Letters to the editor

WNC’s people are its best natural resource

My wife and I have been residents of Asheville for the past 11 months. During that time period, we have had more house guests than we experienced throughout 28 years of living in Stony Brook, N.Y.

While I continue to take our visitors on the obligatory drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway and to the Biltmore Estate, I am filled with an ever-increasing urge to reveal the most precious natural resource of the area: its people. I want to show them the post office on Merrimon Avenue, where the clerk responded to my request for zip-code information by filling out 40 zip codes on my paper while the crowd of people in line waited patiently and then smiled, yes, smiled, at me on my way out.

I will never forget the repairman who, after finding out that we had only been here two weeks and had no family in the area, called home and told his wife that there would be two more for dinner. And, to our disbelief, we met a couple while house hunting and received another dinner invitation.

I take our guests to the sports club, where I spend many hours. I have made more friends there and feel more at home than I did after 20-plus years as a member in New York. The support I received while playing in a tournament several months ago amazed me.

Those who visit in the future will come to the gas station with me, where I am tendered a warm greeting and thanked when I leave. They will browse in the numerous shops and be greeted with a smile and receive that same smile when they leave, whether making a purchase or not.

Our visitors, if they stay long enough, will grow accustomed to waving to people as they pass, and learn that if they forget for a moment that the traffic light has turned green, they will not be subjected to an impatient blare of horns. They will meet our wonderful neighbors, whose presence doubles the value of our home.

Sure, the area has some need of improvement, but as my favorite author, Henry David Thoreau, said, “The fault finder will find fault even in Paradise.” As I am fond of repeating to anyone who will listen, I came for the mountains and stayed for the people!

— Edward Wolfsohn
Asheville

Support animal-control officers

On May 21, 1998, Kip Kinkel walked into a Springfield, Ore., high school cafeteria and began firing a .22-caliber rifle, killing one and critically wounding several others. Friends say he bragged about torturing animals.

As a community, we should come together and take a strong stand against animal cruelty. A recent study at UNC-Charlotte concurred with recent research at Northeastern University. Both studies concluded that people who abuse animals are also likely to abuse people. Yet the few in our community who are willing to do something about animal cruelty are ridiculed and their actions distorted.

The cartoon by Molton ridiculing the animal-control officers from Friends For Animals [May 13 Xpress] is not funny. It perpetuates the falsehood spread by FFA’s critics that animal-control officers can enter their homes without a warrant, thereby violating their civil rights, and that they are out fabricating acts of cruelty. In fact, FFA animal-control officers cannot legally enter someone’s home without obtaining a warrant issued from a magistrate. And they have never entered a home, with or without a warrant. Animal-control officers are unarmed, and their job is to help prosecute legitimate cruelty cases and protect the public from animals who create a nuisance because their caretakers are irresponsible. Many cases of cruelty are not prosecuted because of the limitations put on the officers [and their ability to] obtain evidence, or because the cruelty has become so institutionalized that society doesn’t recognize it as cruelty (rodeos, circuses, hunting).

Yet those against legislating even the slightest degree of humane treatment toward animals always carry their arguments to the absurd, much like the National Rifle Association telling us that if we ban assault weapons today, it’s only a matter of time until slingshots and pocket knives are banned. Many folks don’t like the government telling them how to treat their animals, which, according to the law, are merely property. This was also the case with slavery. Likewise, men never did like being told how to treat their women, and many resented the laws restricting the size of sticks with which they could beat their wives.

Sadly, the New Agers have also joined in on the side of animal abuse. A recent Mountain Xpress story [quoted] a bogus “animal communicator” [who] told someone not to interfere in the life of an animal suffering from malnutrition. Would she have offered the same advice about a battered woman or an abused child?

As a past officer of Friends For Animals, I’m pleased to see the cruelty program get off the ground. As a community, we must evolve and take a stand against cruelty in all forms. The animal-control officers are only scratching the surface, but I’m thrilled they are taking these beginning steps. Animal cruelty is institutionalized and pervades our society. Most of it is hidden from view, conveniently out of sight and out of mind. It takes place on factory farms, in slaughterhouses, at circus-training facilities, on fur farms, in medical-research labs, etc. Anyone who thinks we live in a civilized society isn’t paying attention. The animal-control officers deserve our respect and support for the difficult job they do.

— Stewart David
Asheville

You forgot a best-natural-pharmacy category

I read with pleasure your annual designation of western North Carolina’s best — from Hector’s Salsa to Perri at Perri Ltd. to the proverbial Leni Sitnick. It is a great joy to live in such a wonderful, progressive place as Asheville and have a great weekly paper like the Mountain Xpress.

In the same light (or darkness, depending on your perspective), I was disappointed in the collective consciousness regarding Asheville’s best pharmacy. It is not debatable that a quality chain like Eckerd’s has superb photo processing, friendly staff, low-priced convenience items, as well as quality pharmacy goods.

I want to offer a solid rebuttal that the best pharmacy is, in fact, Nature’s Pharmacy. How can one debate the contribution that Nature’s Pharmacy makes to the health and well-being of those who choose this as their preferred style of pharmacy?

They offer two licensed pharmacists, state-of-the-art advice, all the new and latest herbs, supplements and onsite compounding.

This is not a poor attempt at achieving free advertising. It is, rather, a call to the masses to go natural in the coming year and ultimately spark a 1999 vote for the best pharmacy that better represents the progressive health consciousness of Asheville.

— Dr. David Nygaard
Beyond Wellness Chiropractic, Asheville

Don’t let the consumer culture brainwash you

Margaret Williams’ ongoing saga of her personal struggles with credit-card debt [“Adrift in a sea of debt,” April 15, and “The zen of debt,” May 13] would be astounding if it weren’t so commonplace among consumers. With a steady chorus of, “Buy, buy, buy” being chanted by the media every second of every day, and pre-approved credit accounts being offered to everyone, like sticks of gum, it’s not hard to see how people acquire dozens of credit cards and go into debt [beyond] their capacities to pay.

Credit-card companies exist for one reason: to make money. They exploit the consumer culture and people’s desire for instant gratification and don’t care if card holders drown in debt. Actually, they prefer it: Debt profits them, as they can scoop up bigger profits through interest on big balances. Why is this not obvious to more people?

It seems that, for many card holders, consumerism cancels out common sense. These people don’t seem to realize that they have, in fact, just spent money, only they’ll be paying it back later, with interest to boot. The absence of an exchange of bills seems to numb them to this fact.

I have a credit card, primarily because I wanted to establish a good credit record. Let me also say that I have bought things on a whim with my card and am currently carrying a balance. What right have I to talk? Well, after carrying a large balance for several months, I made it a point to pay more than that $10 minimum monthly payment — more like half of the balance. I’ve already spent the money; why spend any more on interest?

I have learned to hold off on tempting credit purchases, not through the advice of a credit counselor, but because experience has taught me that the urge to buy often evaporates the next day. Smaller purchases I try to cover immediately with funds from my checking. I don’t view the card as an additional source of funds; I don’t shop with my card to alleviate boredom or make myself feel better; and I only use it on pre-planned purchases.

Am I trying to sound smug? No, I’m just pointing out that all it takes to avoid heavy credit debt is a little foresight and a lot of self-discipline. Part of the solution is to realize that everything in our culture is about materialism. You don’t have to play that game. Don’t let the media or the credit-card companies brainwash you into thinking you have to over-consume.

Take back your power as an individual to strive for something higher and more permanent than a cart load of superfluous junk and a stack of balance-due bills.

— Andrew Bishop
Weaverville

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