Letters to the editor

Mess with my “aesthetic junk” and I’ll mess with yours

I’m currently at the South Pole … but the city of Asheville is trying to make my life difficult.

Prior to leaving for a year at the bottom of the Earth, I tucked my cars, motorcycles and other toys away for a long slumber. Having an ample two-car garage in West Asheville allows for tidy storage.

For a few days this past month, my housemate and caretaker decided to work on his 200,000-mile Volvo wagon in the relative warmth of the garage. To do so, he had to pull my beloved 1971 Dodge pickup, “Vivian,” out and park her in the yard.

Apparently, someone from the city decided they did not like my truck in my yard. They took exception to her sweeping good lines and bullish front grill. They also slapped an “Aesthetic Junk” sticker on dear Viv. It more or less stated that if she wasn’t moved, she would be hauled off at my expense and sold at auction to the highest bidder. Apparently, they failed to notice the new Michelin tires, newly upholstered interior and the fresh collection of propaganda stickers on the rear window (and a prized vintage High Energy Sports bumper sticker).

My roomie, the responsible party that he is, called the number on the sticker. The voice on the other end told him that he would have to prove he had the keys and demonstrate that the truck would run. Being relatively sane and none too tolerant of silly bureaucrats, my roomie hung up on them.

Figuring there was no point in challenging fate or city agencies, my roomie drove Viv back into the garage and padlocked the door.

I was initially pretty angry when I learned about this. Since when does the city decide it can come into my yard and hassle an old truck? I suppose they’ll come after my 1966 motorcycle and old convertible next.

My next thought was, nope, they ain’t gonna mess with my truck. Should anyone decide to return, they can talk to my attorney.

And finally, I thought about “Aesthetic Junk.” I think when I get home, I’m going to start my own little stickering campaign. I’ll start with every behemoth SUV parked downtown, then move on to the silly sign in front of Diana Wortham, then that monstrosity in front of the Federal Building … and then there’s the whole of west Patton Avenue …

If you want trouble, mess with my truck.

-67 degrees Fahrenheit and dreaming of Asheville.

— Dean Klein
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
Antartica

Sewell’s outrage was right on

Amen, brother!

In response to the commentary “A hard rain’s a-gonna fall” by Glennie Sewell [Feb. 7], I’m happy to see the Mountain Xpress has not yet sold out to [the] mainstream media school of thought and has the wherewithal to publish such an article.

I believe Mr. Sewell is neither paranoid nor a ranting lunatic. As a matter of fact, I think he’s frightfully right on! Is he the only person in this town with clear vision?! Where is the outrage?

We call Asheville a conscious and progressive town, yet we sat by, apathetic and dumb, while the presidential election was stolen out from under us. Like some prophetic sci-fi novel, the “Christian” right fulfills its agenda while we mindlessly fall prey to its bigoted ideals. I wonder with whom Jesus is more disgusted: demons disguised as Christians or the pitiable masses too stupid to see the difference?

Gay, Black, Jew, Pagan? Run for your lives! Because you were/are too lazy to fight for what few rights you have, you are now sure to lose them.

— Ann Brailsford
Fairview

Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” is cruel

With his first act as president, George W. Bush has finally clarified what he means when he talks about “compassionate conservatism.” To score political points with the Republican right, he has decreed an end to federal assistance to overseas groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation that — according to his speech of the same week — use taxpayer funds “to pay for or advocate or actively promote abortion.”

These organizations do no such thing, as Mr. Bush well knows. In fact, they are prevented by federal law from doing so. The tax dollars they receive are used for family-planning education that attempts to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and thus the need for ending them. (Any abortion counseling or services they offer are usually funded by private donations.)

The cruelest irony, of course, is that the countries where these services are most desperately needed are populated mainly by poor people of color and are afflicted with a host of political, social and environmental woes — from civil wars to drought and famine. So what, apparently, does Bush mean when he uses the phrase “compassionate conservatism?” It’s compassionate to protect the unborn in the womb. It’s conservative to let them suffer, starve and die once they’ve left it.

— Jeff Callahan
Summerville, S.C.

Of beeksteaks, animal activism and letters to the editor

It seems of some importance to Asheville and regional activists (like Terri and Stewart David) to keep putting the issue of animal exploitation before the public by submitting letters on the subject to Xpress. They’re quite persistent.

For a while, I read their letters. Not to belittle their efforts, but for myself the denouncement approach and the rhetorical repetition have gradually reduced my interest in those letters to zero.

This isn’t an argument against that work of publicizing that the activists do somewhat methodically. My own experience of “letters” columns [is] that they’re most like the inside of waste containers — full of stuff you only look at out of vulgar curiosity. So if a few “awakened” folks wish to display the results — information-wise — of the workings of a radical intelligence, kudos!

This very letter, though, comes from someone who has a beefsteak in his freezer and does not “practice” any dietary adjustments by exact principle. The Pack Library … in Asheville has a book called Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, by one Jeremy Rifkin, [and] the pleasure of reading has just been mine. It came to my attention while browsing. While not so much “opening my eyes” as “painting too clear a picture,” the books needs to be read by anyone looking for “the straight dope” on modern life. I recommend it to you. It’s found at 394.12 in the nonfiction section.

Whatta world!

— John Ayers
Asheville

Don’t believe Ringling’s glossy pamphlets about circle animals

Slowly but surely, the image of animal circuses is crumbling as word leaks out about training methods, traveling conditions and living conditions for the animals. More and more state and local governments, as well as other countries, have banned or restricted circuses with animals.

Ringling hands out glossy pamphlets claiming how well they take care of their animals, but government inspection reports and ex-employees have a different story to tell. Ringling has bred 10 Asian elephants at its Center for Elephant Conservation, but two of those babies are dead. Kenny, who died after being forced to perform even though he was sick, resulted in Ringling being charged with violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Ringling settled the charges with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $20,000 in 1998. Benjamin drowned in 1999 under suspicious circumstances. Two other babies were found by a USDA inspector to have “large visible lesions on [their] rear legs.” Two trainers interviewed during the inspection stated that Doc and Angelica suffered from rope burns while being forcibly separated from their mothers. Ringling considered this method of separation to be “standard industry practice.” After consulting with six elephant experts, the USDA told Ringling that “We consider the handling of these two elephants as reported on our inspection report of Feb. 9-10 to be noncompliant with the Animal Welfare Act regulations. … We believe there is sufficient evidence that the handling of these animals caused unnecessary trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm and discomfort to these two elephants.”

A complaint was filed on behalf of the Performing Animal Welfare Society with the USDA in April 2000. The complaint identifies Tom Rider, a former Ringling elephant handler, as a witness to abuse. The complaint charges that “Mr. Rider has identified several handlers and trainers by name who he personally witnessed repeatedly beat the elephants in the Blue Unit, including the babies. Mr. Rider also traveled with the elephants on tour, and said that they live on cramped stock cars, are chained for more than 23 hours per day, and exposed to extreme temperatures, and left to stand in their own waste for hours at a time.” Another former Ringling employee executed an affidavit in which abuse was documented. He witnessed the beating of an elephant who had performed poorly. One handler beat Nicole on the head, on the trunk and behind the front feet until the handle of the bull hook shattered. Another handler was beating her at the same time on the lumbar and hindquarter area until the metal hook penetrated the skin and blood began to flow.

PAWS, the Fund for Animals, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute and former Ringling employees have filed a civil suit against Ringling for violating the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.

When Ringling hands you a glossy pamphlet, ask them about the 11 animals that have died since 1992. For more info, check out www.circuses.com.

— Terri David
Asheville

When innocents are murdered, we all suffer

The headlines make us say, “Damn, that is a shame,” and then we check the weather report. Recently, three women in our community were brutally killed, and I am so full of anger and a sense of injustice, I find myself shocked that the world keeps spinning and that buses still run. This could have been your mother, your daughter or even you.

So what is the point of doing a letter to the editor? Can I impart any knowledge or make any clever observations? Well, I can make it a sociology paper and blame society, the media, television and the NRA for the senseless deaths of these women in our community. But the real blame is on the men who committed the crimes. It is only because these types never acknowledge any responsibility for their actions that we harp on other groups who do.

The only possibly positive outcome of this tragedy is to emphasize the importance of victim-services agencies in our community. The good works of nonprofits such as Helpmate, Interlace, Pisgah Legal Services, Our Voice and many others have prevented these headlines from being more frequent. In the public sector, the law-enforcement officers and the district attorney’s office have made addressing these issues primary in their policy and procedure. On state and federal levels, legislation — which needs your support — is being proposed to further protect women from violence.

But isn’t it all too late and too little to protect a young mother from her estranged boyfriend, a teenage girl from some creep and a young woman from her kidnappers? I am not saying that the efforts should be abandoned. I wrote this letter to express some (just some) of my anger, frustration, rage and sorrow at the community we are all responsible for developing. I know I am not the only one who feels this way. But we all need to act, in our professional and personal lives, on the streets and in our homes. We need to take responsibility for the good as well as the bad that occurs in our communities, because we are obligated not by law or even by ethics. It is a question of survival. When an innocent person is killed, part of our own innocence and dignity dies too.

— Johnny Lee, victim services coordinator
Asheville Police Department

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