Letters to the editor

Fair compensation could save lives

The health-care system that sustains so many sick people in Western North Carolina helped kill Devin [Gibson].

The system of “agency” temporary workers pays low wages and does nothing for child-care. It recruits from the very poor as a way to “help” them get on their feet. Are they helping or exploiting? Michelle [Gibson] could not work there and support herself and her son [without] child-care. I am told there is no child-care available at any price for night workers. We condone this by our silence, [which] implies consent. If we grant consent, then we have to accept the deaths of poor children.

By no means is this limited to health-care. We permit all sorts of employers to exploit cheap labor. They reap unfair profits, and the cost is in human lives. …

Shouldn’t the government step in and provide child-care for the working poor? No, definitely not. If people work back-to-back 16-hour days, they are working as hard — harder even — than is reasonable, [and are] living up to the agreement that says: “If you work hard in America, you will get by. It’s a fair deal.” The employer who is making a profit from the marketing of such Herculean labor owes Asheville and her working poor more than a cavalier statement like: “We don’t help people find child care.” How can that possibly be a “fair deal”?

We need to confront those who would pass judgment while ignoring their own guilt through indifference and neglect. Taking services for less than they would cost if labor were fairly compensated is indifference. Allowing companies like STAT to avoid dealing with daycare is neglect. We are all at fault.

Providing the employers with an “out” by enlarging the subsidies to the working poor is giving our taxes to cheap-labor advocates. We need to require fair compensation! Fair compensation includes child-care. [Rep.] Charles Taylor voted for HR 4737, which failed in the Senate. More taxes to improve access to child-care for the poor is noble. But what we need is regulation to require fair compensation.

— Evelyn Johnson

Carrot-and-stick Christianity

I was pleased to see the Biltmore Baptist Church proclaim their church a “judgement-free zone” in their full-page advertisement in the Xpress. Though their comforting invitation strained at my soul-string, I think Nietzsche discovered an equally valid interpretation of Christianity:

“One must not be led astray: ‘judge not,’ they say, but they consign to Hell everything that stands in their way. By letting God judge, they themselves judge. By demanding the virtues of which they happen to be capable, they give themselves the magnificent appearance of a struggle for virtue. Once and for all they have placed themselves on the side of truth and the rest of the world on the other.”

From my study of the Bible, there appear to be two distinct Christs — one who forgives and loves no matter what, and one who threatens eternal damnation if you don’t comply. It seems to be the standard carrot-and-stick form of mind control. However, the carrot includes blessing the poor in spirit, the merciful and the peacemakers; storing your treasures in Heaven and fleeing from Mammon; and forgiving seventy-times seven, loving your neighbor, turning the other cheek, and even loving your enemy. If the planet followed such a revolutionary carrot, we could conceivably achieve a relative peace on earth.

The BBC may be as nonjudgmental as their ad sounds. Unfortunately, the confusing Christian combination of hyperjudgment and extreme tolerance has corrupted many secular areas of society. It helps rationalize the proud heartlessness of doctrinaire capitalists, the moral oppressiveness of politically correct leftists and liberals, and the unconsciously brutal killing that is much of American foreign policy. It has helped make self-righteous moral excitement, rather than communication and compromise, the hallmark of our political discourse.

— Bill Branyon

Could the senator be misinformed?

Recently, I received a letter from Sen. Elizabeth Dole in reply to an e-mail I had sent asking her to support the medical marijuana issue that was before the Supreme Court.

I was not only surprised but somewhat educated when I read her reply. She obviously equates medical marijuana to “Reefer Madness” — which is great, I suppose, except that it leads me to believe that our Honorable Mrs. Dole has no faith in, trust of, or respect for our doctors here in the great state of North Carolina (or anywhere, I suppose).

Mrs. Dole says medical marijuana is bad for us, and that’s that. How the hell does she know? [Because] government study after study shows all the bad things that will happen to us should we ever be exposed to marijuana, medical or otherwise.

Give me a break. How about this: Should not a doctor have the ability to make a decision regarding my health? Isn’t that what they do? Currently, our doctors can write prescriptions for a lot of stuff that isn’t particularly good for everyone, but it’s good for the person [getting] the prescription. That is why they’re doctors, isn’t it?

What about this: If medical marijuana helps someone — just one person on this entire planet — shouldn’t a doctor (not a senator or the U.S. government in the form of the Supreme Court) make that decision? I trust my doctor, and should I ever be in the position to need “anything” that a doctor feels could ease my (or a loved one’s) pain or suffering, then screw the government’s ban on medical marijuana.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that Mrs. Dole did not “read” my e-mail or write the letter that her name was signed on, but it [came from] her staff. She doesn’t feel that our doctors are to be trusted — simple as that.

For those people who will always feel that marijuana will be a problem, then make it a medical problem, not a legal problem.

— Bob Niewoehner

Fight globalization — hire a neighbor

Well, for God’s sake, we can’t go around buying things here and there like it doesn’t matter. The switch for our brain must be “on” when we take out our money to pay for something. Only an idiot doesn’t now know that big-box retail is the face of “globalization” and the economic rape of our community. The whooshing sound we hear these days is the huge corporate hammer slamming down out of the sky and squashing us.

Remember, our economic life is not primarily about our money. It is about our life, while the money part comes second — important, but second. Our economic life is about relationship. It is about people — local people — which if no one has pointed out to you, is us.

We have to be smart and know we are buying from locally-owned businesses, and know it’s OK to pay more; even better, hire a neighbor, because that money comes back to us. Otherwise, our money leaves and never comes back, enriching distant corporations and countries like China that [peddle] their cheap and often inferior quality crap here.

And if all of this floats over your head, you can at least say the word “localization” to the next person you meet, and the two of you can ponder its meaning. It is a mind-numbing paradox that large corporations depend on all of us little people. Without our money, they will die and disappear — a very pleasant prospect. They never forget their total dependency upon us, while hoping and praying that we’ll never realize it. It’s the dirtiest secret around, so, psst, pass it along, and always, always, buy local. It’s our money; let’s keep it here. “Localization” will save our community and save our lives — you know, the things we cherish most.

— John Buckley

They’re roadless for a reason

“The national park is the best idea America ever had,” said James Bryce, British Ambassador to the United States, in 1912. Indeed, America’s vast system of protected public lands has long been the envy of the world. Our public estate is a stunning spread of 655 million acres, bequeathed to us by the foresight of generations of American conservationists like Teddy Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter.

Some of the most spectacular parts of America’s public-lands system are the 58.5 million acres of roadless areas in our national forests. Here in North Carolina, that includes 172,000 acres of pristine forests, virtually untouched by mankind — and for very good reason. Increasingly, these wild forests offer an escape from the frenzy of modern life, not to mention unparalleled recreational opportunities, jobs, wildlife, and clean, safe drinking water for millions of Americans.

Yet this week’s Independence Day found some of these natural — and national — treasures at a crossroads.

On May 5, one of the most popular conservation policies in American history was revoked by the Bush administration. The decision to abandon the landmark Roadless Area Conservation Rule and replace it with a convoluted petition process, leaves America’s last wild forests at risk from destructive commercial logging, road building, and mining and oil-and-gas development.

Despite these challenges, we can, as Americans, take responsibility for America. Nationwide, the Sierra Club is working with faith-based, native, sportsmen’s and other local groups to save open spaces, leave trees standing, keep communities intact, and connect citizens with their neighbors and government agencies in order to care for our lands and wildlife. Americans are uniting to protect wild, unspoiled America, and to keep these special places safe, whole and in trust for the generations to come. Working together we can solve problems, protect North Carolina’s roadless areas, and pass on to future generations those spacious skies, majestic mountains and shining seas to enjoy on future Independence Days.

— Bryan Whitaker, Sierra Club
Regional Conservation Organizer

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