Letters to the editor

Life’s a risk

Bruce McCanless [Letters, July 15 and Aug. 12] continues to rail inanely about LSD. Millions of people brain-damaged from taking LSD? Where’d he get that? There were hardly millions of people who ever took the stuff at all, much less fried their brains on it. This sounds like something McCanless came across in Reader’s Digest or while listening to Pat Robertson or Bill Bennett (are they really two different people?).

Virtually all human behavior has risk associated with it. I risk my life every day by driving my car onto public roads. I risk my health by drinking coffee and taking prescription drugs. Some people ride bicycles, mountain climb, engage in sexual activity, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, play sports, lift objects. McCanless’ evidence for the dangerousness of LSD is that “one” (as in One!) guy he went to school with “fried his brains on acid.” He also relates that he went to a rock concert once where there were several thousand people and “one fight broke out … and one girl was taken away in an ambulance, possibly because of an overdose.” (italics mine) Ever been to a baseball game, Bruce? Ever seen drunk people there? It would be a rare game, indeed, when there weren’t drunks — frequently obnoxious and probably driving their cars home, potentially endangering their, mine and your lives.

The great tragedy of LSD was that promising research into its therapeutic properties was prematurely ended, because of the overreaction of public officials to a media-created hysteria, perpetuated by people like Bruce McCanless. LSD is a drug with potential dangers; it probably should not be used by maturing bodies and minds; some people do experience adverse reactions; some people are at greater risk of having adverse effects than others; a proportion of regular users develop dependency on the drug; yet none of this justifies the controls imposed upon the drug.

Notwithstanding the recent tragic suicide of a young Asheville woman, [the fact] still remains that LSD is related to relatively few instances of life-damaging conequences, as compared to alcohol and tobacco.

The rule of thumb is: Any [pleasure-inducing] drug that people discover — and which the pharmaceutical companies have not yet figured out [a medical use] for — will be made illegal (with the notable exceptions of alcohol and tobacco). Heaven forbid that anyone should experience chemically induced pleasure without state or corporate (same thing, really) sanction.

Life’s risky, Bruce. That’s part of the fun.

— Bob Wilson

Project STEAM, full ahead

As always, I hope this correspondence finds you experiencing continued peace, happiness and success.

In your Aug. 12-18 issue, your reporter Mr. Paul Schattel outlined my comments to the Buncombe County commissioners in his commissioners report. For the past four years, your publication has assisted Project STEAM by informing your readers of our successful after-school program, and I am appreciative for your support. But while reading Mr. Schattel’s report on my comments, I became concerned with two things: the headline which read “STEAM running out of steam,” and the sentence that read “pleaded with the commissioners to fund the program again this year.”

I feel that the headline was sensational in nature because, although we are a small nonprofit organization experiencing a short-term cash-flow situation, our program has not, nor will it ever, “run out of steam.” Project STEAM’s staff, its board of directors and our students are determined and hard-working individuals who will continue to see that our program serves the needs of children throughout Buncombe County. Our personal commitment, motivation and personal sacrifices to see the dreams of today’s children realized will not be deterred — not even by a short-term financial situation. To see that Project STEAM does not have financial difficulties in the future, we request that community residents and businesses become “Dreams Architect” of our program. It is our goal to enroll 1,200 Dream Architects throughout Buncombe who will donate $100 per year to our organization. By reaching our goal, 77 percent of our annual operating budget will be supported by the members of our community.

Lastly, Project STEAM was not funded by the county commissioners last year, nor any other year — nor have we requested funding in previous years. This year marks Project STEAM’s first request for financial assistance from the county, because of the work we do on behalf of the county’s children and their families.

I would appreciate you printing this letter, or portions thereof, so that the people of our community do not get the wrong impression that Project STEAM is running out of steam. Project STEAM is beginning its fifth year of offering its educational outreach programs, which will serve 50-75 students in our after-school program and 1,000 students through mini-workshops. We are are well prepared to make it the best year to date.

— Christopher Tunstall, executive director/founder
Project STEAM

Gen. Siegel, report for remedial

While I generally liked Ashely Siegel’s review of Saving Private Ryan, unfortunately she does not know her derriere from a foxhole when it comes to war or the Normandy Invasion.

First — a “guerrilla battle” would involve irregular, usually nonuniformed troops, engaged in a hit-and-run type harassing attack. Real guerrillas would almost never set up a static defense to defend a bridge. What the film depicted was a standard, WWII European urban, house-to-house, hand-to-hand battle. This was fought across France and Germany by American, Canadian and British troops against pockets of fanatical or surrounded German troops. The tank was the device that kept the war from becoming a trench war like WWI.

And — the German troops were coming forward to try and re-reinforce their front and throw the invaders back into the sea, not “invade … Paris.” At this point (D-Day + two or three or four days), the Germans still held Paris, and indeed, would for another couple of months. The whole, indeed faulty, German plan was to let the Allies land in Normandy, then throw them back into the sea with such horrible losses that they would never again try to invade Fortress Europe.

And — while the landing was a slaughter on the “American” beaches, the Canadians and Brits had it easier, and the Allies took fewer casualties than expected. Eisenhower had expected invasion dead and wounded in the 50 percent range! The whole point of the film is that soldiers in that war fought not from any great ideals, but because they were told to, and some of them rose to great heights of bravery and heroism when their survival instinct overcame their fear. I doubt any of them really thought they would go home till they were dead, wounded or the Germans were beaten.

— H.M.Du Bose
(visitor to Swannanoa who lives in Durham)

Ashely Siegel responds: I, Ashely Siegel, never having placed my derriere anywhere near a foxhole, stand at attention and corrected by your clarifications. However, regarding Mr. Jones’ comments about my mistakes, I am having trouble understanding how that ripples out into a lack of respect for those who fought in the war. Thanks for your responses.

Please, respect those who gave in WWII

This is in regards to the movie review of Saving Private Ryan, written by Ashely Siegel. While generally I enjoy her work, I was very disappointed — no, extremely disappointed — with her ignorance: “…desperate last effort to prevent Hitler from invading Paris,” when it should be (but unfortunately is not) common knowledge that Hitler took Paris in 1940. D-Day was in 1944.

Perhaps it sounds trivial to you, as well as to the rest of us in our respective generations, but these were the deeds of everyday people who performed heroically in response to a challenge that would not accept anything less.

Perhaps only those who gave their lives in pursuit of American civil rights are worthy to be associated.

We are ignorant of these great events at our peril. Indeed, if we are unaware of the events surrounding these noble sacrifices, are we even aware of the causes that forced the same sacrifices upon the many of that generation? Spielberg’s film does the brutality justice. The self-immolation of 50,000 American men and women, out of duty, honor and, indeed, even a righteous cause, deserves at least the small respect that can be provided by our knowledge of those events.

— K.E.Johnson

Get some Port-A-John training, folks

We had a wonderful time at Bele Chere. My kids had a great time in the kids’ area, and they shrieked with glee as the fountain sprayed them on their raft ride. We stayed much longer than I thought we would.

Because we stayed so long, the kids needed to use a port-o-potty. I dreaded this.

We bravely approached the line of toilets. As the kids were hopping up and down with the urge to relieve their bladders, I opened the door. Urine was puddled on the floor, and the seat was dripping with it. Soggy toilet paper was everywhere.

My point is not with the city: It’s with the people. We are not barn animals waiting for the farmer to come and spread some fresh hay. We are responsible for the state of our public restrooms — and it’s disgusting!

When I use a public restroom, I touch almost nothing. I even flush with my foot. So I understand people not wanting to sit on the seat. So, what I do, when I’m not going to use the seat, is flip it up (with my foot) to keep it clean for those who don’t have a choice — the little kids, the elderly, etc.

Let’s not just get creeped out thinking about all the people who have used the toilet before us. Let us also think of the people who will need to use it after us.

— Grace McPhee

Housing Exasperation 101

In your Aug. 12 commentary about affordable housing [“Housing Made Difficult 101,” by Cindy and Grier Weeks], an important fact was left out. The wages here in Asheville are so low that they contribute to the affordable-housing problem. The lack of higher-paying jobs causes people to move into mobile homes or need roommates, just to get by.

— Kevin Finch

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