Letters to the editor

Animal Services Advisory Board is a circus sideshow

Bored with Seinfeld reruns? Does the movie fare look bleak? Come on over to the old Carolina Power and Light building across from Three Brothers Restaurant, where — on the first and third Monday of each month — the Advisory Board to the Animal Shelter (recently mysteriously renamed Animal Services Advisory Board) meets at 6:30 p.m. It’s a hoot! It’s government in action!

Better yet, get there around 8 p.m., when the public is allowed to make pathetic three-minute attempts at voicing their concerns over the egregious cases of foul play and irresponsibility attributable to shelter management. There are far too many irregularities to cite in the space of this letter. But they are all stored away in written form and mentally noted by the few who have the stomach to persist.

An example: Animal Control tells an animal owner to take his dog to a vet, who treats the dog for a serious condition. Animal Control then decides the dog should be removed, and [it] is taken to the shelter. The vet gives medical instructions that, presumably, would have resulted in a possible recovery. The instructions (IV fluids, antibiotics) are not followed. The dog is put in a cage, and is found dead 24 hours later.

Another example: A man axes a dog to death, and [allegedly] threatens … two bystanders, a mother and her son. He is taken to court, but is let off on a mistrial. …

It goes on and on. The standard response from the acting chairman is “next, please” — or, even, “The meeting is over.” Only a very few of these cases have been brought before the board, because it is so humiliating to be treated as an anti-government agent with an agenda. The objective, it seems, is to create a multitude of committees and subcommittees, perhaps to keep the board’s members busy and away from troublesome issues.

But, if you [go] to one of these meetings, let me warn you: Go for entertainment value only. Clear your mind and heart of any thoughts of animals and their well-being. Otherwise, you’ll be sick to your stomach.

— Molly Weibenson

Domestic violence affects all of us

Women and children are being abused daily, everywhere across the country. Women’s shelters, emergency rooms [and] police reports all substantiate that this is occurring.

Yes, some men are being abused also.

Yes, we need ways to determine the dynamics of any assaultive situation.

[But] arguing about numbers diverts energy and resources from the basic problem: violence in the family.

We need to address the violence in ways that stop recurring violence, and change the patterns that prevail in our community and society. We require a social-justice system that:

• has the authority — backed by the community at large — to say, “There is no excuse for domestic violence”;

• places safeguards for all members of the family;

• holds abusers accountable; and

• provides resources for change.

This requires incredible teamwork by the criminal- and civil-justice system, churches, social-service agencies, health and mental-health professionals, workplaces, law enforcement, family, friends and advocates.

Domestic violence affects not just some people, but every one of us.

— Janet Harvey
Asheville-Buncombe County Family Violence Task Force

Enough extraneous e-mail, already!

In many ways, e-mail comes as a blessing to most of us who wanted to correspond with friends, but seldom seemed to have the time to find a pen, a sheet of paper, an envelope, a stamp and a mailbox. With e-mail, it is almost effortless to bat out a note or a letter to as many friends as the mood strikes us to be in touch with on any particular day. And it’s rewarding to know that friendships are being preserved and strengthened by the frequent contact.

But even blessings have their downside, especially when “friends” use e-mail to forward or attach some of the worst junk and poor excuses for humor. I have received long, forwarded messages initiated by absolute strangers at the intercession of mutual friends — some of the extraneous material dribbling on for as much as 20 pages, including three or four pages of erroneous details about the times, places of transmittal and names of more strangers. That puts a strain on friendship.

I hereby [state publicly] that I urgently request all of my correspondents to use my e-mail address for personal messages only.

I am not even slightly interested in the run of current jokes, or someone’s crusade to cement up all of the chinks in the Great Wall of China, or the transparent hoaxes regarding the monetary reward [awaiting] if you will just forward this message to Father Moses in the Wilderness.

I am not interested in any messages [other than] personal news about family and friends.

Please forward this message to all of your e-mail correspondents, and we may be able to mount a worldwide movement to free up the Internet.

— Norm Smith

Salt in this worker’s wounds

I am writing in response to the “Cooperative Food Fight” article [March 8], in which I was mentioned and misrepresented.

I was fired from the French Broad Food Co-op, and my request for an explanation why is yet to be granted. I am left to assume that it is because I openly disagreed with General Manager Jim DeLuca’s treatment of staff, and as elected staff representative, felt compelled to address these matters. Although, when concerned co-workers asked Department Manager Andy Erwin why I had been fired, he said, because I had been late a lot — hmmmm.

The irony of David Williams stating that it was my temper that got me fired is a bit much. Williams came to me several times to mediate differences with co-workers, and I often perceived his behavior to be volatile.

It is harsh enough to be fired and escorted out of an establishment where I served with hard work and dedication. To be slandered in my community’s paper is salt in the wound.

— Catherine Shane

[Editor’s note: When contacted, Andy Erwin said he had no comment, due to pending National Labor Relations Board activity. Jim DeLuca responded, “We followed progressive discipline procedures, and she was informed at every step.”]

Wake up and sniff the air

I find it challenging to write a calm, rational letter when so much madness abounds around me. Life in Western North Carolina — in the beautiful, lush and serene Blue Ridge — always seemed so harmonious and perfect … until I started paying attention (proof that ignorance is bliss).

This morning, there was no way I could not pay attention as a friend and I [drove on] Highway 19/23 [toward] the Flat Creek community. We were greeted with torrents of smoke that had been pouring into the sky long enough to flood the surrounding valley with a thick layer of toxicity. When I asked my friend what the smoke was from, he told me that he’d heard a new school was being built and that “they” were clearing the land and burning the brush.

Is there anyone reading this who is unaware that Western North Carolina — and, specifically, Buncombe County — have experienced dangerous levels of air pollution recently?

Hello-o-o-o, is there anybody out there?!

At this point, I’d like to believe that all people have a basic, elementary understanding that all things are connected (yes, I know I’m a bit idealistic). Perhaps some think I’m naive for expecting people and organizations to be responsible when making decisions that affect the environment and all of the plants and creatures that inhabit this environment.

And besides, I don’t live in Flat Creek; I live in south Candler, so why should I care, right? I care because I treasure this haven that so many of us (more and more all the time) call home, and feel an ache in the core of my body to treat this land with the respect it deserves! And what happens in the Flat Creek community ultimately affects each and every one of us.

It is not too much to ask for individuals, institutions and organizations to develop creative strategies for development that minimize a negative environmental impact. We, as humans, have the intelligence to engage in quantum physics, so I know we have the resources and capabilities to generate solutions that function in harmony with our ecosystem (as opposed to throwing us into wilder imbalances!).

At the risk of being hanged for heresy, the “almighty dollar” is no longer the bottom line.

And to directly address the organization that is responsible for the untenable level of toxicity being churned into the atmosphere at the Flat Creek exit: I hold you directly accountable for the increased level of air pollution created by your blatantly irresponsible activities! I invite you to provide the citizens of Western North Carolina with an explanation of why you feel you have the right to further destroy the environment in which we live. How many people’s breathing will suffer as a result of your egocentric ignorance and arrogance? And how many of your own employees or members of their families have asthma or other breathing difficulties, [and] will be directly affected by your actions?

It is imperative that all of us come to the understanding that every decision we make has consequences. Whether those consequences are harmonious and beneficial or disharmonious and detrimental is up to each of us. We can no longer conveniently ignore that all things are connected. Though our actions are based in the present time, the resulting consequences are far-reaching and extend into the future, affecting every generation to come.

I am committed to being true and committed to being accountable for my decisions. I expect the same of everyone reading this.

— Sharon K. Martin

You don’t tell a junkie to wait

I’ve had a long-term problem with drug addiction, but what has seemed to cause an even worse problem is: Where do you get help in Asheville? … When I called the Blue Ridge Mental Health methadone clinic, I asked, “Can I please have help today?” The reply: No. [There is a] one- to two-week [waiting period].

They don’t understand: When someone calls and wants help and is told they’re going to have to wait one to two weeks, that’s enough to send some of us over the edge.

When someone with a drug problem calls wanting help, you don’t put them off. They are either in so much pain, as I was, that I could have killed myself just to get out of pain, [or go] to the street, to get anything to get out of pain.

Everybody’s situation is different. I do have to take meds for four back surgeries, and, at times, [my] tolerance gets too high. It takes more to keep from hurting — and then you’re on the street doing things you should not have to do, if there was some help around here.

I am sure there are people out there who care enough to take this problem more seriously than what I have found. … And I know there are people out there in a lot worse shape than me, and I want to be able to help.

You don’t tell a junkie, “You’re going to have to wait”; that can be a matter of life or death.

I was on the street, paying outrageous prices [for drugs] just to be able to feel normal. Sooner rather than later, it’s going to turn real bad.

As bad as I wanted help today, I did find some [relief on the streets]. If I was still in that pain, I would be thinking of dying. That’s what makes me think of people [who] might not be as lucky as I was today.

Then there’s tomorrow.

— name withheld
Black Mountain

We’re all slaves to something or other

Wake up, citizens! Be aware that [we] white guys have succeeded in enslaving virtually all of you — including ourselves!

In the flush of our success at this, we seem to forget that we, the members of this society, are just now evolving out and away from human slavery. Why? Because — after millennium upon millennium of rich and powerful people owning poorer and weaker people [who performed] their hard, dangerous, dirty, boring, menial tasks for them — the advent of machine technology has made human slavery obsolete.

Slavery has been a constant factor in our social, economic, intellectual and spiritual lives for countless generations. It still is.

The difference between this country now and 130 or so years ago is that human slaves have been supplanted by machines. After all, machines are designed and tailor-made to perform specific tasks of precision, power and repetitiveness, which humans simply cannot match, i.e., John Henry. In short, human slaves are inefficient and no longer cost-effective. …

Human slaves require food, shelter, rest, coercion, sex, spiritual entertainment and, most of all, secure confinement. None of the foregoing — with the exception of energy (food) — is required by a machine. A machine simply stands and waits for its owner or operator to turn it on. And, once turned on, it goes — that is, if it is fueled, lubricated, plugged in or whatever.

It’s ironic that … we — the owners of mechanical servants — have ourselves been enslaved to the sale, acquisition, maintenance and propagation of them. Because of this, a more insidious form of human slavery now exists. It’s called “wage slavery.”

A “wage slave,” to a different extent, is enslaved (employed) by an owner (boss). A boss oversees the labor of the employee, to ensure that the goals of the boss’s firm are achieved. To do this, the boss pays the employee just enough in wages and benefits to satisfy his wants, while still retaining enough profit to satisfy his stockholders. The boss exhorts his workers to greater efforts by promising them more money if their efforts cause the firm’s income to grow. The work itself, and wages it pays, are the chains that bind the wage slave to his job.

The motivating legend driving many workers to higher and higher efforts on behalf of their employer’s success is simple: Work hard and smart and you, too, can be as rich and as powerful as the boss. The problem is, the bosses keep inflating the price of the stuff (produced by the wage slave for the boss), which the wage slave wants in order to appear … as affluent as the bosses.

Consequently, the “lifestyle” of the rich is forever beyond the wage slave’s grasp — unless, of course, you get lucky in the stock market, or you are the boss. Then you’re a slave of a different sort.

When considering our society — its beauty, diversity, allure, sensationalism, cruelties and injustice — one basic cause for the custom of slavery seems clear. It is fear: the fear that there ain’t enough to go around, that there’s not enough stuff in the universe for all our needs and wants. We all seem helpless victims of this fear, so we spend enormous amounts of energy to alleviate it. Some of us attain the illusion of having “enough.” Others never do, and are doomed to live in a state of slavery and pander to an insatiable hunger and longing for more….

Our current compulsion to be “politically correct” — to root out prejudice, inequality and injustice, especially with regards to symbols like battle flags, the cars we drive, the brand of clothes we wear, the cup size of our bras — is a form of slavery, also. Manipulation against a person’s will is slavery. Manipulation through lies, exaggerations and obfuscation is also slavery — although its victims probably won’t notice.

Before we issue angry comments or harsh critiques against utterances and actions of a fellow citizen who — by rendering those remarks — stimulated our outrage, we should first pause and reflect upon the fact that the offender is our brother or sister human. We might even consider the counsel of the Prophet Almustafa, the Chosen and Beloved, who told us that, “Even as the Holy and the Righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each of you, so the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lower which is in you also” (K. Gibran).

Ultimately, we are all slaves to something or other. In our attempts to be free, we become very clever — so clever, we quite often outfox ourselves. So, as enslaved owners of slaves, it becomes clear we should practice compassion for ourselves and others. It’s quite simple, really. Be kind. Be grateful. Be loving. And, if you truly want to be free, forget all desire and reject all wants.

— Vanimike

ImageScape: A zoning-wars antidote

I’m asking everybody in the Asheville/Buncombe/Fletcher area to take part in a pictorial land-use survey that’s fun, friendly, takes less than an hour, and can result in more livable development in the future. It’s a land-use event where you can express yourself, be heard, and no one yells at you.

HUH? Is this even possible?

Yes, with ImageScape 2000, it is! Please find the survey location nearest you, or you can take it on the Web at www.main.nc.us/imagescape/ [Editor’s note: For locations and more on Imagescape, see Notepad, elsewhere in this issue].

ImageScape 2000 is an innovative community-image survey that’s gaining popularity nationwide for helping people envision their development preferences without the usual zoning fights.

You’ll view pictures of different kinds of shopping areas, roadways and neighborhoods, mostly from the Buncombe County/Fletcher area. Would you want more or less of those kinds of scenes in your community? You’ll rate each picture accordingly.

The pictures that get the highest and lowest scores will be published in a booklet, to be used by local planners, officials and developers. Community-image surveys like ImageScape 2000 have been credited with creating new development more in line with what people prefer from Helena, Mont., to Comer, Ga., to Portland, Ore.

Please take the survey, and spread the word! We’re seeking a real diversity of people to take the survey, to ensure more credible results.

— Meg MacLeod, ImageScape 2000 board member

Ask before you paint

In reference to [J.S. Bianchi’s] quote, “I went to the owner of the shop the next day, and asked her if she liked the painting …” [Commentary, “Wake up to skateboarders and graffiti culture,” March 22], I am 53 years old and I roller skate, roller blade, ice skate and hope to snowboard next year. I have seen lots of graffiti art that was very pleasing to my eye. I am also a Libertarian.

There is a thing called property rights. You see, you … paint on [someone’s] property after they give you permission.

I don’t know if you have a car or not, [Mr. Bianchi]. Let’s suppose you do. I am an artist of a sort. How would you like to be asked a day later if you liked the painting I put on your car yesterday?

You are young, and I am not angry at you. You need to mature a bit. I am doing that still, too.

— Clarence Ervin Young, candidate for 28th District, North Carolina Senate

A fetish or a special someone?

Alli Marshall fancies a fetish, she says. What a lovely, well-written, witty essay [Commentary, “In search of a fetish”] she shared in the March 8 Mountain Xpress.

Then … havoc! Before my horrified eyes, right out of my male reptilian hindbrain, rose an epiphany I must share. All know to what depths we men sink.

I, bottom feeder, read between the lines of Alli’s theme that, in effect, she didn’t have time for hobbies. She was searching for a fetish, an object — compact in time and space — of obsessive devotion. This innocent poetry grad student used the sweet example of jam. Jam — for hard, lonely work?

Like a flock of ravenous, screaming seahawks, wild thoughts plunged from the heavens to pick to bits my floating Mola Mola of a male mind. Soon, this bloviated ocean sunfish’s skeleton sank to the sea floor. “Full fathom five, the bones come together,” they spoke. In their florid sea change, such a weird wondrous thing they said. But just possibly true: Alli needs a special someone to think about, not a fetish. Someone to sigh about, from time to time, when buried in the carrels or slave to the word processor.

Forgive this impertinent poetaster. But … as she now is, so once I was. Oh, a sweet reward for this lovely writer.

— Tom Graham

Xpress fuels litter awareness

On behalf of the Buncombe County Solid Waste Department, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the staff of Mountain Xpress.

The recent article entitled “Down in the dumps” [Feb. 23], by Margaret Williams, has brought an awareness to Buncombe County residents about our local litter problem. We have received many calls and several letters in reference to this article.

The Clean NC 2000 Litter Summit and our PICK IT UP campaign proved to be very successful. Mountain Xpress and your readers were part of this success.

Advertising our different programs in Mountain Xpress has been very beneficial to our department.

Thank you again for a job well done.

— Rick Ramsey

Gelles’ domestic-violence research outdated, biased

If Richard Gelles [Commentary, “Who’s abusing whom?” March 22] really wants to help battered men, why is he attacking the battered-women’s movement? Why isn’t he seeking ways to partner with that movement, and join and share its successes?

In truth, Gelles’ agenda has more to do with politics [than] with violence. He wants to take a stand on “political correctness.” And he does that — [but] in the process fails to take violence against women and men with true seriousness. He has exploited a highly charged topic, in an effort to discredit the women’s movement and boost the reactionary political agenda of those who clamor about “political correctness.” Rather than championing battered men, Gelles has cast his lot with those who would discredit battered women.

A couple of other questions: If you at Mountain Xpress truly want to sponsor a forum on [domestic] violence, why have you published an out-of-date study (1976, first survey; 1986, second survey) — a study whose methodology makes its results worthless? And why print a piece by a Richard Gelles, who seems to have no connection with Asheville? Why not somebody local? Or was there someone local leaning on you to print this shoddily researched, decidedly biased and nearly antiquated piece?

Those truly interested in the issues are grateful that you at least sought out an intelligent response from someone who has worked diligently for years and years on issues of violence in our community.

— David Schenck

Needle-exchange program at your service

In the month of April, [our city’s] nationally known harm-reduction program — the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville (NEPA) — will be represented at the Tenth Annual North American Syringe Exchange Convention in Portland, Ore. [visit nasen.org on the Web].

At this gathering, delegates from more than 120 national needle-exchange and harm-reduction programs, the scientific community, plus [organizations of] international origins, will impart and report the latest information related to the impact of needle exchange on localities. The health-care industry, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and alcohol/substance-use-and-abuse arenas are only some of the foci. Beneficial aspects [of such programs], such as linking people to services and more positive treatment options, are others.

NEPA continues to seek [ways to] more fully and consistently operate in a tolerant local community. Realities remain such that intravenous drug use must be seen in North Carolina as a public-health issue, foremost. There needs to be more easily accessible and greater treatment on demand. Messages to your political representatives and state health administrators can only strengthen their awareness of the importance of comprehensive harm-reduction programming.

The Needle Exchange Program of Asheville will update you upon return from Portland. In the meantime, if you have questions about needle exchange and HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, call (800) 342-AIDS, (800) 344-SIDA (information in Spanish), or (888) 443-7232 (hepatitis hotline).

We are at your service.

— Michael J. Harney Jr., NEPA coordinator
Marty L. Prairie, consultant

Care to join me at Broughton?

Before I check myself into Broughton, I would like to write one last letter (just being facetious, I hope).

Facing my present dilemma, I had no recourse except to write a letter to my beloved Strom Thurmond concerning the possible prospect of getting polygamy, as well as reefer, legalized. Judging from the letter he sent back to me, I can only assume that he must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed before perusing my letter. He is proof of the notion that senility is the key to longevity (no offense, Strom). He must not be aware of the portentous fact that I recently became the king of merry old England, and have been lately employed in the toilsome task of trying to find my crown — which I think is somewhere in my car, amongst the refuse through which my pet serpent slithers with abandon.

Since Broughton is my alma mater, I attach many sentiments thereto. Its gracious rubber walls have always given me a bouncy spirit and helped me to rebound from melancholia.

Thanks to my readers for putting up with my occasional flights into the twilight zone. I may even continue my correspondence, to keep from losing my mind.

Incidentally, Sheriff Medford sternly admonished me to not ride my motorcycle to Broughton without my crown and my two six-shooters; one never knows who might try to molest a lunatic. The only response I had for my beloved sheriff was that, where this life is concerned, I want the whole nine yards — which, as he well knows, is the approximate length of my rap sheet.

If anyone would like to accompany me on this last flight, please call me at 666-GOOFY. (To this day, I do not know how I got that number.) If there is no answer, please [don’t] give up — or leave a message, since I will probably be at the Smoky Tavern, rubbing elbows with the secret elite (who, by the way, have a very earthy relationship to reality). If I do not get cracked over the head with a warped pool cue, I will return to play back any recorded messages.

— Charles Mathis

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