Letters to the editor

Take your beating

Pummels with the most toxic of pressure-treated lumber to the fella who wrote in recently [“Hurrah for Healthy Food!,” Xpress June 4] to imply how he’s saving the planet with every self-righteous bite from Earth Fare and [also to Xpress Assistant Editor/Music Editor] Frank Rabey for writing that singer/songwriter Michael Farr “embodies the sunshine-and-love spirit of our little nouvelle-hippie boomtown” [Mountain Sports Festival supplement, Xpress June 4].

You blissheads should be marinated in genetically modified beef fat and then taken back to Taos, Boulder, Santa Fe, Chernobyl, Eugene or whatever other little post-commercial-apocalypse mecca town you lived in last. Better yet, how about a forced multi-day backpacking trip through the nastiest, most expansive [and] newest of Charlotte suburbs? After that, of course, I cordially invite you back to our little bliss haven, so that you can spread your sickening love and light all over everybody.

— Charles Hill

[Frank Rabey responds: The “fella” you referred to is Carol Shimberg, a woman. Also, you appear to be confusing a musical critique with my own personal lifestyle choice — I would register only a negative blip on even the most liberal of granola meters. But, like, don’t let me harsh — or even dim — your mellow. Because I love you, man.]

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

“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.

Crawl back to your coffee capital, lady!

I, for one, am definitely wishing Seattle had remained a more admirable place in Andrea Helm’s eyes. Maybe she’d have stayed there. The thought of coming before her scrutiny now that she has returned and is writing commentary again [“Attack of the Fauxhemians,” June 18] makes me shiver. She’s glad to be out of the whole “superficial, congested, stressful, pretentious” city of Seattle — and I can imagine the citizens of [what she called] that formerly Pearl Jam-ruled world are breathing a bit easier, too.

I don’t drive a BMW SUV, and eschew bumper stickers of any kind, but I’m sure there are many things Ms. Helm could find about me to despise. Fact is, there are despicable things about pretty much all of us fallen creatures. I guess my point is that, now that she’s returned to Asheville (God forbid, perhaps even my “Worst Asheville” side of it), I don’t think [Helm’s] writing a divisive, name-calling, stereotyping, downright-nasty column is a very good way to make a “positive difference” in our city.

I’m all for some of her specifics, though: It’s definitely positive to shop locally, buy your friends artwork, get involved and live simply. Yes, and smile and say hello to your fellow citizens — that’ll help, too.

— Ken Abbott
West Asheville

Cartoonist Derf is mean-spirited

Derf strikes again!

Note the fat, unshaven, disheveled man with exotic hairstyle, unzipped fly and dirty clothes in an obviously poorly maintained part of town [in “The City” which ran in the June 4 Xpress]. The idiotic slob, obsessing about “pressure,” can’t even make up his mind to get on a bus. Real funny, huh?

Except that Derf, once again, has targeted a defenseless minority, the so-called “de-institutionalized” mentally ill. Derf could have chosen a neat, trim, middle-class citizen with an admittedly strange inability to come to a decision. No, he [instead] loads his images with the attributes of an easily recognized stereotype: the confused, over- or under-medicated, lost soul desperately in need of kindness and understanding.

Who’s next? Quadriplegics? The elderly? Victims of AIDS? Stay tuned.

— George E. Gjelfriend

Ed. Note: We asked Derf to respond to Gjelfriend’s letter. His comments follow:

Hey! That “poorly maintained part of town” just happens to be my neighborhood, pal! And I didn’t “choose” anybody. It clearly says in the first panel that this is a true story. And so it is. I drew what I saw. There’s no exaggeration. Mr. Pressure has been a fixture on the street for years. In fact, I’ve put him in cartoons before. He’s a bit odd, sure … but he’s certainly no “idiotic slob.”

Why get so worked up over a little urban tale like this one? To me, Mr. Pressure perfectly represents life in the big, bad, new-millennium city. Far from ridiculing him … I completely empathize with the guy!

Justice for all?

Imagine that you have been restrained and beaten for three days. When you finally make it to the hospital, someone lobbies the medical staff with the opinion that you are crazy. Though you continue to tell anyone who cares to listen that you have been violently battered, you are whisked away to a mental institution, then incarcerated by those with loyalties to the man who beat you in the first place.

The scenario has horrifying implications. Who would believe it could really happen in this country, where “freedom” and “liberty” pepper our daily conversations, fuel our domestic-and-foreign policy, and appear in symbolic form on everything from flag stickers to patriotic T-shirts?

A good many people who have worked within and around the legal system for a long time will believe that it can happen. The trick is not to hear the story of Nisha Sherlin with jaded cynicism, but to hear it as a call to effect change.

“Buncombe Justice on Trial,” [Xpress June 18] highlights a lot of lingering questions about the case of Nisha Sherlin. I have a couple to add:

1. At any time, was Nisha told by law enforcement that she could file assault charges on her abuser?

2. If she had filed assault charges, would they have been investigated and prosecuted?

As an advocate for victims of domestic violence, I believe that every victim has the right to decide whether to seek justice for her abuse. This means that I will support a victim as she pursues orders of protection, files assault charges [and] appears before the court. And it means that I will support a victim who decides not to do any of these things. Nisha Sherlin might not have wanted to pursue her options for justice.

However, I will always want her to exercise the law in bringing her perpetrator to justice. Not just for her sake, but for the sake of all of us. When an assault is prosecuted, it should not require prosecution by the victim. It should be prosecuted by the state. Allowing violence to go unaddressed impacts us all.

But, as an advocate, what am I to do when the victim knows — sometimes better than I do — that seeking justice will come to no good, and may even result in negative and re-victimizing repercussions?

If true, the questions left by the story of Nisha Sherlin as reported by the Xpress speak to all of us — to our protection under the law, and to our civil liberties in a free and just society.

We have a justice system that seems to work for some, but not for others. Until we change the system, we cannot truly ensure liberty and justice for all. It will take our entire community to create change, to hold the system accountable to those ideals we hold most dear. (If you are as troubled as I by this story, you can direct your concerns to the North Carolina Attorney General’s Western Office at (828) 251-6083).

— Valerie Collins
Executive Director, Helpmate

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

[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.]

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