Letters to the editor

Reflections of urban life

I absolutely loved seeing local, urban art on the cover of the Aug. 30 Mountain Xpress. It is inspiring to artists in Asheville. However, I think it would help if Steve [Shanafelt, in the accompanying article, “Spray-Painting Is Not a Crime“] talked more extensively with people involved in these different murals, because he barely scratched the surface of the real issues involved in this genre.

The mural on Haywood by Ted, Lisa, Roadkill and Fansler was meant to change the neighborhood that it is in. Visually and conceptually — and on multiple levels — it reflects the undercurrent of life. It is intended to open people’s eyes. As one local artist told me, “Personally, I’m over the debate [of] whether it’s art or crime. That’s beside the point.”

Cave paintings were expressions of human creativity, in step with natural life cycles: pre-history, before civilization, before the concept of property. Artists are tapping into that essential life essence and creating contemporary representations of where we are, who we are, and where we are going as a culture. Asheville’s artistic orientation is one economic factor that makes [this] a desirable place to live. By bringing creativity and local commerce to the area, artists are fueling the economy.

Thanks for writing an article about what’s happening here, because when I walk downtown, what I love is that everywhere you go, you see artwork — often by local craftspeople, clothing designers and potters. But you can also walk into a skate shop or a bar or a restaurant and see beautiful and progressive visual art that is made by locals — people who live and work here and choose to do so because of the unique aspects of this place, including the visual landscape.

It’s important to me that our local media focus on what we are doing within the community, but I’d like to see y’all dig a little deeper.

With you, not against you.

— Dustin Spagnola
Asheville

Let doves wing it

Terri David’s letter [“No Peace Offered to Doves,” Sept. 20] about the doves released at the Gandhi memorial in Pritchard Park was a vitriolic attack on a legitimate and humane activity that has been practiced for years across the country.

The release of white pigeons (doves) for memorials, weddings, anniversaries and other celebrations is symbolic of the spiritual process of humans in seeking peace, love and fulfillment. At this gathering on Sept. 11, the doves were a meaningful reminder of Gandhi’s nonviolent movement.

I have known Julia Gaunt [owner of the doves] for five years and have known her to be a responsible, caring and knowledgeable person. Her doves are vaccinated, well fed, and well cared for. They are trained racing pigeons and are treated as any pet would be. All of them are tagged with Julia’s name and contact information. These doves have been released for military memorials, weddings and funerals, sometimes at the owner’s expense. This is not just a moneymaking venture on the part of a greedy individual, but a public service designed to bring meaningful experiences to these events.

In the future, I hope the Davids will concentrate their efforts on saving chickens, ducks and furry animals that are truly abused and tortured. Leave the doves alone.

— Nancy Allen
Asheville

No dove left behind

It is my love for birds and human beings that has inspired me to raise rock doves, a variety of white homing pigeon, and release them for special events such as the celebration of Gandhi [“No Peace Offered to Doves,” Sept. 20 Letters]. These birds are homing doves and, with many hours of training, do fly home instinctively through a one-way door on their loft. Like any bird, they love flight. They each wear identification tags with my phone number in the event they might get lost. The containers that the doves are transported in are temporary and have appropriate space and ventilation. I choose not to subject them to extreme sounds, however — due to some confusion as to when the release was to take place at the Gandhi event — I placed them in the center longer than I would have preferred. Point taken.

Since ancient times, the white dove has been a symbol of hope and peace. In current times, the white dove remains a spiritually uplifting experience. According to the Bible, Noah released a dove from the ark, and it returned with an olive branch. Mother Teresa and the late pope were each photographed releasing doves. Rock doves are excellent navigators in flight. However, when I release them, I take great consideration as to their welfare.

True, some doves are white. Every animal has its predators, and I protect my birds as much as I am capable. All domestic animals and birds are at risk if they venture out of their protected environment … whether that be a house, a cage or a loft. Freedom of any kind is a considerable risk for all living creatures.

I believe Gandhi would love who I am and what I am doing, both for my love of birds and for peace.

— Julia Gaunt
Asheville

Spinnin’ those wheels again

Like Michael J. Sule [“Critical Mess,” Sept. 13 Letters], I also pedaled in the Aug. 25 Katrina-anniversary Critical Mass bike ride, and I fully agree with his assessment: We should have never ridden on Interstate 240.

Earlier, however, we clearly squandered significant public goodwill when we entered Patton [Avenue] and some riders immediately chose to “take every lane.” Two lanes were plenty for our moderate group — one for experienced riders, to serve as a buffer; and an additional, righthand lane for the kids and those with less experience. This would have allowed traffic to flow, and we would have better managed to convey that bicycles are both practical and fun. Instead we reinforced the impression that some cyclists are assholes.

It is important to emphasize that at least a couple of children were along for this ride, and also to appreciate and encourage participation by people of all ages. Yet some cyclists seemed bent on provoking road rage. I fail to understand this move as anything more than a misguided effort to antagonize motorists — and perhaps even police. So (I suppose), we succeeded. This kind of counterproductive success, nonetheless, left me feeling discouraged about CM as inclusive and open to those riders who prefer to come and go whenever they like. A CM ride needs to be safely open to arrivals and departures at any point along the route.

I have ridden bicycles as a commuter for over 30 years, and most drivers have generally treated my preferred means of transport with a respect I strive to reciprocate. The average driver has no interest in maiming a neighbor. On the other hand, those motorists who do assault cyclists and use vehicles as weapons are inevitably encountered. These nut cases certainly need to be held accountable, but it is inaccurate to characterize them as representative.

On a positive note, I imagine we cyclists can recover from and improve upon past mistakes.

Prior to entering Patton, this CM ride through West Asheville proved splendid indeed. The group was diverse, pleasant and well-protected at intersections by experienced riders, while the community support from the sidelines and numerous motorists was undeniably heartfelt.

Let’s do it again (and again), and let’s do it right.

— Stephen Kirbach
Asheville

No violins allowed

On the morning of Sept. 15, I entered Pack Memorial Library with my violin in its case and used the library without incident. In the early afternoon of the same day, I tried to go back in with the same violin in the same case and was stopped by a man at the entrance who informed me that I couldn’t go in the library with any object that wouldn’t fit under my chair. I asked what I was to do with the violin and was told by this person, “That’s not my problem.” …

I said, “‘That’s not my problem’ is an unacceptable answer. I need to find someone with more information than you have.”

I was directed to a reference librarian and then to Ed Sheary, the library director, to get clarification on the rule. By [this] time I was very upset and not able to have a useful dialogue, so here are a couple of my thoughts: This rule discriminates against me because I am poor and because I am disabled. I cannot afford a car, and as a bus user, I am forced to keep everything on my person as long as I am away from home. Neither am I allowed to drive a car, due to a disability, so even if I had more money, the rule would still discriminate against me.

My other observation is that, as often as I use the library, I have never had an inanimate object that does not fit under a chair interfere with my appropriate use of the library. On the other hand, my disability centers on susceptibility to over-stimulation, and on a very regular basis I have to leave the library because babies and children are making loud, high-pitched sounds … . Therefore, if the goal of the new rule is to facilitate the correct use of the library, forbidding objects that do not fit under a chair is superfluous and discriminatory.

— John Engle
Asheville

Editor’s note: According to Library Director Ed Sheary, “The rule is that if it fits under our reading-room chair, you can bring it in — or, we provide a [table] down at the bottom of the stairway.” The rule was prompted, he added, by people bringing in objects “up to and including Army duffle bags,” constituting a safety hazard at the facility.

Mad-cow spinach rampage?

The incredible fresh-spinach fiasco has started. How in the world E. coli can get on a fresh vegetable is unfathomable. E. coli is really an animal by-product. Interestingly, fresh spinach has good amounts of vitamins and minerals necessary for the human body.

As many of us are aware, the FDA does not really protect the citizens. It is more designed to protect the pockets of the drug manufacturers. This initial volley of shots being fired at fresh produce is but the first of many efforts to control what we eat so as to make us completely dependent upon pharmaceuticals, which are not natural to the body. E. coli, primarily found on flesh products, meats and in dairy products — and involved in massive recalls such as the Great Ground Meat Recall of about a year ago — is now being treated with sprayed-on viruses. Yes, sprayed on viruses that are said to devour the bacteria on the meats. Also, irradiation is being done on meats. With all this happening to meat, do I really want to eat meat? I much prefer a healthier choice of fresh produce. Now is the time to go vegetarian and vegan.

What the FDA has done is to remove a beneficial vegetable product from commercial usage. From this point on, we probably will not find fresh spinach in salads we get from our restaurants and delis, or in the grocery store.

Get with the program! Find your local produce farmer, who makes his or her living from growing fresh vegetables and fresh spinach. If I have to, I will sign a liability waiver with these people to get my fresh spinach. I will also sign up as a co-op member for my box of fresh produce each week.

For those of you who are asleep at the switch, I guarantee that within five years, your fresh food will no longer be fresh. It will be irradiated, virus-sprayed, heated to above 107 degrees and genetically modified with medicines in those little genes to “make us better people.”

So far, no one has told me just how that E. coli got on that spinach. Would someone tell me, please? Would my somewhat paranoid mind tell me that perhaps this was one of those “terrorist” plots designed to infiltrate our food industry? Or is this a plot in the food industry to begin to get rid of nutritious foods? Or was this a mad cow with diarrhea that got loose in the spinach patch? Or is this a plot by Big Pharma to keep us sick, saying their incredible advances in medicine can keep us well?

— Kern Stafford
Asheville

Opportunity knocks

Have you ever wondered where all the money that illegal immigrants pay to Social Security goes? Well, I did, and an Internet search led me to the fact that the money goes into a file called the “earnings suspense file” (The New York Times, April 5, 2005). The SSA believes that three-fourths of these reports are filed by “other than legal immigrants.” In 2002, 9 million W-2s with incorrect social security numbers landed in this file, adding up to $56 billion in earnings. The assumption is that in 2002, non-legal immigrants paid $42 billion into Social Security — not a penny of which they will ever draw on.

Social Security is supposedly in trouble, illegal immigration is supposedly out of control and costing us, so how can we tie these two topics together in a way that can help everybody? Reform immigration so that we as a nation recognize that unskilled labor is something this country needs. At the same time, offer people an easier chance to come here and work. Then … their now-legitimate employers’ payments into Social Security — which the worker [still] cannot draw from — could help that fund continue to do what it does. They would literally be helping to pay for our citizens’ future. If the worker decides to file for citizenship after however many years, [he or she] could then start paying into [his or her] own legitimate Social Security fund. Who loses but a few sketchy politicians? Business wins, America remains the melting pot, and Social Security can remain the wonderful thing that it is.

So while some politicians are busy finding ways to fill fat cats’ pockets or to redirect our intentions, I am choosing to be thankful that there are people willing to leave everything they know in order to better their family’s livelihoods, and that I get to know their struggle and culture — people who are, at the same time, helping (already) to pay for our security.

It seems that certain businesses thrive with their help. All of us natives (who but the Indians really are?) have opportunities to thrive in this wonderful (if slightly out-of-control) country. So why should I be worried about some folks working at a cabbage farm, or dropping mobile homes, or digging ditches in Southern summer heat, when I don’t even know one person who would want to do that anyway? Certainly not the unskilled American worker.

Peace and love to all people.

— Austin Hill
Asheville

There’s more inconvenience to truth

Accolades to Al Gore for being a torchbearer for environmentalism and [offering] a wake-up call on global warming. However, there is something conveniently never mentioned in An Inconvenient Truth that will massively reduce carbon emission. According to a recent University of Chicago study, this one thing will effect global warming more than switching from an SUV to a hybrid and will vastly reduce environmental degradation in many other ways. This one thing doesn’t cost an extra penny and will improve your health while simultaneously reducing animal suffering. What is this thing? Plant-based eating.

Al Gore is well aware of the causality between diet and global warming: He cannot feign ignorance on this point, since he recently was made aware of same at a recent World Environment Day dinner (which was — big surprise — vegetarian). He may feel conflicted on this point, since his family raises Black Angus beef, but I am hopeful that he will open his mind on this subject — just as he did when his family divested themselves of tobacco.

The inconvenient truth is that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat and only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. Over 30 percent of the fossil fuel used in this country is consumed to produce animal products. In South America, 55 square feet of rainforest is leveled to produce one hamburger.

Going from a meat-eating diet to a vegan one will reduce your CO2 production by nearly 27 percent. This is over 10 times the impact you’ll make by switching to energy efficient appliances! At the very least, please consider going vegetarian two days each week.

For info on how food choices affect the environment, please visit: www.goveg.com/environment.asp, and for local vegetarian support, please visit www.ashevilleveg.com.

— Joseph Walsh
Asheville

Sampling the fear du jour

When I look at the mess that Bush and his cronies have gotten us into, I cannot help but wonder how in the world people could have had such an intelligence lapse [as] to vote these people into office. Presidents should be smart. This is what happens when voters fall victim to being manipulated by fear. And it is about to happen again. People are being lulled into a false sense of improvement with the falling gas prices. Have you forgotten about the over $3 a gallon you have been paying? Or the record profits by the oil companies? Make no mistake, the short-term lowering of prices is no mistake. And you can be certain that if the Republicans maintain power in November, the gas prices will go back up after the election.

This is just one small issue of many reasons to vote for a change this November. And if security is your fear du jour, all the more reason to vote for change, as the current policies are only making us less secure by alienating us from our valuable allies. Our leaders must stop acting like spoiled brats and learn to problem solve in a diplomatic fashion.

— Jeff Walker
Black Mountain

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