Letters to the editor

Editorial dead-on

Thank you for your editorial on free speech in the May 14 edition, and especially for the comments on the Wachovia banners installed downtown.

I, too, was disturbed to see advertisement like this in a public space. Ads on buses are not free. I wondered what was going on, but didn’t have a chance to write a letter to the editor or to call City Hall.

I also question the requirement that a paid permit is required for a gathering at Vance Monument or elsewhere. That is a free-speech issue and should not require a permit, much less a fee. Someone has their metaphors mixed, to put it kindly.

I hope your editorial brings results.

— Leah R. Karpen
Asheville

Rolling Thunder with a broken wheel

I cannot praise too highly the recent Rolling Thunder Down-Home Democracy Tour at the Asheville Civic Center — truly a celebration of grassroots democracy. But why was the concluding town meeting done in the form of a routine government hearing, with a panel of “experts” enshrined [on the above] stage, with the rest of us below relegated to regaling them with politely brief inquiries; rather, should not all of us [have] been sitting together in a facilitated circle discussion enjoying not only a more enlightening level of discourse, but equality as well?

Why was the former mayor of Asheville — who, 18 months ago, unrepentantly violated the democratic process and her own publicly stated principles to ram through an illegal war resolution giving unconditional support to a presidential administration that those attending this event almost universally decried — one of those enshrined onstage throughout the day as the host of these proceedings?

Nor does this woman seem to believe in conflict resolution, rejecting subsequent requests to discuss this issue with her.

What was the rationale by which organizers gave so prominent a role to one whose actions set a precedent for the repression of citizens’ rights by their local government, including the recent closing of the public commons to — and police brutalization of — anti-war protesters, addressed in several workshops during this Chautauqua?

How can there be real, direct democracy when it is still shackled in a hierarchical paradigm, even among those who say they are its most ardent proponents? How can the progressive movement ever hope to gain the respect of the greater community when we show a blatant bias about which public officials we will hold accountable and which we [will] not?

I challenge anyone in the progressive movement to respond to these questions, since it is on these issues being honestly and openly examined that the future of democracy in this region depends.

— Rebecca Em Campbell
Waynesville

Bushies not cushy for kids

George W. Bush is often photographed with small children, a typical political tactic. Official actions suggest that Bush and his party — the Bushies — are really far more cynical about children.

Bushies first stopped funding world family-planning programs that reduce abortions and unwanted births. Unwanted children provide cheap labor and potential markets for multinational campaign contributors, but have abysmal lives and generate immense social costs.

Bushies are allowing more air and water pollution, affecting us all — most significantly, developing children. Benefits go to polluting campaign contributors. Bushies are transferring Superfund cleanup from the polluters to the children.

Bushies are creating historic budget deficits upon which the children must pay interest until the debt is paid (by the children, of course). The children will have to make up the 2001 tax cut for wealthy campaign contributors (about the size of the Social Security Trust Fund). The 2003 tax cut for the wealthy will easily double that. Making the rich richer and children poorer will not stimulate the economy. The Bushies’ motto must be: “Subsidize campaign contributors today, let the children pay.”

Bushie policies have indirectly reduced state incomes, damaging state financing of education and social services, and harming mostly children.

The Bushie “Patriot Act” is gutting the children’s Constitutional freedoms in return for …. no guarantees. The Bushie’s pending “Son of Patriot” will do much more damage to the children’s freedoms.

Bushie photo-ops mask the reality that children neither vote nor make campaign contributions, but make excellent political pawns. Does anyone really care about children?

— Steve Schuck
Asheville

Personal attack does not constitute argument

Deny the facts, affix negative labels, call names, belittle, attack, accuse others of hatred, distract with irrelevant information and sarcasm — these are the tactics I see used repeatedly by pro-war people writing letters to the editor, and to me personally.

“You Don’t Know the Military I Know” [Xpress May 14] is just another example of this. The writer states he “won’t waste valuable time trying to reason,” but certainly does waste time with the above-mentioned tactics. If he was attempting to create some dialogue or impart some information, I believe he defeated his purpose. If he was attempting to communicate hatred or — at a minimum — rudeness, then mission accomplished. I believe most people have difficulty hearing messages that are shrouded by personal attacks, etc.

Are there any pro-war people out there who will use facts, logic and reason to defend their positions? Or how about discussing [their positions] from a moral, philosophical or religious perspective?

The things [that letter writer] Mr. Peters mentioned he had done in the military are certainly good deeds. But let’s look with more depth [at them]. Was the medical evacuation needed because of injuries inflicted by the U.S. military or someone else’s? Were the construction projects undertaken to rebuild things the military destroyed or damaged?

The unavoidable truth is [that] the military uses death and destruction as the means to achieve their ends — control of resources, people, etc. When we attempt to control resources, etc., in the name of defense, it is noble. When it is done out of greed, it is immoral.

It is irrelevant if the military devotes more time to improving “the human condition.” If I used the means of beating my children to achieve the ends of controlling their behavior, would it make it OK if I spent most of my time improving their condition in caring ways? Even murderers do kind things as well.

If the current administration wanted to do good deeds for the people of Iraq, they would have devoted billions of dollars to the Peace Corps rather than to the death and destruction wrought by the military. Consider what kind of world we would live in if our government were to devote more resources to ventures like the Peace Corps than to the military?

— Jeff Fleagle
Black Mountain

[Ed. Note: “Putting the Myth to Practice,” a letter by Asheville resident Nancy Allen in the April 23 Xpress, initiated this dialogue.]

Zoning proponents need to weigh human factor

On May 20, Buncombe County Commissioner [David] Gantt asked me if I knew who the people were who are being displaced by single-family zoning and density limits in Limestone and Beaverdam townships. I had never personally considered such a question because all men are created equal and therefore the identity of displaced people is irrelevant to the importance of their displacement — just as the identity of the other people sharing a traffic jam because they are forced into long commutes is irrelevant to your time or air.

I know such people exist, because if they didn’t, such zoning would have no motive and no proponents, so the people displaced are exactly the same people who the proponents of such zoning don’t want as neighbors. Once their existence is established, their humanity is established also. They are human and have human needs, aspirations, feelings and equal rights.

We can, however, guess at who these people are. They are the people who live in new, relatively dense, multi-unit structures in the Asheville area, or who consider living in such structures and then dismiss them as too expensive. They are mostly working class Americans, with some working- and middle-class retirees. Zoning opponents have mentioned that they are often our own children, who come of age and are expected to build or otherwise establish their own households only to find that such households are banned from the community, and that they must therefore leave.

This was my own experience, still bitter after 20 years. However, I tend not to use the argument because I don’t have children and don’t approve of doing so. But if I did have children, I would be responsible enough to make sure that my community allowed them to establish their own homes.

— Alan Ditmore
Leicester

[Ed. Note: Ditmore’s letter included as a footnote that he received 7,442 votes in the Soil and Water Conservation Board of Supervisors race in last November’s election.]

True journalists remain true heroes

I am writing with reference to the Jason Raines debacle at The New York Times.

I began my work as a member of the Fourth Estate just one week after graduating with a B.A. in English from one of the most highly respected “small liberal arts colleges and universities” in the country, in June of 1970.

I had no prior experience as a journalist, as during the late ’60s, [bachelor’s degrees] in journalism were offered by very few schools — most notably the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Missouri at Columbia.

So there I was in late June of 1970, working as a “cub reporter” — covering police, fire and court beats, and taking a half-dozen obituaries each morning for a daily (afternoon publication) in Massachusetts with a paid circulation at that time of 150,000.

I was 20 years old then, was married and had a son of 2 years. My salary was $100 a week.

But I knew that I had stumbled onto something sacred and can clearly remember taking a personal vow to print only the truth — insofar as I was able to ascertain it. Later, as an investigative reporter, I was told by a powerful politician who had his own private businesses — one of which was daily spewing toxic effluent into the then fairly pristine air of Cape Cod, Mass. — that if I ran with a three-part series on his violations of environmental regulations, he would mandate that a contract he’d already taken on my life be executed.

Well, the story ran — a byline piece for three days on Page 1.

Once a rogue police chief threatened my two children and wife by name if I continued on with my interviews with more than a dozen police officers who’d resigned — refusing to work under the command of a felon.

I’m 54 now and still sucking air and moving my feet.

You may deem me naive, but as a print journalist (and later a regional news editor for the same daily), my experience has been that the Jason Raines — the pathological liars turning out “bogus copy” ripped off from other writers or fabricated entirely — are few and far between.

They are out there. I have seen them in my own ranks and reported them, and appropriate actions were taken.

Is this a black eye for The New York Times? Of course. Does it mean that one of the few “papers of record” in America is now leprous and infected beyond hope? Of course not.

Does it mean that all journalists (whether print, video or broadcast) are pariahs who — like doctors and lawyers in the American psyche — cannot be trusted to bring us the truth? Does this isolated incident at The Times mean that journalists and journalism are now de facto deceased and unbreathing, unable to utter even a single lie?

I can’t buy into that, for there are too many hard-working, fearless and furiously honest members of the Fourth Estate who each day get up to face a world gone mad, [and] do their jobs policing as “watchdogs” the actions of federal, state and local governments, simply because it says “We the people.”

— Jeff Long
Asheville

I’m so confused

Would someone please explain Valorie Miller’s letter to me [“Oh, to Be Unborn,” Xpress May 14]? I guess I am just dense. I read it and reread it without being able to understand what it was doing in the letters [section]. It was well written and full of interesting imagery, but I honestly didn’t get what it was about.

It would have been more at home on a page featuring poetry, perhaps. But seriously, did I miss something? Enlighten me, please.

— Nancy Rollins
Asheville

[Ed. Note: Miller’s letter is not unlike many we receive. Therefore, if Xpress is to be a true community resource, voices like hers should have periodic representation in our letters section. As to your request for enlightenment, alas, you’re on your own.]

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