Letters to the editor

Park or parking?

As a resident of north Asheville (between Broadway and Merrimon), I am disturbed to learn of UNCA’s plans to build a 300-space parking garage in the woods west of the Forest Service building on Weaver Boulevard. The woods (owned by UNCA) [are] widely used by the north Asheville community to walk, bike, exercise dogs and run.

I live only a block from the Dortch Street entrance to the many trails and am very much aware of the community appreciation of that area. Not only would building a parking garage disturb the flora and fauna of these woods, but it would disturb the trails and put much more traffic on Weaver Boulevard and the [Forest] Service driveway.

Why does UNCA want to encourage students to drive more, anyway? If more parking is needed, can’t UNCA utilize the area behind the new Reuter Center so students won’t have to cross busy Weaver Boulevard?

I would encourage UNCA to provide more efficient public transportation to students and make the woods a truly beautiful public park — where the track team can continue to run, and the trash is eliminated. Now that the greenway is being developed, just west of these woods, this use of the property seems far more appropriate. I hope that the north Asheville community and anyone else who values these woods, will voice an opinion to UNCA Chancellor James Mullen at 251-6500 or jmullen@unca.edu.

I understand the parking-garage project is scheduled to be completed by fall 2004, so it is important that we voice our concerns immediately.

— Sara Marshall

War president or vacation president?

George W. Bush likes to swagger and refer to himself as a “war president.” I could think of a few qualifiers for that title, such as “inept” or “deceptive,” but I would have to agree that Bush has been a “war president” — at least when he isn’t being the “vacation president.”

Aug. 6, 2001: Bush gets briefing, titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside U.S.”

Aug. 7, 2001: Bush begins a month-long vacation in Crawford, Texas.

Bush spent 42 percent of his pre-9/11 tenure either at vacation spots or en route. Now, while Iraq descends into a conflagration, Bush vacations again. At least we can be sure of steady vacationing, in times of crisis, from this president.

— Anne Walch

Your diet as an environmental-action plan

On Earth Day, I listened to the Rush Limbaugh show. The “big fat idiot” ranted against “environmentalist wackos” — laughing at and taunting anyone who thinks that the environment matters. I’ve heard a lot of references to the Earth Liberation Front as an extremist group, but to my mind, Limbaugh’s position is equally extreme.

Most mainstream-media coverage of Earth Day predictably presented the obligatory stories about recycling, turning the water off while brushing your teeth, checking tire pressure and planting a tree. The only story dealing with Earth Day on the local evening news featured George Bush talking about wetlands preservation.

Gag me.

That evening, I picked up the Mountain Xpress [April 21] and read an excellent [commentary] about the Apollo Alliance’s 10-point plan to help America take charge of its energy future. All excellent ideas, but ones that require the votes of our “leaders.” Let’s not hold our breath.

None will be voted in under the GOP (Gang of Polluters), and it’s doubtful any would take place under a Kerry administration either. Remember that Al Gore wrote a compelling book about the need to address global environmental concerns, yet as vice president he couldn’t even get improved automobile mileage (CAFE) standards implemented.

Missing from the small steps presented by the mainstream media and the sensible proposals of the Apollo Alliance is an important step that people can take all by themselves: Eating lower on the food chain is powerful environmental action. The Worldwatch Institute says that “livestock account for 15 to 20 percent of [overall] global methane emission” and “American feed [for livestock] takes so much energy to grow that it might as well be a petroleum byproduct.” The meat industry causes more water pollution in the United States than all other industries combined.

To learn more about how food choices affect the planet, read Food Revolution by John Robbins (available at the Asheville library). For a free Vegetarian Starter Kit, visit www.GoVeg.com or call 1-888-VEG-FOOD.

— Stewart David

Disgracing all troops and all Americans

On Thursday morning, April 1, two people using a truck from Lamar Advertising were caught hanging signs over the Iraq Billboard Memorial on the corner of Hilliard and Lexington in Asheville. One sign stated “Support Our Troops.” They were caught before the other one could be hung. When asked what they were doing, the people hanging the signs over the memorial [reportedly] stated that they were replacing the billboard. When told that the billboard was not Lamar property, [reportedly] they quickly backed off and stated that they must have made a mistake and the signs were to go elsewhere.

It is yet to be determined if this act of “support” was condoned by, or involved the owners and management of Lamar Advertising, but this overt act of guerrilla politics is a wholesale disgrace and dishonor to the troops they claim to support. Did they not read the sign? Do they not care that the names of the troops who have died in Iraq were written there by fellow troops, veterans of Vietnam and Korea, to honor them? Do they not care that the number of dead U.S. troops [had just been] changed to 600! As I write this letter one week later, the number is 639 and growing.

The honorable work by a group of local U.S. veterans to hand write the names of those we should all honor, even as we mourn their deaths, should be one of unity, not division. No matter one’s political position, to dishonor the ultimate sacrifice these men and women have made is an abomination. …

My late father was a decorated combat veteran of World War II — it is his own Veteran’s for Peace button which I wear today to honor him and all our troops and veterans, past and future. I also happen to be the artist [who] designed and painted the sign. It was a labor of respect created by a group of concerned citizens, not radical anti-American weirdos! When I returned from my own service in Vietnam, I was alive and whole in body, but changed forever by those few years at war. The image of the wounded child I painted for the memorial was created from an AP wire photo [that I had saved since the beginning of this war] of a very real Iraqi child. Something resonated for me in the eyes of that crying child, the innocent victim of “collateral damage.”

As I finished the image, detailing the eyes, I got a cold shudder of memory, one that was 35 years old. When I returned from Vietnam in 1969, I had painted an image of a terrified child in a green jungle. The title was “Napalm Anonymous” — it was the same child. The position, angle and expression on that face were the same. And the silent scream echoed across the years. We Veterans for Peace have learned hard lessons. It is said that the eyes of that first soldier you kill become the same eyes of all the others that die in combat. For me, it is one child — it is our child — the universal child of war. End war. Vote peace.

The acts of workers [associated with] Lamar Advertising attempted to cover over our right to free speech. They should be most deeply ashamed of this cowardly act. I would encourage readers who have an opinion on this matter to call Lamar Advertising at 687-4000 to demand … explanation of this action using their company equipment.

— Robert Doyon

[Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Lamar Vice President Bobby Soule about the billboard being covered up. Soule responded: “Lamar made a mistake. Lamar regrets the mistake. Lamar is glad the mistake was corrected.”]

Billboard cover-up spotlights corporate media cover-up

Thank you for having the integrity to cover the cover-up. I’m referring to the unbelievably disrespectful and distasteful cover-up of the Veterans for Peace memorial on Hilliard Street. This cover-up [seems to] graphically exemplify the state of American politics today, a world in which large corporations and their puppet state use their unlimited media power to hide the harsh reality of war with the feel-good slogans of advertising.

On April 1, a privately owned sign, on private land, documenting the number and names of nearly 600 U.S. soldiers who have been killed in Iraq was covered up by a big, plastic, red, white and blue sign reading “Support Our Troops.” A shiny flag to hide the facts. Those responsible … are lucky they desecrated a memorial sponsored by Veterans For Peace and not a more traditional veterans group. Since covering up the names of dead soldiers isn’t exactly a gesture of respect, they would probably be hiding in a cave somewhere in Pakistan by now. Thanks to “peace,” they’re just hiding from the press.

But where is the press? They should be all over this. What is almost as disgraceful as this illegal act itself is the virtual censorship of the story. Why didn’t the mainstream press cover this newsworthy scandal?

The truth needs to be heard and read. Please follow up on this story and give it the coverage it deserves. The media may be banned by presidential decree from covering the return of dead soldiers, but we are not yet denied the right of counting and putting names to the corpses.

Bush and his corporate cronies know that every soldier killed in Iraq is another nail in his political coffin. The more the media portray the “war dead” as individual men and women with families, personalities and names, the harder and deeper the nails. The Bush administration would prefer [that] the “troops” remain faceless and nameless. Their humanity and individuality are a political liability. Were it politically feasible, I’m sure even the number of dead would become classified information. Thanks to groups like the Veterans For Peace, at least some of us can still see that “troops” are human and “troops” have names. The government may hide their dead bodies, but only a completely passive public would let anyone cover up their names.

— Timothy Leonard

American violence toward Iraqis goes ignored

Bush is probably going to order the renewed attack of Fallujah. Some of those Iraqis are fighting for nationalistic reasons; a lot more are fighting because they have been deeply hurt by the Americans and are now seeking revenge and retribution out of anger and humiliation. For those fighters, it is easy to see why fighting back will never work.

Some of the Iraqi fighters are doing it for power and control of the land and the people in order to hold on to the wealth in the area (oil). This reason is the same reason that Bush and company invaded. Money is generally the underlying reason for a war: any war, anywhere, at any time. Of course, this is never stated out loud. All wars start with lies.

Our TV press shows us, time and again, examples of Iraqi violence, including Iraqi victims of Iraqi violence — but mostly American victims [such as] the security contractors who were killed and mutilated in Fallujah. Yet the TV press turns a cold shoulder and a callused eye to the many victims of American violence there in Iraq. And there are plenty of examples: Some casualties [are] inadvertent, and some casualties [occur] because a fair number of U.S. troops now have hatred, anger and revenge … in their own hearts. These pictures are not shown. These stories are not told.

Some TV stations go so far as to label Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr as “evil,” right on the screen. This approach has been consistent since the start of the war. There has been no in-depth coverage of what the Iraqis are going through, or why some of them are so angry and so devastated.

Our print press often does the same in many ways. This quote is from the New York Post: “Disguised in part by the trappings of oil wealth, the Middle East has become humanity’s sinkhole, less promising, if richer, than Africa.” And a further comment: “The Arab Middle East has become the world’s first entirely parasitical culture; all it does is to imitate poorly, consume voraciously, spit hatred, export death and create nothing. Arab civilization offers its people no promising future, only rhetoric about a past whose achievements have been as exaggerated as they were impermanent. The present is a bloody, heartless muddle.”

Of course, most papers are not so blatant. Overall, this leaves the majority of Americans with the impression that the Iraqis are somehow “sub-human.”

I used to often wonder: How could Hitler do it? How did he get a large group of mostly reasonable people to see another large group of mostly reasonable people as sub-humans and worthy of extinction? Today, I see it happening before my eyes. The very same people who supported this war on Iraq are starting now to see the Iraqis as sub-human, and worthy of death. And they are in the majority.

How far will this go? I don’t know. It looks like it is going to go pretty far. We have already lost this war, and further violence against the Iraqis will achieve nothing positive.

— Susan Oehler

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