Letters to the editor

Asheville needs housing more than parks

I like the actual plaza high-rise project better than the Texas-based Grove Park Inn company [Sammons Enterprises] proposing to build it because they wastefully engage in golf. The project is consistent with smart growth, except for the height limit, and will add critically needed, commute-free, residential units to downtown; indirectly helping affordable housing even if it is not immediately and directly affordable, a concept the left can’t seem to understand.

The fundamental purpose of a public park is for the homeless to sleep there, and since this [practice] has already been banned, I see little progressive value left in the park. People can sleep in an apartment building, [and] low-income people, if we insist on a percentage of affordable housing in the contract. So this is an opportunity for the progressive community to get it right.

I do oppose the sweetheart deal with golfers, and want the completed contract put out for bids, or the housing built by the city in-house, with no private contracting. But right now, Asheville needs housing more than parks, as it properly demonstrated in the budget last June.

We must never use housing to limit local population any more than we would use food. That is exclusively a job for birth-control advocacy and funding.

— Alan Ditmore

Dean for democracy

The older I become, the more I appreciate democracy and the more frustrated I become with people who do not or will not participate in the democratic process because they think that politics is corrupt or because the candidates are not 100 percent in accord with their own views. Somehow people are not getting it — that in a democracy, we are responsible for the behavior of our politicians and the actions of our government, especially when we refuse to participate in the process. We cause corruption because we allow it to exist. We create mediocre candidates because we want all-or-not candidates — our way or no way.

This is why I am particularly interested in Howard Dean’s candidacy for president of the United States. In every speech that I have read or heard him give, he underscores this point: We the people have the power to take back our government from special-interest groups, [and] from the wealthy, the privileged and the corrupt, if we will act. I urge your readers, especially the disaffected, to go to the Dean Web site and read some of his issue papers. They are articulate, well written, provocative and straightforward. He is not afraid to say what he thinks. He is not playing to the polls. He is addressing the real problems that we face in this country today. If you do not have a computer, public libraries have computers and librarians to help you find what you need.

The current administration rules by fear and scapegoating. It is a well-known psychological phenomenon that in times of uncertainty, people are drawn to extreme and simple-minded solutions. Such is the appeal of the current president. He and his administration fan the climate of uncertainty to play to what is worst in us. Howard Dean speaks to what is best in us. He addresses us as responsible adults — as citizens, able to deal with complex issues and make hard decisions.

I encourage you to check him out.

— Maxine Dalton
Hot Springs

Same-sex marriage about paperwork, not church sanction

The word “marriage” is simply that … a word. Some of you believe it is a holy word, a union under God. Then someone please tell us why our society allows heterosexuals to be married by a magistrate?

“By the power vested in me, by the state of North Carolina” is a direct quote from your typical, nonreligious, courthouse “marriage.” These types of marriages require no blessing from any clergy, church or anyone’s God. These marriages are just paperwork with the signatures of the bride and groom, the magistrate and two witnesses. These marriages have nothing to do with God — shall we legally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman blessed by a Christian church only? That’s what we are protecting, right? God’s interests?

Nobody is asking that the government force churches to give blessings to gay unions. All we are asking is that we receive the same benefits as heterosexuals receive in “marriage.” Just as we do not want our government coming into our churches, why is it that our churches will not stay out of our government?

As a united gay couple, if either of us were to be involved in a car accident with only an hour to live, the hospital has no legal obligation to let the other spend the last moments with the person whom we have loved, honored and cherished for years. In those last moments, nearly all hospitals have a “family only” policy. Our relationship is not recognized as family; we should be recognized as each other’s “next of kin,” but we won’t [be], because our relationship is not legally recognized. One of us does not have a legal next of kin within 600 miles; he would die alone, as the other stood in the lobby. The hospital is not even legally obligated to share this devastating news.

This is only one reason we want equal marriage rights. Our biggest adversary in this fight is the people obsessed with God’s blessing on the word “marriage.” Call it what you want; heterosexuals can be married by a church with God’s blessing, but with no marriage license, they face the same painstaking injustices by the courts, the IRS, hospitals, creditors, insurance companies, work places and so on as we do.

What it comes down to is paperwork — we are not asking the churches to do anything; we are asking for the paperwork. Our judgments by God are just that — between us and God. We don’t understand what threat this poses to the heterosexual population. God does not come into play when we are talking about legal recognition. Everybody needs the paperwork.

— Andrew Commesso and Andrew Kerr

The view from the top of the food chain

Let’s apply the Golden Rule to a rebuttal of animal-rights activists’ position on eating meat. We all know the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Surely nobody objects to this straightforward moral principle. (Maybe this dialogue will be more useful than dissin’ contests.)

Might everyone agree that all pets, livestock and wild animals should be treated humanely? May we also earnestly agree that animals have feelings and emotions, and can, to a greater or lesser extent, reason?

But should we eat them? After all, it’s surely traumatic, even under the best of circumstances, to be killed — we assume the latter phase, being eaten, is painless.

I say, yes, for the universe (that includes our little world) was not created by Walt Disney. Yes, Nature shows lots of symbiosis and commensalisms, and other win-win Warm Fuzzies. However, as unpalatable as this fact may be, the animals capable of consuming meat would eat us if they could. And feel no guilt. None.

So, fair’s fair. [But] let’s look more closely, just to be sure.

Do you doubt that if you were rabbit-sized, [that] hungry, faithful Fido would wolf you down in a minute? If mouse-sized, Purring Kitty would set her claws on you? Even if ant-sized, that Cheery Canary or all your mellow aquarium fishies would gulp you up in a heartbeat?

And the gentle herbivores? Possibly more bulls have killed farmers than vice-versa. (I’m indifferent to the scores of matadors gored by El Toro; they’re begging for it.) Get to close to herds of elephant, rhino or Cape buffalo, and you’re hyena hamburger, stomped into the ground. They don’t care.

Viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, tapeworms, ticks, mites, insects, vampire bats, rats and the occasional tiger or crocodile all routinely eat humans. Often, purely in the consumer’s sole self-interest, we’re eaten alive while we suffer. That’s not nice.

Without cynicism or rhetorical trickery, with respect for both the Creator who (I believe) made us, and for the animal-rights position, I ask that we conduct ourselves by all our fellow animals’ version of the Golden Rule. A good role model, the patron saint of all creatures, St. Francis of Asissi, was not a vegetarian.

— Tom Graham

Compassion and meat eating don’t mix

Famed WWII pilot Bob Morgan recently celebrated his 85th birthday, and his party was a fund-raiser for the Animal Compassion Network. I commend Col. Morgan for raising money to help companion animals. But I was disappointed to learn that the party fare included dead animals.

While most of us can relate more easily to dogs and cats than farmed animals, that doesn’t mean that animals that are eaten don’t feel pain just as dogs, cats or even humans do. In fact, farmed animals have very acute pain sensors as well as individual personalities and preferences, much like dogs, cats and humans. If the cruelties suffered by farmed animals were inflicted upon dogs or cats, the perpetrators would be thrown in jail. Instead, North Carolina and the majority of states specifically exclude farmed animals from their laws against animal cruelty.

In the United States alone, nearly 10 billion animals are slaughtered for human consumption every year. Most are kept on factory farms, where the goal is to raise the greatest number of animals in the least amount of time and space at the highest profit. Instead of being treated as the living, feeling beings they are, farmed animals are viewed as mere commodities. To learn more about the animals that suffer and die so that Americans can fill their plates with rotting flesh and their arteries with deadly cholesterol, please view a short video at www.meetyourmeat.com.

I applaud the folks at the Animal Compassion Network for the good work they do, but I wish they’d change their name to the Companion Animal Compassion Network. Celebrating an 85th birthday by eating animals that never saw their first birthday is hardly an act of compassion. And Col. Morgan is no more of a friend to farmed animals than is Colonel Sanders.

— Terri David

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