville artsy boom years. Steinbeck never saw Monterey’s Cannery Row when his writing made that narrow waterfront street into a row of artsy-craftsy shops. Hemingway never saw Key West when the native “conchs” were replaced by hedonists with literary pretensions. In other words, God was very merciful to Steinbeck and Hemingway.

Will God be merciful to Peter Loewer? I now use the words most dreaded and avoided by all journalistic contributors: I don’t know. God, as Zorba the Greek said, is a clever devil. He/She does to suit Himself/Herself. God rewards talent in ways far more unpredictable than we mortals. We humans form personality cults, gossip about our betters for our own transient comfort, give money, instigate flaps (Eric Berne called this game “Let’s you and him fight”), and invade the talented person’s private life for our own prurient interest. I want no bloody part of it.

Let Loewer’s tribute be Joni Mitchell’s singing words: “Let’s have a round for these freaks and these soldiers,/ a round for these friends of mine./ Let’s have a round for that great, great devil/ who keeps me in this tourist town.”

– Thomas Paul Graham
Asheville

Litter: a New Year’s resolution

Diets? Visit relatives more? Turn the television off ? How about picking up litter?

Litter, you say?

We are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. Every day, I make a 30-minute commute to downtown Asheville from Fairview. Every day, I look at litter along the way. Then I reach my downtown destination, only to look at litter from the night before.

I have personally taken action. I clean up the litter that is thrown on my personal property, which borders a public highway. I clean up in front of my commercial property.

If you make any resolutions for 2000, please consider removing litter from our beautiful city and surrounding area. Enlist your children, neighbors and co-workers. It will get you some exercise, some fresh air and a sense of accomplishment!

– June Melton
Fairview

Diet for a new millennium

The dawning of the new millennium has brought forth the vision of a better lifestyle for me, my family and my nation. A vision free of the four major scourges of humankind: disease, deprivation, devastation and death. It took some research, but the results are truly awesome.

I found that I can help prevent disease by replacing animal products in my diet with wholesome grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Chronic diseases associated with consumption of animal products kill three times as many Americans as those linked to tobacco smoking. Every health-advocacy organization recommends the transition.

My diet will help prevent food deprivation. Raising animals for food wastes enormous amounts of foodstuffs, topsoil, water, fertilizer, energy and other vital food-production resources needed for our children and the world’s hungry.

My diet will help prevent environmental devastation. Raising animals for food is chiefly responsible for pollution of our water supplies and for destruction of wildlife and their habitats. Even the conservative Sierra Club has joined the battle.

My diet will help prevent death and suffering of innocent, sentient animals. Nearly 10 billion are caged, crowded, deprived, drugged, mutilated and manhandled each year in U.S. “factory farms,” until the butcher’s knife ends their misery.

My resolution for the new millennium is simple, but oh so powerful: a wholesome, nonviolent diet of grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits.

– Alicia Cosgrove
Charlotte

Toxic response

In this day and age — when environmental concern is such a prominent issue — it appears to me that the personal responsibility we all share for protecting the environment is largely ignored. This lack of responsibility was demonstrated recently by a volunteer “cleanup” crew, including Don Yelton and several of his associates, right here inside Asheville city limits.

The cleanup was in response to a recently imprisoned 89-year-old man who was given a deadline by the court to remove all the trash from around his home, or else return to jail. Some of this trash was burnable. Much of it, however, consisted of toxic materials, such as painted wood, which cannot legally be burned.

Early in the morning of Dec. 22, I was invited on the premises to determine what materials could be salvaged for re-use. The leader of the cleanup crew and I discussed [the problem] and agreed that the toxic materials could not legally be burned. I left, only to return three hours later to find a surprising predicament: a sudden change of mood and behavior by Don Yelton and all his associates working on the cleanup crew. The burning had begun, and my presence seemed to be upsetting the crew. Within moments, I was verbally harassed by the crew and ordered off the property by Don Yelton. One of the men tried to explain by drawing a parallel between toxic materials and speeding on the highway.

It’s time we realize that the estimated $10,000 it would take to properly clean up this site will be far less costly than paying for it again — in the air we breathe and food we eat.

– Bradley Barrett
Asheville

Barrett owns Asheville Recyclers and manages crews deconstructing old homes.

Christmas-tree recycling is fun

This year, my true love and I, with the help of our eight maids-a-milking, strapped our dried-out Christmas-tree remains atop our SUV and drove them up to the parking lot of Memorial Stadium. (Memorial Stadium is above and behind McCormick Field, off of Biltmore Avenue.)

We left our spent tree with the others we found there, in a pile under the “recycle your Christmas tree here” sign. The trees will be chipped up into mulch, and folks are invited to pick up a load of the mulch at Memorial Stadium, beginning Jan. 25.

The parking lots of the WNC Nature Center and all of Buncombe County’s high schools are also accepting discarded Christmas trees, and if you live in an incorporated area of the county, you can put your tree at the curb for pickup.

Christmas-tree recycling was so fun and easy that my true love and I might just become full-fledged environmentalists. Next year, we might even strap our Christmas-tree remains to the roof of our electric car.

– Kelly Grundman
Quality Forward

Asheville

Grundman works with Quality Forward. For more information on Christmas-tree recycling, or any recycling matters, call Quality Forward at 254-1776.

Answers to pet-animal overpopulation

I was amused by Susan A. Kamuda’s letter [Dec. 15]. I, too, read the letter from Marsha Womble [Dec. 1]. I believe Ms. Womble was referring to what the city’s and county’s contract monies are used for at the Friends For Animals Shelter, when she spoke of picking up animals, holding them for three days, and then destroying them.

That is not all that is done for the animals at the local animal shelter. FFA, a privately run, nonprofit organization, contracts with the county and city to handle dangerous and nuisance animals. Funding is based on handling those animals pretty much as Ms. Womble outlined. However, FFA takes over where the taxpayers’ dollars leave off. FFA works to obtain donations and grant funding to provide more for the animals that are scheduled for euthanasia after the 72-hour holding period. Each animal is evaluated for health and temperament to see if the animal is adoptable. If space is available, the animal will be vaccinated and surgically sterilized at the Humane Alliance Spay/Neuter Clinic before being placed into a loving home environment.

I think Ms. Womble was confused, as shelter workers have been, as to why some individuals continually hold the shelter responsible for overpopulation and animal suffering. The shelter does not breed or abandon the animals in its charge. The shelter simply provides those animals refuge from a harsh reality. People carelessly allow their pets to breed, and discard the offspring as if they have no value whatsoever.

Ms. Kamuda is correct: Animal population must be brought under control. Every effort should be made to educate [the public about] responsible pet ownership — including stopping the breeding of domestic animals! The answer to stopping the useless killing of innocent lives in animal shelters is: 1) spay or neuter your dog or cat; and 2) adopt your pets from the Animal Shelter.

As long as we provide a simple solution for careless breeders, by taking unwanted puppies and kittens off their hands, they have no incentive to spay or neuter their pets.

The ones at the shelter are just as lovable and in need of good homes as the ones you see listed in the “Free to a good home” ads.

– Nancie Liles, associate director
Friends For Animals
Leicester

Freedom of (bumper) speech

As an advocate of free speech, I was disappointed to read that Kirk Wallace had his car bumper slightly damaged when someone removed his “Cats Flattened While You Wait” bumper sticker [Letters, Dec. 8].

As an animal-rights activist, I, of course, find his sticker offensive, but I support his right to free speech. I have had my car damaged for displaying the slogans “If You Love Animals Called Pets, Why Do You Eat Animals Called Dinner,” and “Abolish Slavery, Boycott the Circus.” Imagine that: My car was harmed because I promote nonviolence.

I suppose I should have been outraged, as was Mr. Wallace. But I wasn’t surprised; I have learned that there are a lot of jerks out there.

After reading about Mr. Wallace’s plan to print 100 of these detestable bumper stickers, I now know there is one more jerk.

– Stewart David
Asheville

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