Letters to the editor

WNC inspires operatic tour de force

Friday last [May 6], about 4 in the afternoon, the phone rang. It was an unexpected call from an old friend in Belgium who lives near Liege, close to the German border. She was very excited — wanting to tell me that in September she would be traveling with a television crew to Katmandu, a place she had long wished to visit.

My friend also asked me if Asheville was close to Waynesville, N.C. I answered, “Yes, I think so,” and asked why she wanted to know. She said that she was having dinner at a Greek restaurant with a friend who works for an opera company in nearby Aachen, Germany. The friend had said that her company was seeking to reinvigorate old opera themes with new, more modern settings. But unfortunately, there had been very little happening in Germany recently on which to base an opera. She added that they had been watching American politics, which had been very operatic over the past decade — and when [they heard] the story of the pastor of the East Waynesville Baptist Church blackballing its members who had voted against Bush, the artistic directors of the company saw the drama as a wonderful vehicle to revitalize long-dormant German opera.

The company quickly fleshed out an idea to revise Richard Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nuernburg,” renaming it “Der Reichskirkefuhrer von Wayneburg” (or, “The National Church’s Leader of Waynesville”).

Though too late to make this year’s operatic season, it is being given top priority for next year. The finale, in grand operatic style, will be when all the sinners who voted for Kerry come crawling to the altar on their knees, heads bowed in repentance, asking God to forgive and redeem them, while a heavenly choir crescendos magnificently in the background.

For the reader who is skeptical of my report, I ask them: Would the Bush regime make up a story about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a pretense for invasion?

Of course not!

Neither would I tell a lie.

— John Nation

Only Americans can kill America

Pat Robertson was right when he told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that the current political and cultural challenges our country faces are greater than those posed by Al Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden and those of his ilk seek to kill Americans. He cannot, however, kill America. Only we, the members of this great constitutional democracy, are capable of that.

On Jan. 20, 2005, George W. Bush did not swear an oath to uphold and protect America. He, like all presidents, swore an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States of America. Just as the Constitution is more than a piece of paper, America is more than people and places. America’s strength, glory and character are the result of the greatest idea in the history of governance — constitutional democracy.

Pat Robertson appears to understand this. But he (and those of his ilk) is mistaken by the idea that references to God by our “founding fathers” were references to the Lord Jesus Christ. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and other “founding fathers” were not Christians. They were deists. They respected a Higher Power and understood its role in our democracy, but did not assert that power to be that of Christ — as Pat Robertson insists.

Islamic fundamentalist forces outside of the United States are trying to kill Americans. Christian fundamentalist forces inside the United States and the current administration are seeking to destroy America. The U.S. Constitution protects all Americans from theocracy. Fundamentalists would like you to think otherwise.

Pat Robertson is right. Threats to the Constitution are at hand. If he and other Christian fundamentalists had their way, they would destroy the idea of America faster than Osama Bin Laden and Islamic fundamentalists could ever hope to.

— Tom Sherry

Narco-political drama continues

A recent letter [“Lives out of tune,” May 4] implies that I might be a newspapers-reading, inner-demon-harboring drug user simply because I tried to point out that Asheville’s vice mayor, Carl Mumpower, seems to have a serious public accountability problem [“Myth versus meth: the sequel,” April 27].

Unlike Carl Mumpower, I have not once in my life ever asked for, received or possessed crack cocaine. If I ever felt led to expose the ease with which the hard-drug market prospers in Asheville, I’d choose any number of less “heroic” ways to do so that don’t involve breaking the law or endangering the lives of innocent people. Unfortunately, Dr. Mumpower chose from a different playbook and exercised a scenario that was neither legal nor ethical.

An intelligent man well-versed in the various cause-and-effect principles of modern psychology, Mumpower knows how to wear controversial matters of public accountability very well. But he seems to move through the narco-political arena while stunted by the thirst for political gain and a demagogic commitment to an inefficient, tactical dinosaur called “the war on drugs.”

What’s worse, it seems that both Mumpower and the author of the letter defending him have become blinded by their own predetermined judgments about the lives of other people. This comes as little surprise, given the fact that the councilman has made a habit of attaching the label of “special interest” to a variety of citizens in City Council chambers who have voiced concern over important public issues.

And recently, Vice Mayor Mumpower essentially announced himself as being above the public process by refusing to participate in Asheville’s dealings with the unresolved dispute over the public water authority. Alongside other such actions and statements, this stance begs the question: If Carl Mumpower is increasingly opting to not represent the citizens of Asheville, just whom is he representing?

By serving his own ill-evoked model, Dr. Mumpower illustrates that it is possible to rise to elected office provided you morph a new allegiance to the “sanctity of free enterprise” at every opportunity.

I’m not high; I’m deeply concerned. And I don’t believe that common sense is a special interest. City residents and taxpayers who have grown concerned over the hard-drug trade — and Carl Mumpower’s action — will rest easier when the vice mayor comes clean about why his hands remain a very strange and troubling shade of red.

— Bud Howell

Memories of Alvy

Downtown Asheville lost a gentle spirit and a good friend when Michael “Alvy” Alvarez, owner and operator of Gold Hill Espresso & Fine Teas, died on Wednesday, May 11.

The sidewalk in front of Gold Hill was packed on Thursday morning with flowers, candles and regular customers who stopped by to share their grief and disbelief. A sampling of the crowd was a testament to Alvy’s ability to connect with everyone — young hipsters, city employees, moms with kids, and senior citizens were all there to express their sorrow over losing, too soon, a man who contributed so much to our city.

Alvy, 39, drowned in the French Broad River. He had worked at Gold Hill since its inception 10 years ago, becoming its owner three years later. It is a testament to his nature that so many of his employees have been with him so long, in a field that usually experiences so much turnover. Those employees are now working to keep Gold Hill going as a way of honoring him.

Alvy was known throughout Asheville as a person who never refused a request. He contributed to every auction, fundraiser and nonprofit for which he was solicited. He volunteered his time with local black-box theater groups. His computer skills were legendary. He didn’t own a computer until the late 1990s and, within months, was designing Web sites for businesses downtown. He was an unofficial consultant for many customers who came to him with their computer “issues.”

Besides his legions of friends here, he leaves parents, a sister and brother, all of whom live in Colorado.

In addition to steering the helm at Gold Hill, Alvy was a familiar fact at the Orange Peel, where he staffed the ticket booth.

A memorial service is planned for 6 p.m, Thursday, May 19, at the Orange Peel.

— Kim MacQueen, Leslie Groetsch, Michelle Denyes

[Editor’s note: A memorial fund has been established in Alvy Alvarez’ name. Donations may be made to The Alvy Fund of the Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1888, Asheville 28802.]

Move drug laws into 21st century

Letter writer Minter is right on target [“Current drug policies fail society,” April 27]. Her views are echoed by a growing group of judges and police who believe the best way to deal with risky drugs is to legalize them and eliminate the criminal dealers.

With hundreds of years of combined experience on the front lines of the 35-plus-year drug war, the members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) have learned that millions of valuable police man-hours are wasted in a futile attempt to “control” criminal dealers and illegal-drug flow. The only way to control in-demand drugs is to have them in a regulated market. This is how we sensibly deal with the risky and most commonly abused drug in America — alcohol.

Regulating drug sales will not solve all the problems related to drug use and abuse. But we did not end Prohibition in 1933 because alcohol use was without risk. We did it because of the urgent need to put Al Capone and other criminal dealers out of business and move the product into a market that could be easily monitored by authorities. We were then more able to help those who have problems with alcohol, while respecting the privacy of those who use the drug responsibly.

It’s time for an equally sensible change in policy for the 21st century. It’s time to legalize drugs.

— Stephen Heath
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Clearwater, Fla.

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