Letters to the editor

A do-it-yourself bike path

A response to Lars H. Johnson’s ending quote as follows: “And while you’re at it, see if you can’t get [Mayor] Leni to spare some change for a few more bike paths. If this letter has disturbed anyone, I apologize. Just remember, the pen is mightier than the sword — but a pen without action is like a sword without a hand” [Letters, June 14, “Just pave it all”].

My response:

If Asheville had lots more bike paths, I would love to use them (with my roller blades). But let’s break down what you are asking for here: You want the city of Asheville to pay for your pleasure. You want someone else to bear the financial cost of paving those bike paths. You want Asheville to conscript money from people who will never use the bike path, be they rich or poor. Let me propose something radical here. It’s a Libertarian idea, so be careful. Let me propose that you start an organization called Pathways for Asheville. Bring all your buddies together and get them working for the cause. Run all kinds of fund-raisers. Ask for a voluntary annual “tax” from your members and all who actually use the pathways — let’s see, say, $20 (more if you wish) annually per bike. When you have enough money to pave a pathway somewhere, go to the mayor and work a deal: “We will give you this money to build our pathway.” It can be and should be called the Lars H. Johnson Pathway. You are right: The pen is mightier than the sword. But your hard work and devotion to an idea are even mightier. Get on with it, and let me know how it is going. I will donate time and money to your cause, so be sure to let me know.

— Clarence Ervin Young
Libertarian candidate for 28th District, North Carolina Senate

When homophobia reigns, everyone suffers

I enjoyed reading Randy Siegel’s Father’s Day column [Commentary, June 14, “Finding my father’s love”] about growing up the gay son of a man who seems fairly typical for his time, and a type of father still pretty common today. Every gay man has a horror story to tell about his experience growing up in this society. And, as more of these stories are told, one hopes and expects that all of us are becoming aware of the problems our society’s relationship to homosexuality creates for all of us — straight as well as gay. How might things be different for our heterosexual fellow citizens were our society to embrace homosexuality as casually as it embraces heterosexuality?

The sad truth is that when a gay child suffers, the whole family suffers. The suffering of the parents of gay children, when they first discover that they have a gay child, is often heartbreaking. Having absorbed one or another of society’s horror stories about homosexuality, the realization that one’s own child is a homosexual (and a usually not very happy one) is normally a very difficult — if not traumatic — experience for the parents. The result, in the most extreme cases, of this family dynamic is that the child is driven from the home. These teenagers can be found on the streets of any large city in America. But, in most cases, the family damage is less dramatic. Secrets, shame, guilt and more or less tortured relationships eat away at the happiness of the whole family.

Another sure result of a change in society’s attitude about homosexuality would be a drop in the divorce rate, because gays and lesbians would no longer feel pressured to marry in order to either conform (hide) or please parents or other family members. There are many married gays and lesbians, and these relationships are seldom very successful.

Many gay men and lesbians love children and are very good at raising them. If the absurd restrictions on allowing gays and lesbians to adopt or be foster parents were removed, many good homes would immediately become available for the many children who need them. Gays and lesbians are also often very good teachers, and many have chosen to stay in the closet here in North Carolina so that they can teach in our public schools. If teachers were able to be open about their sexual orientation, our society would benefit from having more able teachers — as well as from having positive gay and lesbian role models for both the gay and straight students.

The points I have made above are only a partial list of the ways all of us suffer from homophobia. For what? Most of us recognize that our society has serious problems, even if we don’t always agree about what those problems are. However, the more we can remove imaginary problems — such as homosexuality — from the list, the sooner we will be able to recognize the real problems, and the more effectively we will be able to work to correct them.

— Doug Wade

Speak out against cruel animal testing

In other countries, like the United Kingdom, officials are already restricting the use of suspect chemicals in food. But in most cases, our government [is not]. Why?

The Environmental Protection Agency is planning a test (called the Endocrine Disrupter Screening Program) that will be the largest single animal-testing program in history. [More than] 10,000 animals could be used in tests that include:

1. Painful force-feeding of massive doses of pesticides.

2. Repeated injections of industrial chemicals.

3. Cutting live animals open to remove their ovaries.

These tests have not been properly validated — in violation of Congressional legislation and sound scientific practice. [The EPA has] also shelved a promising and scientifically recommended non-animal test, which, if used, could spare millions of animals from useless, agonizing hell. Why?

The answer, according to [one] U.S. governmental official, is that — due to commitments by laboratories and government agencies, and the availability of funding — the program will proceed, justified or not.

Again, why?

The prestigious National Research Council states: “There are important differences between species. These differences make important problems.” Because animals and people are different, the government animal tests will be inaccurate and irrelevant.

One of the government’s own top scientists recently stated, “Twenty years from now, we will have killed millions of animals, spent millions of dollars, and we still won’t know how endocrine disrupters affect humans. We need to take a step back and focus on what the problem is in people.” Research should use the modern ways of testing, not the crude and cruel old-fashioned animal tests.

Should we believe that the EPA [consists of] a bunch of criminally insane ghouls who like to torture animals? No. Then, once more: Why? Why are they pushing this project?

It comes to mind that the chemical companies will still not be faced with the proof that they are harming us — so they and their stockholders can continue to promote their products. How many times have we heard this excuse: “There is no scientific proof that [insert your own words].”

Does the EPA work for us? Does it work for the chemical companies? If so, why? Huh? I can’t invest in stock anymore, but to those who do: Please know what your companies are doing.

But we can all protest this EPA action. For information and help, call (757) 622-7382, fax (757) 628-0782, visit www.peta-online.org on the Web, or e-mail peta@peta-online.org.

We must act now.

— Ruth Evangline Archer

Give “Best Local Band” its due

I personally do not know R.D. Phillips, who sent in his comment concerning [your] “Best Of WNC” issue [Letters, June 21, “The lurid truth? Your “Best of” sucked”], but I know I like him already. Although my reply is not submitted with quite as much hostility as I seemed to [detect] while reading his comments, I am very much in agreement with his response — at least concerning the “Best Local Band” category. As a musician around the Asheville area for most of my life, I feel I can honestly speak for all other musicians around the area when I say that any publicity we can receive is extremely appreciated. I know that a publication of your nature only has so much time, effort and space to accommodate news of this varied and interesting area we live in.

Still, a ballot taken to give information to people considering visiting this area, as well as our many local arts-and-entertainment supporters, should allow a few accolades to the “winners” in each category. I do not know Melanie McGee either, but I did get the same impression as Mr. Phillips when he mentioned the “cheeky implications of latent alcohol abuse and ballot-stuffing.” Steve Weams and the Caribbean Cowboys are definitely a “good-time” band. They never fail to have people out on the dance floor every time they play. Some of the most talented musicians in Western North Carolina are either in, or have played for, Steve’s band over the past decade or more. I’m sure the public would appreciate knowing a little more about the entire band. …

Please don’t take me wrong. I can hardly make it through the week if I don’t get my copy of Mountain Xpress. It is — without a doubt — one of the most supporting forms of media that artists, musicians, etc. can receive in our area, and I thank you for that.

— Gary Wiley
Bass player for Sons of Ralph

Complaint against a cop? Get name and badge number.

This is in response to the heartbroken individual who witnessed the murder of the neighborhood dog by a city policeman on Highland Street, on Friday, May 26, around 9:45 p.m. [Letters, June 21, “Murder on Highland Street”].

During these types of [incidents] by policemen, we — during our moments of excitement and/or bewilderment — rarely remember to get the name and badge number of the policeman committing these atrocities. …

We need to take stock when finding ourselves surrounded and intimidated by armed men in blue, and maintain enough calmness to get the information we may need to bring these people to the attention of all readers. The individuals involved are aware of this, and that is why they act in an uncontrolled manner — knowing that a name will not be made public.

You have every right to ask, and the policeman is obligated to respond.

Ask, Write It Down Immediately, and have a witness hear what the policeman’s response is.

None of them wants their name and badge number published, so this will serve as a minor deterrent to such abhorrent behavior. The best deterrent, however, is to become actively involved in city issues. Always bring police misbehavior to the attention of all. Make calls, complain to the local newspapers and gather petitions. Never let incidents such as this transpire and not bring them to everyone’s attention. Our biggest weapon? The media.

— Queenie E. Melchor

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