Letters to the editor

Mistreatment of blacks continues, Mr. Green

I want to first congratulate Peter Loewer for the sensible words about Cuba [Commentary, “Yanqui, si! Cuba, no!” Feb. 9]. Peter, please give us more columns like this, and less complaining about things like theaters and airplanes.

But what I really want to comment on is the letter from Charles Green regarding the Confederate flag in South Carolina [Feb. 9]. I want to first take exception to the initial assertion of the letter: “People should be proud of their heritage, regardless of the history behind it.” By this logic, should we expect Germans, 50 years from now, to be proud of the swastika? However, logic is not a strong point of Mr. Green’s letter, so I won’t attempt a logical response.

I do want to point out a factual inaccuracy of the letter, however. To imply that mistreatment of blacks by whites is a thing of the distant past is completely wrong. My guess is that most blacks can tell you stories of mistreatment they have experienced. It is going on right now, and Mr. Green’s letter is one twisted manifestation of it.

Letters like this make me think twice about your policy of printing all letters. Healing of this awful sore on the American experience isn’t going to happen until the white community faces up to its guilt.

— Doug Wade

Please recycle that complaint

As the president of Curbside Management (the city of Asheville’s recycling-collection contractor), I found Mr. Jim Hornaday’s letter of Feb. 2 very interesting. Mr. Hornaday complains that our crew left part of his materials at his curb and, in turn, he had to haul it off to the recycling center. Our office has never received any call from Mr. Hornaday on any occasion, nor does the crew serving his area recall any problem with his collection. If any customer has a problem with our service, all they have to do is call and make us aware of the situation.

We will send someone to investigate and — in Mr. Hornaday’s case — either collect the materials or communicate with him the reason the materials were left behind.

I hope Mr. Hornaday will give us another try and, if he has a problem, call us at 252-2532.

— David Johnson
Curbside Management

Trapped in the ‘Net of Babylon’s waters

[Editor’s note: The following transmission reached Xpress the old-fashioned way: via snail-mail, handwritten on blue-lined paper.]

Brushing back Hal Crowther’s verbal foliage uncovers — in his Feb. 2 essay “Unwired: A millennial manifesto” — some ripe, rich fruits of good thinking.

Hal’s right. Cybertechnology affects society to madness. Yes: In science, record-keeping and other value-neutral ways, cybertechnology is very useful. However, its complex techno-social web — like a spider’s web — traps the self-centered American in a pseudo-community of uneducated, disconnected, artificial people. Authentic self and true community die through neglect.

True enough, some technology is helpful. I transfer my handwritten poems to typed sheets on a simple word processor. But, like Thoreau, I simplify. I want my mind to shape my thinking, not externalities like the Internet. I want information completely in my head, not on CDs.

Good reader, if you value your autonomous mind and social soul, like Crowther and I, study Sven Bickerts’ The Gutenberg Elegies. Good companion reading is Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism.

Hacker, cyber-junkie, chat-room habitue! Do you really know John Donne, Feodor Dostoevski, Dickens or Darwin? Can you follow our great Western traditions of thought, or is all that’s in your head a mishmash?

Do you know, have you seen on your cool computer console screen, these literary allusions: “… sit beside the waters of Babylon” and “No man can serve two masters”? Do you know their source?

I’ll play Jeremiah to Hal Crowther’s Ecclesiastes. You — too many Americans — sit captive in technology’s Babylon, beside that opulent city’s seductive waters of consumerism. You serve your sole master, Mammon, via the ‘Net. You deny your community the presence of your flesh, blood and bone. And your soul shall die for it, unmourned. For no other flesh, blood and bone shall be present to mourn you. They’re all busy surfing the ‘Net.

— Thomas Paul Graham

Requiem for a bakery

This letter is in response to the recent closing of the Rollin’ Pin Bakery.

After decades of being daily customers, we were shocked when we discovered that the Rollin’ Pin Bakery was closed. This discovery was made on Dec. 27. After some inquiries, we found that the end the century also heralded the end of Rollin’ Pin — as of Dec. 24, 1999.

While at first, we believed that this could result in an immediate 10-pound weight loss, we discovered that the attempt to locate a new source of cream horns, Napoleons and sour-cream pastries resulted in a weight gain. So now we have a weight gain without the delicious flaky crusts or smooth chocolate or numerous other wonderful delights that the Rollin’ Pin was famous for.

Is this another sign of the small business disappearing across the face of America, being swallowed up by the large chain stores, or is it the end of an era? We believe that it is both!

We are not sure how various groups will be able to provide appropriate finger foods for their functions. Will these groups be able to continue to meet? Could this be the beginning of the end of these community groups?

This is a sad day in Asheville and in America at large. We mourn for Rollin’ Pin and the delicious treats, breads, cakes and cookies that they provided to this community.

Will society collapse?

In our minds, that is a distinct possibility.

— Linda Brown & Alice Smith

Moderating Asheville’s idealism

With all the talk about sustainable growth and feasible ways to take care of Asheville’s infrastructure needs, I can’t help but be reminded of a difficult period of unemployment that I went through a few years back.

I had an ideal regarding the sort of employment I wanted to have, realized that I certainly had the type of skills to be employed in it (or any number of other ideal fields of work), and found any number of justifications as to why I really should not have to settle for anything less. I starved, by the way! This was not in any way the fault of Asheville, but rather the fault of my own idealism. I had to eventually take a basic job that met my needs. And though [the job was] not glamorous or ideal, my needs were then met.

I see that Asheville itself has a surplus of such idealism. We want to keep Asheville the lovely gem that it truly is, but we are faced with dilemmas about how to keep it beautiful and manageable in size, and still develop a stronger economy that meets the needs of our citizens and our infrastructure.

I believe that, soon, we may be forced to swallow our pride in order to make progress. It is obvious that we will soon have to do something — something that may require us to sacrifice our idealism in some ways.

This does not mean that we have no choice but to sell out in the most degrading way we can think of, but rather that we (like I once had to) must simply take what is offered or available and make the best use of it we can. Any large or medium-sized American city has had to go through this process. We simply must decide if we are going to refuse to go through the process, or make the best choices for our city as we do go through it.

Once we, metaphorically, “take the job that’s offered” — instead of holding out forever for an ideal that simply may not be able to work the way we would hope — then our needs will be met, and we will be able to progress.

— Jon Myres

David Hurand is alive and doing well

Thanks for the article about WCQS and the future of public radio [“Surfing the news,” Feb. 2]. However, in discussing the station’s plans for future growth, I said that we might need to hire a news reporter before we hired a full-time Web director. Xpress erroneously quoted me as saying that we might need to hire a new news director.

David Hurand has been the WCQS news director since 1986. He is doing an excellent job for the station, and we have no plans to replace him at this time.

— Ed Subkis, general manager

An individual’s right to die

Having never made the pretension of answering the riddle of the sphinx or finding the gem at the center of the philosopher’s proverbial stone, yet do I persist in reaching for the higher self within my readers — notwithstanding the lower herd’s slavering predilection for tabloid sensations and transient pulp fiction. Just because a certain pretty boy with a nice pedigree had the ill-sense to fly off into the wild blue yonder with no proper pilot’s instrument training, should we grieve (or slaver) forever?

Today’s subject: the right to die when life becomes unbearable or even meaningless. In 1994, 51 percent of Oregon’s voters supported the Death with Dignity Act, and 60 percent reaffirmed it in 1997. The law recognized the right of terminally ill patients to end their suffering legally and painlessly by allowing a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of medication upon request.

Now, however, the Oregon law, and the right to assisted suicide, is under attack by religious conservatives — by those who would do practically anything to persuade us heathens to take up our crosses and follow their self-effacing and anti-Aristotelian “savior.”

The principle of individual rights means the right to direct the course of your entire life, to take those actions that you judge necessary for your life and happiness. Your right to control your own life, to set the terms of your own existence, should be yours for your entire adult life — up to and including the time and manner of your death, should death become desirable, compared to a living death.

— Charles Mathis

Religious right wields too much power

News flash for Carol Collins, Ralph Sexton Jr. and the rest of the oppressive brigade of self-righteous bullies: Not all of us want to be Christians!

This country supposedly grants the freedom to worship whom we choose — whether it’s Jesus, Buddha or Ricky Martin. And the First Amendment mandates separation of church and state [“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” -ed.]. Yet the city of Asheville and a few self-proclaimed leaders of its Christian community have taken it upon themselves to ignore the First Amendment of the Constitution and allow religion to influence and dictate local law, particularly in this instance of redefining “church” in the Unified Development Ordinance codes.

The local religious right [has] complained for more than two years, [trying to get] less government interference and regulations on religious practices in order to expand their “ministries.” They claim that current zoning regulations violate their right to separation of church and state. Yet these same people have lobbied to have local zoning regulations changed to benefit only a few select large churches in the area (those which aspire to become mega-churches), without any regard to the opposition presented by local taxpaying residents showing how damaging this will be for low-density zoned areas. For a group that contends it wants such separation, how is it that they can completely contradict themselves in this case?

I’m dismayed and disgusted at the lack of integrity on the part of our city leaders to stand up against such blatant partisan influence. [They are not] uphold[ing] the oaths of office to which they have been sworn, let alone the Constitution itself. To allow the morals and values of a religious group to influence … law[s] that affect those of us who do not share the same values is an outrage!

I’m quite confident that if this issue had been raised by a group other than the parties who initiated it — say, for instance, a Hindu sect seeking to build a large ashram to accommodate 2,400 members in a residential neighborhood — the whole notion of large “places of worship” on minor thoroughfares in low-density districts would have been dismissed a long time ago, as being too large and out of character with the rest of the neighborhood.

— Tom Lewis
West Asheville

Moses, grandfathers and Gov. Hunt

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, he said, “This is what the Lord has commanded to be done.” But suppose he [had] added, “Those currently engaged in the sins described herein, however, are exempted from these laws.”

His rationale might have been that thieves, burglars and assassins had invested in their professions (apprenticeships, tools, union dues), and that retraining in new careers would be a hardship. Moses and the Lord would rely on attrition. These sinners would soon die off, and all the world’s people would be in compliance with the new law.

This concept is called “grandfathering.”

Some people might feel that grandfathering is unfair — that the law should apply evenly to everyone. People of this inclination include folks working for clean air in North Carolina. They feel that the old coal-burning electrical power plants (which emit air pollution at four to 10 times the rate of modern plants) should be made to comply with the current standards.

The rationale for grandfathering power plants when the new law — the Clean Air Act — came down was that retrofitting them would be expensive, and they would soon be phased out anyway. But that was more than 20 years ago! It’s as if our hypothetical Moses had exempted a legion of outlaw Methuselahs!

If North Carolina’s 14 grandfathered plants (which emit 70 percent of our state’s mountain-obscuring sulfur dioxide and 40 percent of our ozone-causing nitrogen oxides) were made to comply with the current law, their emissions of these pollutants would be reduced by about 80 percent. This would be the equivalent of taking 11 million cars off the road!

The new North Carolina Clean Air Coalition has been working behind the scenes to educate state lawmakers on the scientific and economic feasibility of making our state’s 14 grandpas comply (i.e., the technology is readily available, and there would be no significant impact on rate payers). Their efforts are commendable, and their arguments are indisputable. Now it’s our turn.

Last September, at the Save Our State Forum at Warren Wilson College, Gov. Hunt challenged us to push him on issues that need attention. So let’s push. Tell our governor that clean air is more than an environmental concern, more than a question of economics, more than an argument of science. Clean air is a moral issue. Let’s apply the law evenly. Let’s bury the grandfathers.

— Kim Carlyle

(Kim Carlyle is active with the Friends Committee on Unity with Nature and Quaker Eco-Witness, as a member of the Asheville Friends Meeting).

Give us more foot paths

As a strong proponent of modes of transportation other than automobiles, I have read with interest the letters you’ve received about this subject. Although I have been frustrated about the lack of walkways at other times, the lack of footpaths became even more real to me on Jan. 22, during the first snowstorm.

After closing our workplace a bit before noon, I rode with a friend for about two miles, then insisted I could walk the rest of the way home (about three or four miles). It could have been a somewhat enjoyable walk, but it became hazardous because there is not even a narrow shoulder on Smokey Park Highway/Patton Avenue. At points there were grassy areas, but for a good deal of the way, I had to share the road with sliding vehicles. For the first time in my life, I was thankful for strip zoning — because I could at least walk through the parking lots of businesses.

I know that it will be expensive to correct this oversight, but I ask the governing bodies in the both the county and city to add shoulders and/or foot- and bicycle-paths in upcoming plans for improving the roadways.

Even many of us who own cars would prefer to walk or cycle, were the routes accessible.

— Joyce Birkenholz

A creek by any other name…

In [your Jan. 26 “Notepad”], there was an article about the possibility of changing the name of Mud Creek to Oklawaha Creek. The article went on to describe some of the effluent that presently enters the creek.

I had to smile to myself, remembering what I was told by a lifelong resident of Henderson County: “Once upon a time, long before the Blue Ridge Mall or I-26 existed, the natives of the region had a word in their language for solid human waste (what some now call the ‘S-word’). That word, of course, was ‘Oklawaha’!”

When I lived in Hendersonville, back in the ’60’s, I can remember listening to a radio program that featured stories about the area. Like all good stories, some were based on fact and others were more from the teller’s imagination.

Frank Fitzsimmons was the host, and I can recall him starting each program with, “From the banks of the Oklawaha …”. Oklawaha, of course, was the old name for Mud Creek!

Since I thought I was so smart, knowing what “Oklawaha” meant, I enjoyed seeing highway signs that read “Mud Creek” and knowing what it really meant.

Sounds as if the prophecy came true: Old Mud Creek’s now filled with oklawaha!

— Steve Longenecker

A lesson in recycling

I have some suggestions for Mr. Jim Hornaday [Letters, Feb. 2, “Curbside Ain’t on My Side”]. Apparently, some recyclables were left behind by the Curbside Management crew one day, and now he’s getting “revenge” on the city by producing as much garbage as he possibly can. [He thinks that] because he can’t just cancel his recycling service, he’s being denied his basic rights — or some such garbage (excuse the pun) — and now he’s coming across as pretty silly.

A fee for a service such as recycling is both positive and necessary. It’s positive because some people take the opposite of Mr. Hornaday’s logic: “Well, if I’m paying for recycling, I might as well try it. It’s necessary because there is no gold in garbage. Recyclables in large, densified quantities are worth some money.” Consider both Asheville Waste Paper and Biltmore Iron and Metal, both long-standing local businesses [that derive their income from recyclable materials]. But collecting all the little piles and making those big piles is expensive, and thus, everyone pays a little bit. Sure, it would be nice if we could turn things around and charge people for not recycling, giving the recyclers a break. There are methods to do that, but Asheville has not yet decided to make that kind of policy decision.

Regarding the incident that set this guy off, it sounds like someone made a mistake. Either he goofed by putting out nonrecyclable materials, or the crew goofed by not taking the stuff. Either way, it’s not such a big deal. Collecting recyclables is messy, and sometimes hazardous, work. Mr. Hornaday should give the workers the benefit of the doubt and at least find out exactly what happened.

It is entirely possible that Mr. Hornaday put out some nonrecyclable materials. I have been in the plastic-bottle recycling business for more than 10 years, and it’s amazing what kinds of stuff people put out for recycling when you ask them for “plastic bottles.” I’ve seen flower pots, pool liners, soiled baby diapers, margarine and yogurt tubs, and the sort of ridiculous plastic objects that serve no purpose, which are always for sale at Wal-Mart (folks buy plastic junk for 39 cents, then complain bitterly when the plastic industry can’t recycle it and everything else into value-added products). I could hold forth on this topic for a long time, but correctly identifying and then properly preparing recyclables is apparently beyond the skills of a large number of citizens.

If Mr. Hornaday put out materials that were unsuitable — or if he put them beside the bin instead of inside it — he should call Curbside Management and find out what’s correct. If the crew made a mistake and didn’t take properly prepared recyclables, then he should present his beef to Curbside and get the problem straightened out. This trash vendetta against the city is a pointless overreaction to the incident, as far as I can tell.

— Sandi M. Childs
National Association for PET Container Resources

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