Letters to the editor

Pot calling the kettle?

In your June 11 opinion piece, “Violating the Public Trust,” you stated, in the thrust of that piece, that the Asheville Citizen-Times was guilty of spreading hearsay as fact, and [of] “rumor mongering.” But in the very same article, … [your] editorial staff … wrote, and I quote, “If Xpress printed every tip we receive concerning public officials, we would have little room for anything else. The prostitution, drug and gambling trades in WNC are said to have many friends in high places” (emphasis mine).

Am I missing something, or was that a hearsay being mongered?

And I don’t care how many votes Alan Ditmore received when he ran for the Soil and Water Conservation Board of Supervisors — it doesn’t lend any more credence to his positions than the number of votes I received when I ran for president of the Checkers Club in junior high lend to mine.

— David Cohen
Leicester

[Ed. Note: Alan Ditmore, a frequent letter writer to Xpress, always closes his submissions with the declaration that he received 7,442 votes in the Soil and Water Conservation Board of Supervisors race in last November’s election.]

“Unborn” letter not confusing but powerful

The [Xpress] editor is correct [at the close of Nancy Rollins’ letter, “I’m So Confused,” May 28]: You must create enlightenment on your own. But, I may be able to help you on your way to finding your path toward enlightenment. If you are willing to take a short mental journey to a place that will offer you different paths in that direction, please continue reading.

To begin with, Valorie Miller’s [May 14] letter, “Oh, to Be Unborn” was indeed different than other letters typically published in … the Mountain Xpress. Actually, Ms. Miller’s letter was so different that it confused you, and perhaps confused other readers, too.

This is where enlightenment can begin. I’ll explain: Confusion is the result of taking in information that does not fit into any of the memory-storage schemas or files already present in the brain.

For example, when we think of the Letters section, our brains access [that section’s] schemas or files; and, we recall what the Letters section is like, remembering the different types of letters which typically appear in that part of the paper.

Typical letters are usually rooted in familiar dramas … that fit easily into already present schemas: dramas depicting one point of view hedged against another; dramas based in rationalization, intelligence and ego; dramas [for] convincing other readers of points of view.

When we read a letter that doesn’t fit that mental list … [and that] reads without an attempt to influence, we get confused. Some people call this type of confusion “disequilibrium.” When this happens, we strive for balance, enlightenment, a comfortable mental existence. To achieve our desire, we have two choices:

One, we can choose to disregard the confusing letter as a mistake (and hope it doesn’t happen again), in effect, [ignoring] the source of discomfort.

Or two, we can create another file or schema in our brain … [that] will allow us to accept the different letter as part of what can be expected in the Letters section in the future. This was what the editor was asking in his response, [which stated] that the paper receives letters like Ms. Miller’s from time to time. And, to be representative of all, even the minority, a letter like hers should be printed from time to time. The editor’s response seemed to express the essences of freedom of speech, and the virtue of acknowledging that everyone has a different personality to express.

When we choose to create the new scheme, we choose enlightenment, allowing a different personality to be accepted — maybe not understood yet, but accepted as someone in our community we haven’t heard from before. In effect, by creating a new schema, we are learning, becoming more open minded and truly accepting freedom of speech and freedom from discrimination, moving toward heaven on earth.

Valorie Miller’s letter did not fit into any of the existing schemas. Her letter took me beyond all that. For me, her letter was simply unbiased self-expression, without judgment or criticism. It contained no sarcasms, nor ego. It was from her heart, her soul. It was about her own freedom, her enlightenment, her transcendence beyond rationalizing, into a place of love and acceptance. Her letter expressed experience in acceptance.

In a way, letters like hers may allow us to transcend typical approaches to solving our community’s questions about what to do differently in the future, as we experience the challenges of our rapid growth and all the physical effects that growth has on the environment and on us as citizens.

Her letter may be granting us an opportunity to shift to an enlightened ability to accept and strive to understand all points of view surrounding any particular community challenge. In striving to understand, we may forget our own stances and create answers we have not yet envisioned — synergy. We may experience enlightenment. Maybe, but who really knows?

— John Andrew Monchak Jr.
Enka

Democratic “left wing” is flight-impaired

Old spin dies hard. An anonymous letter writer [“Wake Up, You Political Greens!,” Xpress June 11] brought out the “Nader cost Gore the election” line again. I thought this was invalidated long ago, but as the election cycle looms again, so does the “spoiler” spin.

The “Nader cost Gore the election” idea is corporate-media spin; it is the “official” line. Don’t buy it. All it does is distract from the obvious: George W. Bush was appointed president by an illegal — and possibly treasonous — intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court, which aided and abetted numerous illegal acts by Republican officials in Florida.

To top it off, no one “cost” Al Gore the election but Al Gore himself. In bending over backwards to keep himself ineptly mediocre and attempting to out-Republican Bush, he couldn’t even swing his home state of Tennessee. When the November/December shenanigans were going on (read: bloodless coup d’etat), he put up such a half-hearted “fight” [that] it was appalling to behold — then he “conceded,” threw a party and fled the country.

So much for Al Gore.

As long as Democrat candidates continue to try and out-Republican the Republicans, Democrats will continue to lose elections. Why should voters settle for pale mirror images of pro-business, pro-war, anti-civil-rights free-market extremism when they can have the real thing?

Tellingly, the anonymous letter writer had his/her “name withheld upon request.” Was it through some kind of fear? Or embarrassment? Either way, it is a fine example of why the “left wing of the Democratic party” has such a hard time actually flying — it is willingly clipped.

If the anonymous author really wishes to understand the 2000 election fiasco, I highly recommend two books: The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President, written by trial lawyer Vincent Bugliosi, and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, written by investigative journalist Greg Palast. The last time I checked, they were both available at Malaprops. Perhaps we can convince Malaprops to offer the books together at a discount, so we can all educate ourselves and be better prepared for the coming election season(s).

I am no person of great means, but if the anonymous author truly cannot afford the books, I will gladly purchase them for him/her, and I’m sure delivery could be arranged through Mountain Xpress, anonymously.

— Sean Marquis
Asheville

Kudos to Planned Parenthood

As I prepare to move away from Asheville, I find myself reflecting on all the wonderful resources here, both natural and human-created — of which, high on my list, are all the folks who work at Planned Parenthood.

The organization itself has been a staple in my life for over eight years. Particularly, the women here in town at Planned Parenthood-Asheville Center have been a true gift in my life, and to this community. I just wanted to recognize them so others can, too.

Thank you to [nurse practitioner] Lynn von Unwerth and all the other beautiful, knowledgeable, dedicated people at Planned Parenthood, for caring so deeply for our women [and] their partners, families and futures.

— Nicole Dauria
Asheville

The next volley in the Sitnick wars

I did not advocate the former mayor being banned from the Rolling Thunder [Down-Home Democracy Tour]. I simply asked [in the letter “Rolling Thunder With a Broken Wheel,” Xpress May 28] why the progressive community had not held [Sitnick] in any way accountable for setting the precedent for subsequent repressive actions on the part of local government, to the point where they would have her host a celebration of democracy, especially since she will not make any efforts to resolve the issue.

If you doubt my integrity and veracity, which Anne Craig evidently did to term my letter “nasty” [in the letter “Sitnick Bashing Bad Form,” Xpress June 4], why not check the online Mountain Xpress archives for [staff reporter] Brian Sarzynski’s comprehensive account of the Asheville City Council work session/meeting of Sept. 25 and Oct. 3, 2001, as well as my commentary of Nov. 21, 2001, “Random Acts of Terror,” which discusses the deleterious domino effect these actions had on local government. Incidentally, when I procured a tape of the Council proceedings of Sept. 25, 2001, the portion wherein I confronted the former mayor and Council about their illegal action had been erased.

Leni Sitnick was in many ways an admirable public official who, near the end of her term, made a serious mistake that she has thus far failed to acknowledge. Inexplicably, she is being enabled by many in Asheville’s progressive movement who, by likewise failing to acknowledge this mistake, are continuing to experience its deleterious consequences.

— Rebecca Em Campbell
Waynesville

Molton — and Xpress — insensitive

I would like this letter directed to the editor or whoever [was] in charge of printing the cartoon by [Randy] Molton in the June 4 Xpress.

I was so disgusted and hurt by this display of hatred, and frankly, I was a little surprised — as was a good majority of my friends — to see this printed in your paper. I am in a loving, same-sex relationship with my wife of 18 years. Even if the cartoon [were] drawn about an ignorant human being and his views, it was hurtful to see.

I have been with my wife of 18 years and we had a very beautiful wedding in a church. This, of course, is not recognized, along with a [mountain] of things that most people take for granted. We have never asked for any special treatment, just equal rights. So next time, before you print a cartoon about a hateful, bigoted human being, think about what your readers are going to see, think and feel.

— Jennifer Chapman
Asheville

[Ed. Note: The Molton cartoon in question depicts Asheville City Council member Joe Dunn as a hangman at the gallows, with a sign in the foreground reading, “Same Sex Marriage.” Dunn, who is holding the ropes for two adjoining nooses, declares: “If they wanna tie the knot, I’ll help.” Molton based the cartoon on WLOS-TV news coverage of Dunn back in April.]

The academic lynching of Professor Abunura

Having read the letter “Citizen Corrie” [Xpress May 7], I think Mountain Xpress needs to investigate the overt cases of Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism and anti-academic freedom in our colleges in Asheville and Western North Carolina. I am concerned about the status of the academic freedom at UNCA, and the direction of the university, when the chief academic administrator at UNCA allowed the chair of political science to block professor Abunura from teaching a course on “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” and eventually forced him out of UNCA.

Most of us in Asheville know professor Elmoiz Abunura as a teacher, human-rights and community advocate, and as a Sufi Muslim who presents the tolerant face of Sufi Islam to the churches, and to community organizations. He is the only voice in the region who pointed — since 1996 — to the danger of militant Islamic organizations and the failure of American policy in the Middle East. He is also the only voice who usually [came] from UNCA after Sept. 11 to explain, and elaborate, on the events in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

Professor Abunura is the only expert at UNCA in the Middle East and the Islamic World. He is also a well-known authority in the area of human rights, and one of four experts in Africa at UNCA. It is a major setback to UNCA to lose a faculty member with knowledge and highest moral character and relevance to today’s world.

I assisted professor Abunura in re-establishing Amnesty International at UNCA in 1996. The activities of Amnesty stimulated our interest in human-rights issues and generated support for professor Abunura’s proposal for establishing a human-rights center at UNCA.

Professor Abunura has made an outstanding contribution to UNCA and the Asheville community through his leadership of the Africana Studies Program and Amnesty, and his presentations on the Middle East, Islam and human rights.

The academic lynching of professor Abunura is a clear defeat to Chancellor [Jim] Mullen’s diversity initiative. It is the time for the chancellor to walk the walk of diversity by protecting faculty like professor Abunura who [have] made a tremendous contribution to global diversity and human rights.

— David Chase
Asheville

[Ed. Note: We invited UNCA to address David Chase’s letter. The university’s formal response follows:]

While UNCA cannot comment on personnel matters, the university is strongly pledged to the principles of faculty academic freedom and we value the positive contributions of Mr. Abunura to campus and community life and thought during his employment period. We regret the sensationalist metaphor “academic lynching,” given the sad and hateful connotations it is designed to stir up, and we question the featured connection of routine personnel shifts with our overall commitment to diversity.

Through faculty leadership, the position dedicated to Africana Studies that had been limited to lecturer (temporary) status was significantly upgraded to a tenure-track position at the assistant or associate professor level (position search is underway). The dedication of a permanent faculty line to the important curricular area of the African diaspora — a process by which employment fairness and university commitment to excellence require a national search so as to attract the most qualified candidates holding the Ph.D. — is a concrete example of the university’s steadfast engagement with the principles of diversity and intellectual inclusiveness as framed by our public liberal-arts mission.

— Mark W. Padilla
Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, UNCA

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