Letters to the editor

Where have you gone, compassionate Asheville?

I grew up around here. I always told people throughout my travels to come spend time in Asheville, “It’s the richest spot in the Blue Ridge. Asheville is the kind of place you can walk hand in hand with your girlfriend, and people will not look twice.”

That is, until Saturday morning.

My partner and I went to the “Family Values and Sanctity Of Marriage Rally” rally [on March 6] to gather opinions and to learn how Asheville stood on this heated national issue. Even though I knew I wouldn’t agree with the majority opinions, I want to believe the true way to help a person change is to find the root of their belief by listening.

A stage with ministers appeared to be the focal point, all men garbed in their conservatively fashioned dark suits, and all with Bibles in hand. There were also many citizens standing in front speaking an occasional “amen.” Scattered sparsely between this crowd were the occasional rainbow flag, as well as police officers, ensuring no violent acts would occur.

Listening to the ministers and the crowd, I became mesmerized; the chants and sunlight all glazed my thoughts. A man asked me to move back, and I let him know I was listening half-blind to the fact he was there. Then I heard, “Ma’am, please move back onto the grass,” and I realized the man was a police officer — who had brought friends. Before my eyes, in a matter of what seemed a mere minute or two, a line of public-service workers, men and women, formed a breach of my civil rights across the lawn.

Then it was over. I had just become an example of what is feared and never quite comprehended. I was an undesirable being outcast by police officers due to the fact I love a woman. Where I thought the police would protect me for being different, they were arresting individuals — citizens just like me. Minutes passed, and on the verge of hysteria, I was ready to leave. I found myself in a tight pin between police officers unwilling to budge and a group of angry and sympathetic Americans, and looking for a way out.

Alienation appears now to be at the forefront of Asheville’s thinking. The powerful train “America” that seems to have destroyed paths worldwide has found a new track in my backyard.

— Amy Huntsman
Asheville

Illegal immigrants a “clear and present danger” to America

A clear and present danger stalks every American citizen: illegal immigrants.

The “Repuke-again Korngress” and Prez. Bush are allowing American citizens to die so illegal immigrants can live and work, and receive free medical services, food stamps, education and amenities [that] Americans pay extortionately for or [else] do without. Will the death of 13 million American citizens be acceptable to the U.S. Congress, Prez. Bush and business owners so illegal aliens, immigrants, whatever, can live in the U.S. and not pay taxes, yet drain services American citizens should receive?

Illegal immigrants rape, murder, steal and assault law-enforcement officers and citizens; [they] drive without insurance and driver licenses (except in Marshall); and [they] falsify documents — and the U.S. Congress ignores the situation, and the judicial [branch] does not enforce immigration laws. The U.S. Congress shows that homeland security isn’t important. The phrase “Can’t we all just get along?” is their motto.

Illegal immigrants are enemies of American citizens, as are individuals that harbor, support, aid and abet them. Every American must report business owners that employ illegal aliens, and individuals and agencies that aid and abet.

Yes, a clear and present danger exists in America. Will we allow it to continue? Greed will allow it to continue.

— Jim Inman
Asheville

A smile for the stranger who snagged his own misplaced butt

I need to publicly thank a stranger who made my day. No, really, he did, even though he seemed sarcastic when he asked if he had. Confused?

It was so simple. I was leaving MAHEC, walking to my car. Toward me strolled a well-dressed man, smoking, who spontaneously tossed his cigarette “away” into the parking lot’s storm drain. He headed past me toward the building. But the cigarette didn’t fall through the grating, it stayed on top.

The environmental educator in me took over before I even had a chance to know what was coming out of my mouth. “You know, that’s going to end up in the stream,” I said, trying not to sound too dismayed. He looked at me. I continued, “It’s still sitting there, you can still get it.” He continued to walk away … but then he turned around, and he went back, and he picked it up. He told me that if it made my day, he was glad. Well, it did, and I am glad, too. If he really wants to make my year, I hope that next time, he’ll remember — and that he’ll want to find a trashcan.

I always assume folks really don’t know (since I even had to teach my dad, and dads know everything, right?); in case you don’t, all trash that gets dropped or washed down a storm drain will end up in the closest creek, stream or river eventually. No one cleans it up, and it doesn’t go to a treatment plant. Those drains are designed to keep our roads and parking lots free from flooding, and to move water away, quickly.

Another thing that many people don’t know is that chemical additives can leach out of tobacco remnants and kill microscopic organisms in streams. Also, those cigarette filters made of plastic (or cellulose acetate, to be exact) that protect us by trapping toxins can leach those toxins when sitting in water. And cigarette filters are not biodegradable (see www.longwood.edu/cleanva/ciglitterarticle.htm).

So if you care at all about our waterways — their beauty, the critters that live in them that may think a plastic cigarette filter is food (yes, I’ve literally seen them in the bellies of fish) — then please, make my year.

Thanks, stranger!

— Linda Block
Leicester

Shame on March of Dimes — and on Mountain Xpress

Shame on the Mountain Xpress for sponsoring the Chili Cookoff at the Grove Arcade [on March 20], a fund-raising event for the March of Dimes. Unlike the Association of Birth Defect Children Inc., which collects human data to study birth defects, or Easter Seals, the MOD relies on antiquated and cruel animal experiments.

They have funded research to cause uterine infections in healthy, pregnant monkeys to try to trigger premature labor. Monitoring cables were inserted [into] the monkeys’ uteruses and into their babies’ bodies, tethering the animals in small cages. The mothers wore restraint jackets throughout their pregnancies to try to stop them from tearing out the wires and catheters. When the babies were born, they were killed for further study.

Physicians have known for decades that bacterial infections are linked to pre-term birth. MOD has funded experiments in which drugs, nicotine and alcohol were given to pregnant and newborn animals. We have known about detrimental effects of these substances for years. Why is MOD wasting money and animals’ lives? MOD, in an effort to deflect criticism, says they do research on fruit flies, which is true. They fail to mention the primates, kittens, ferrets, birds, frogs, sheep and other animals they use in grotesque experiments.

When you contribute to the March of Dimes, you need to ask yourself this question: How many animals will be killed with your contribution? Skip MOD’s WalkAmerica event in April and contribute to humane charities [instead].

For more info, go to www.MarchOfCrimes.com and www.charitiesinfo.org.

— Terri David
Asheville

[Ed. Note: Just as an aside: The all-vegetarian Rosetta’s Kitchen won Most Original Chili for their all-vegan entry, beating out nine meat-based-chili contenders.]

Something rotten in the state of the union

Of all the “neocons” around Bush, probably the worst one is [Vice President Dick] Cheney. As CEO of Halliburton, he insisted the company buy Dresser Industries, an entity saddled with enormous liabilities because of its use of asbestos in some of its products. As a corporate employee, Cheney might qualify as office messenger. Instead, he is now the messenger of fear and greed, and is obviously the designated attack dog against the Democratic presidential nominee-designate.

Cheney is the draft dodger who had “other priorities” during Vietnam and managed to obtain several deferments so he could play tennis. Devious, furtive and secretive, Cheney operates clandestinely to advance the agenda of big business, especially Halliburton. His Energy Task Force, which met secretly with the likes of Ken Lay — then CEO of Enron — is under investigation and refuses to release pertinent documents. His duck-hunting buddy, Justice Antonin Scalia, refuses to recuse himself from the case. You can imagine the Republicans going berserk if similar circumstances occurred under a Democratic administration. Even the Army has had enough and is withholding $300 million in payments to Halliburton for possible overcharging of meals to troops in Iraq/Kuwait.

John Ashcroft, another neocon, received eight deferments between 1963 and 1969. This man has the gall to question the patriotism of anyone opposed to the unnecessary war against Iraq, or [anyone] who protests his so-called Patriot Act designed to limit our civil liberties. Here are the names of other hypocrites who were in favor of the war in Vietnam but managed, by devious means, not to serve: Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Saxby Chambliss. A lot of familiar Republican names, right?

Don’t recognize Chambliss? That’s the one who defeated Max Cleland in Georgia. Cleland lost three limbs in Vietnam and won the Congressional Medal of Honor while Chambliss avoided service with four student deferments and a “football injury.” But Cleland opposed the Iraq conflict and Chambliss was strongly in favor. Go figure.

We must get rid of this rotten bunch in Washington come next November.

— Leon O. Gouin
Asheville

New mental-health-system doctors = drug pushers?

I have been treated at the Blue Ridge Center for six years now, and for bipolar disorder overall for the last 22 years. When I have asked Blue Ridge about alternatives to the medications they have prescribed for me, I have been told that there are none. When I presented information to my doctor in September 2003 regarding one of these alternatives, she told me that she knew nothing about it and refused to discuss it further — my patient chart, on the other hand, was annotated with “strongly cautioned patient against use.”

Now that I have been stable [for more than] four months but not using their drugs, my physician’s assistant admitted that there was considerable evidence in favor of the use of fish oil in treating depression and bipolar disorder — but I had to tell him I was using it before he’d admit this. (For the record, there is also considerable evidence showing the effectiveness of fish oil in treating schizophrenia).

It should be pointed out that the medications they prescribe have serious, often hazardous, and sometimes fatal side effects, whereas the alternatives — such as fish oil and lithium orotate — are considered nontoxic.

I was told by my PA that the New Vistas doctors do not need to monitor me any further (unless, of course, I have a relapse and consent to taking drugs again, which he graciously predicted). He stated that the New Vistas doctors’ only job is to prescribe medications and make certain the patients are taking them — in other words, they are not health-care professionals, but drug pushers.

I have friends in other areas of the country whose psychiatric doctors inform them of alternatives and continue to do follow-up care with them, so this attitude is not universally held. We should not permit this inferior level of service from our local, state-authorized provider of these services. As long as this attitude continues at New Vistas, their patients are not being provided the medical care they deserve, and the doctors are not living up to their oaths as physicians.

If anyone would like more information on alternatives to these dangerous and unproven medications, they can visit www.qroups.yahoo.com/group/ALT-therapies4bipolar.

— Gerald L. Bliss
Asheville

[Ed. Note: As of March 1, the Blue Ridge Center stopped treating adult and child mental-health patients as part of state-mandated mental-health reform. New Vistas Behavioral Health Services, a private nonprofit, is among the care providers under the revised system.]

Thank you, Mr. President, for a job well done!

I just want to publicly express my thanks to our president, George W. Bush, for the courageous leadership that he has provided and continues to do so. The recession left to us by former President Clinton has finally come to an end. America has stood up for herself and her beliefs in the face of cowardly terrorists and those who support them. Democracy is finally becoming a reality in Iraq and Saddam Hussein will no longer threaten his countrymen or the world.

Thanks to President Bush, my wife and I kept many tax dollars in our pockets, and we feel much safer now because of the Patriot Act. For far too many reasons to list, thank you, Mr. President, for a job well done! You have our votes on the coming Election Day.

— Darrin Tinsley
Flat Rock

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