Letters to the editor

Legalization is the only solution to drug epidemic

We are told that there is an epidemic of drug use in this country. Certainly this is true: From aspirin to Prozac, Valium to Viagra, alcohol to nicotine, everyone uses drugs. We use drugs to modify our state of mind and improve our health. We use them to feel better and to help us enjoy life. We, as a species, have been using herbs and their derivatives since the dawn of history. This is natural, and can be seen in many other animal species.

In this country, certain drugs are illegal. Many people go to jail for doing what comes naturally to them. Is the answer simply to build more prisons? Obviously not, because even in prisons there is still abuse of illegal drugs. If we cannot eliminate drugs from prisons, how can we expect to eliminate them in an otherwise free society?

The real threat from illegal drugs comes from the criminal culture that has been created by the black market. It is common knowledge that drugs are more available now than ever before, despite the best efforts of law enforcement. This is because of the enormous profits to be had and the fact the people will use drugs regardless of the law. It doesn’t matter if you arrest a drug dealer, because there will always be someone willing to take his place and make that money.

There is only one solution: legalize drugs. In this way, we can eliminate the profits to be had and so eliminate the black market. We would be able to have more control over drug use — and some control is better than no control. We could then tax drugs like alcohol and tobacco, and use the money to fund prevention programs. We could save the money we would have needed for new prisons and use it to educate people, instead of imprison them. We should treat individual drug abuse as a sickness, not a criminal offense.

If this sounds radical, it is only because we have strayed so far from the ideals on which this country was founded. Our forefathers gave us the ideal of a right to the pursuit of happiness. Many of them grew and used plants which are now outlawed. Would we imprison George Washington because he smoked a joint to ease the pain of having wooden teeth?

— Rev. H.W. Skipper
Dallas, Texas

So what will replace outdated patriarchy?

I feel compelled to respond to a recent opinion, “It’s not the children, it’s the boys” [Letters, May 3]. No one can deny that boys and young men are committing these egregious acts of violence. Few can deny that our society is a product and reflection of a historical patriarchy. The truly arguable part is that the apparent recent increase in violence appears to be inversely proportional to the overall influence of “patriarchal values.”

I make no apology nor excuse for these acts of violence, nor for the excesses and abuses attributable to patriarchy in our culture. I do, however, believe that the influence of patriarchy is in decline, and that it may well deserve a continuing slide. One glaring side effect of this, however, is that males today are increasingly the subjects of derision and ridicule. Today’s people, males and females alike, did not construct the patriarchy of the past — although we may continue to contribute to it unconsciously. Individuals who believe they are targets of derision for circumstances that are beyond their control are likely to strike back in irrational –sometimes violent — ways.

Since we aren’t privy to the workings of prehistoric cultures, we can only speculate about such things as why patriarchy emerged. My speculation follows.

It appears that patriarchy (and, in some few cultures, matriarchy) emerged as a means to organize families and communities, so that labor could be divided for “great works” — i.e., digging the irrigation ditch, building a road to the granary, etc. The side effects included codes of laws, ethics, morals and other cultural “adhesives.” I know some may argue that patriarchy was a backlash against matriarchy, which happened once males realized that they were fathers and activated their proprietary instincts. Either way, patriarchy came to dominate most major cultures, perhaps on the strength of the brute, violent force of early men.

Patriarchy has been a driving cultural force, tangibly and not, for a long time; thus, it’s easy to blame it for much of the woe in this world, especially in the objectification of — and violence against — women. However, I don’t know of any legitimate moral or ethical “patriarchal system” that approves of such disrespect. Perhaps, then, it is ultimately the individual who is responsible for his/her actions.

If the ideals espoused by our patriarchal ancestors were followed, by them and by us, this wouldn’t even be a subject for discussion. [Since] World War II, it seems to be increasingly fashionable to erode the authority of those values that put us here, in our very fortunate position in this world. While our prosperity grows, families are shrinking — with fewer children, and often fewer parents around, of either gender (but especially male). Patriarchy, with all its faults, at least implied that a family existed.

Emerging to replace the “outdated values of patriarchy” appears to be “advertarchy,” where values are determined by sponsors of the most popular media products. While the “value” of our materials and “graven images” is on the rise, it’s accompanied by the decline in those “values” that we gleefully abandoned in pursuit of gain, and then grasp for when these terrible events take place.

If we just respect one another, and pass those values to our children, we can be governed by “democracy” — and all the other ‘archies’ and ‘isms’ will be quaint historical curiosities. That would be nice.

— Brian Allgood
Asheville

Alienation-of-affection suits are absurd

I am writing in response to the lead article in your March 29 issue on so-called alienation-of-affection lawsuits and related issues [“What price illicit love?”]. What those who advocate such lawsuits ignore is the fact that no one can “steal” another’s spouse. No one falls in love with someone else if the marriage is healthy, if the relationship is intact. Furthermore, such a line of thought supposes some mysterious power of one individual over another, almost in a bewitched fashion.

[The idea that] “a love affair breaks up a marriage” is simply not true. Any responsible psychologist will explain that the love affair comes about after the marriage is already on thin ice, at best. The love affair does not cause the breakup of the marriage but, rather, is the result of a failing marriage. In one out of two divorces, at least one of the two individuals is involved with someone else; so are we to conclude we have a nation of “spouse robbers,” or spouses who are “seduced” by others and overpowered enough to throw away their wonderful marriages?

These “alienators” are often relationships of transition, which help the person divorcing get through the process. Sometimes, this other person does turn out to be the love that he/she needed and found in this relationship, and [then these two] marry.

Furthermore, such alienation-of-affection lawsuits show antiquated thinking, from the days when a husband’s wife was his “property.” Shouldn’t North Carolina join the rest of the nation and come out of the dark ages?

Why do I respond to this issue? Because I was the subject of a similar lawsuit [several] years ago, which my now ex-husband filed against the person I was involved with at the termination of our marriage. I was not “seduced” — rather, I received from him what I was not getting in the marriage.

As an aside, my ex is [in the legal profession] and thought he could address his hurt and anger in a legal setting. … And, contrary to what was stated in your article, he did not have to prove love and affection in the marriage (something that would have proved difficult) in order to “win” the lawsuit.

It’s time these “spurned” spouses spend their time, energy and money at the therapist’s office, where they can learn what they might have done to contribute to the breakup of the marriage — and then, hopefully, be able to get on with their lives from there.

How absurd to presume it takes two to make a marriage, but not to break one up. It’s time for North Carolina to pass legislation to outlaw such lawsuits.

I will not be able to sign my name, in order to protect the identity of my children — in spite of the fact that their father made our situation a matter of public record.

— Anonymous
Asheville

Cat-in-crosshairs cover grossly irresponsible

It was grossly irresponsible of you to use an image of a helpless animal in the cross hairs of a firearm for your cover of the May 3 issue of Mountain Xpress.

Visual images are powerful. Your publication is scattered all over town, in full view of impressionable minds who may or may not have the opportunity or the inclination to actually read the article inside.

That cover is 100 percent sensationalism, and I resent it. If you must use violence to attract readers, then you have an obligation to the community to include on the cover a photo of a kitty curled up asleep — nestled in the hair of a child lying down for a nap.

How sad — no, make that pathetic— that our very own “alternative” paper has sunk to the lowest common denominator to get people to pick it up.

P.S. Yes, I know that there are people out there fully capable of such a heinous deed [as shooting a cat]. I also know there are people out there who wouldn’t give a second thought to taking a crap on the side of the road, either, but I don’t want to see it on the cover of my favorite newspaper.

— Jean Troutman
Alexander

Note to Hollywood: Get your facts straight

It frustrates me sometimes how Hollywood often plays “fast and loose” with historical facts when in pursuit of a money-making movie. The new film U571 is a classic example of historical fact making way for entertainment. While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, the inaccuracies began to bother me. In actual fact, [the German submarine] U571 — and, more particularly, the United States — had little or nothing to do with the capture of the Enigma code machine.

Bits and pieces of the machine came into Allied hands over a period of time, but it wasn’t until May 9, 1941, that a complete naval version became available. Royal Navy ship H.M.S. Bulldog engaged U110 in a running battle, and forced them to surface. The crew abandoned the submarine, and a boarding party from H.M.S. Bulldog managed to reach the submarine and capture the code machine before the submarine sank.

While I can accept the “artistic license” of Hollywood, surely they should show more responsibility. Why the movie could not have been made with a closer alliance to the true facts baffles me. Of course, Hollywood believes that only American actors can sell a movie, and that the true facts were probably not exciting enough to carry the film. As an Englishman having lived in the United States for 18 years, it does anger me sometimes that American cinema would like you to believe that no other country had anything to do with the outcome of the war.

— Steve Savage
Black Mountain

We’re all to blame for increasing violence

I write in response to a letter entitled, “It’s not the children, it’s the boys,” appearing in the May 3 issue of Mountain Xpress. For those of you who have not read this letter, it blames the increasing presence of violence in America on a patriarchal society, where the “little girls, young women and adult women” exist as mere innocent victims to a male-dominated world. The letter reads: “It is not ‘our children’ who are committing these violent acts, it is our male children.”

Now, now: Let’s be somewhat realistic. A society exists as an undiminished unit; girls and boys, men and women affect each other equally and inevitably. It is absurd to blame a pattern of violence on one gender — as if the women sit at home praying for peace, while men slay. Furthermore, eliminating any trace or reference of violence from our society would be to alter the genetics of our being as humans. We are animals; we are violent. I would love to live in a society fueled by torrential love. And, while I agree that senseless acts of violence are no less than a horrifying devastation, blaming it solely on any one thing — whether it be a gender, the media, etc. — is incognizant of the many influential layers a society holds. It’s not the boys. It’s not the children. It’s all of us.

— Kristen Emeola
Asheville

No more “super” Wal-Marts for Asheville!

Why on earth does the city of Asheville need two “super” Wal-Marts? I’m completely stumped on this one! As the city is increasingly threatened by large, box developments that degrade the natural beauty of our region, it is time for the residents of Asheville and Buncombe County to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

I am so tired of the words “sustainable development” being perverted by large-pocketed developers in this community! Back in February, I attended a public hearing at which local attorney (and former mayor of Asheville) Lou Bissette declared that the Home Depot development — which he represents — is an example of “sustainable economic development.” Can someone please explain to me how a 20-acre, box retail development that pays minimum wage is a sustainable choice for Asheville? Mayor Leni Sitnick said at the meeting that she “hated to think what else could go in that spot.” I find it hard to imagine what could be worse!

I urge residents of our community to get involved in the city’s Sustainable Economic Development Plan and help create a plan that is based on our community’s needs, rather than allow large corporations to destroy the essence of what makes Asheville a unique, desirable and healthy place to live.

— Julie Fish
Asheville

Dumbfounded by anti-Friends for Animals vendetta

In response to still another letter from Terri David [May 3], I am dumbfounded. Let me start by saying, I am not an employee or a board member [of Friends for Animals]. I wasn’t even a member until a couple of weeks ago. I had the occasion to visit the shelter to look for a lost pet. Ms. David may be surprised to read that I was immediately escorted all the way through the shelter — front to back — to look at all of the animals.

My question is: Where are all of the atrocities hidden? Ms. David, the place isn’t that big! I walked from front door to back and saw massive amounts of unwanted animals that were housed in clean cages with food, water and toys! I saw the backs of the cages that housed the pit bulls we’ve all read about, and noticed a cart full of toys being handed out to them by their caretaker.

Other issues: [Regarding David’s statement that] the “executive director behaves in an abusive manner toward employees, volunteers and the public,” I’ve seen employees stand up at [Buncombe County Board of] Commissioners meetings, talking about how nice their supervisors treat them — including an animal-control officer who stood up, praising [FFA Executive Director Marc] Paulhus. The place was running over with volunteers the day I was there. And I’m about as “public” as they come.

Ms. David is outraged that the board wants to renew Mr. Paulhus’ contract, since he has “not raised a penny toward [building] the new shelter.” I, on the other hand, am shocked the man has been able to raise enough money to buy paper towels, in the face of all the fabrications various people have put out to the fund-giving community.

The “cover-up” isn’t with the commissioners. It’s whatever is at the root of the hatefulness of letters and comments by people like Ms. David. The sadness will come if Mr. Paulhus throws up his hands in disgust and turns the contract offer down.

— Tim Tipton
Asheville

Slavery certainly was constitutional

In response to Leroy J. Pleten’s letter seeking to prove that slavery’s unconstitutionality was the legal foundation of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation [letters, “Slavery was unconstitutional,” April 26]: his reasoning is simply “bunk.”

At the admission of Missouri to statehood, the Missouri Compromise was [reached]. For the purpose of census, a slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person, meaning that the Constitution did not recognize the slave as a person.

Lincoln’s edict released only slaves within the borders of states in rebellion, regardless of whether the decree was in virtue of Lincoln’s authority as commander-in-chief or chief executive. Slaves in West Virginia — which seceded from Virginia during the Civil War, and was admitted as a new state loyal to the Union — remained in slavery, as did slaves owned in New Mexico, Arizona, California and other states not in rebellion. Mr. Pleten argues that slaves were denied constitutional guarantees and due process. He reasons from the presumption that they were persons in the eyes of the law, but the rights he cites as violated were not theirs to enjoy. They did not then possess legal standing as persons.

Today, those in penal servitude as convicted felons are denied some constitutional rights — including habeas corpus, under certain conditions — as are Native Americans living on reservations. Section IX of the Constitution specifically denies the government [the right] to grant titles of nobility, and neither Congress nor the executive branch has ever granted anyone such titles as companion-of-honor, knight, baronet, baron, viscount, earl, duke or prince. A planter fancying himself “lordly” was not breaking the law, then or now, as Mr. Pleten contends.

Caucasian “bond” slaves (white slavery was outlawed by Great Britain shortly after 1700, from which time Africans in “chattel” slavery — formerly relatively few in number — began to be imported in very sizable quantities, probably in response to the prohibition upon white-slave trade) had few rights under the law, nor did Native Americans in slavery. Determinant was legal status, not race. Racism existed in its virulent form, but was distinct from slavery itself. Popularly, racism is endemic only among whites who, by and large, consider it an evil to be rooted out. Many of those force-marched by the U.S. Army on the “trail of tears” of the “civilized tribes” to Oklahoma were black slaves of Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw planters. Native American plantations were confiscated without compensation, and sold at a bargain price — preferentially — to veterans of the Revolutionary War, their widows or their families.

By 1861 in the South, there was a substantial and growing community of free persons of color who enjoyed the legal standing denied their unfree brethren. Some of them owned slaves. The black [race] itself was not enslaved — though nearly all slaves in 1861 were black — while freedom itself could be bought at a price. Slavery was pernicious, an evil thing, but was never fussy about its personnel. Had slavery not been terminated by the war, but merely rebuffed by the assassinated president’s decree, doubtless other unfortunates would now be filling those positions left vacant by Lincoln.

— Max A. Langley, Jr.
Hendersonville

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