Letters to the editor

Crossing the great divide

Isn’t it interesting how the red and blue states showed up on our cultural map? Kerry carried the industrial North, into the upper Midwest and the West Coast — the three greatest urban centers along with the more sophisticated and progressive populations. But Bush won with the “heartland” — Southeastern and Plains states [whose populations] are typically less educated or sophisticated, and more inclined to follow their church or other blind conservative agendas.

This close division in our culture is not so much about class or economics or race, or even our stance on so-called “terrorism” — not to mention our environment — as it is about “moral (i.e. cultural) values.”

What does it mean any more to be patriotic? How can we overcome our parochial stereotypes in the world community? And how can we reconcile issues like abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, hate crimes due to simple difference, misogyny or any other such issues?

We are a nation divided by culture, and there is no amount of “feel-good” rhetoric that can come from either party that has a chance of addressing this divide, until we start addressing it in a realistic way. Our political “healing” can only happen person-by-person. I believe we are at an impasse until we are willing to do this very difficult and intimate work. That work, alone, might lead to true healing. And that work might, in turn, lead us forward in a truly compassionate way.

— Holly Boswell
Black Mountain

Think global, read local

The Asheville Global Report needs our help. AGR is Asheville’s own internationally-acclaimed, award-winning, independent weekly newspaper, whose mission is to cover news underreported by mainstream media. AGR‘s latest acclaim is that it has been nominated in Utne Reader for an award for excellence in international coverage. Those of us who read AGR know how impressive and valuable this publication is.

AGR is reportedly the only all-volunteer, available-for-free, weekly nonprofit newspaper in the country. That’s right: AGR is put together and published entirely by volunteers. It takes about 160 volunteer-hours each week to produce each issue. And it also takes money.

AGR provides a vital function in Asheville and in this country. As AGR‘s mission states: A free exchange of information is necessary to organize for social change. Indeed, it is vital for a healthy democracy. We are fortunate in Asheville to have a growing collaboration of several independent news sources: Asheville Global Report, the Mountain Xpress, WPVM (103.5 FM), WRES (100.7), Free Radio Asheville (107.5 FM), Mountain Area Information Network at www.main.nc.us, and soon, URTV (public access television).

When we support one of these local, independent-media outlets, we support all of them. When one of us grows stronger, we all grow stronger. We must work together and support one another if we are to continue to have a local, independent voice for the people in this age of ever-increasing, corporate media-ownership and -consolidation. Those of us who appreciate these unembedded grassroots sources of news and information need to stand up and support them, especially now that George Bush and the other right-wing extremists are more firmly in power than ever before.

Please join me in supporting the Asheville Global Report. … Please send your contribution to AGR at P.O. Box 1504, Asheville 28802, or make your donation online at www.agrnews.org. You can also become a subscriber to AGR for $50 a year.

— Christopher Fielden

Asheville should arrest marijuana policy

I appreciate getting updates from the City of Asheville regarding the various issues we must face locally. From various articles I have read, and correspondence I’ve had with Dr. Carl Mumpower, it has become apparent to me that there is a serious hard-drug problem in our area.

However, based on the drug-suppression-activity data link that I received (www.ashevillenc.gov/newslinks/drug%20suppression%20activity.pdf), I have to wonder why it seems that our Asheville Police Department seems to be continuing to focus on marijuana.

Based on this data, since Aug. 1 of this year, the APD seized almost 14,000 grams of marijuana as compared to the 83 grams of cocaine, and the 1,625 “rocks” of crack seized. I don’t know what a “rock” equals in grams, but it seems that the amount of marijuana seized is substantially greater than the hard drugs combined!

How many of these marijuana-arrest victims are violent criminals? Are our local government and police really concerned about the serious drug problem and real crime, or is this simply a concern about complying with the failed federal “war on drugs” and [associated] money?

By and large, Asheville has attracted many people to this area who do not see marijuana smokers as criminals. Many other American cities and states … have taken steps to end their “local war” on marijuana, admitting that this drug is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, and that those who use marijuana are likewise harmless.

When will the APD reform its drug enforcement so that it goes after hard drugs — and even more so, those committing crimes as a direct result of the misuse of [drugs] — rather than hassling peaceful Ashevilleans who simply wish to smoke a God-given plant and be left in peace to do so? Will it take some kind of [ballot] initiative from local voters … to decriminalize marijuana use? If so, this just might be possible in Buncombe County!

— Bernard B. Carman, Vice Chair
Libertarian Party-Buncombe

Attack on Davids was unwarranted, unforgivable

I am writing in response to “McCartney’s Spirit Will Overcome Diatribe” [Letters, Oct. 27].

The shrill response of the organizers … to the legitimate concerns raised by Terri and Stewart David about the Oct. 29 “rollicking” benefit that takes advantage of Linda McCartney’s person and reputation and suffering, belies caring about anyone and anything (including the suffering of fish and other animals) except their own coffers. When did it become inappropriate to raise questions in our country about the appropriateness of using the person and reputation of a well-known person to benefit an organization that Linda McCartney — based on her considerable, generous efforts on behalf of all living creatures, and the work that she donated to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — would have found to be repugnant?

The vicious attack launched on Terri and Stewart David for having questioned the use of Linda McCartney’s person and reputation by these organizations is unforgivable. I know of few people who work harder on behalf of the rights of animals than Terri and Stewart. Apparently, working on behalf of animals and fish and fowl is something that warrants vicious attacks and threats of lawsuits.

My mother, my aunt and many other members of my extended family have died from breast cancer, due to the erroneous information provided them by the medical profession, and the insistence that hormone therapy (which resulted in cruel practices to animals, notably horses, for the production of Premarin) would “fix” the post-menstrual discomfort of women. My sister and I are the oldest living members of our family due to the fact that we refused the hormone treatment that, in all likelihood [and] based on the recent medical surveys, assisted in causing the cancer to develop.

My mother would have found the injuring of fish or the abuse of horses to be repugnant. She would not have found fly casting to be “… the healing sense of connectedness with the natural world.” Nor would have Linda McCartney.

To suggest that the Davids have created a “war zone” by questioning the use of Linda McCartney’s person and reputation … for [this] monetary benefit is nothing less than all of the similar hypocrisies that our nation seems to excel in. I applaud Terri and Stewart for raising the questions that they have.

— Diane C. Van Helden

Fund-raiser failed reality test

The local organizers of the Linda McCartney “Enduring Ties” fund-raiser need to take a bite out of the reality sandwich.

In my opinion, Linda McCartney would never endorse or be associated with a group such as “Casting for Recovery,” which uses fly-fishing as a way of building esprit de corps among breast cancer patients and survivors.

Additionally, this wonderful woman (who even started a vegetarian food company) would never have lent her name to an event at which meat was served. …

Linda McCartney was an eloquent and ardent advocate for animal rights in general, and was vehemently opposed to fishing in particular. … Shame on the organizers of this event for dishonoring Linda’s name. Shame, too, on “Casting for Recovery” for encouraging blood sport as a way for cancer victims to find peace.

For more information on the realities of fishing, please visit: www.fishinghurts.com.

— Joe G. Walsh
Asheville and Sanibel Island, Fla.

Civility lost the election

Before the election, much was said about the “incivility” in modern American politics. Now that the election is over, let’s consider what role that factor played in who won and who lost, particularly in the race for the 11th Congressional District seat.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: “Civility” does not win elections. … What wins elections is angry talk of fear, violence and war, and in Western North Carolina, I can think of nobody better at it than Rep. Charles Taylor.

When Taylor found himself in a close race, he got really worried about losing all the taxpayer-funded perks and privileges of his position, and came down on his opponent with some of the most mean-spirited commercials I’ve seen. … First there was the “Tax Lady” ad. Now, I’m no great practitioner of proper etiquette in the 21st century, but I know that referring to someone as “that lady” without mentioning her name is a deliberate attempt to be rude and obnoxious.

Taylor also ran an ad that insinuated his opponent once “voted for pornography,” selectively omitting the fact that the opponent voted to help the small-business people whose livelihood would suffer if adult bookstores … (still perfectly legal) were forced to abruptly close.

… The thing I keep trying to remind myself (and others) of is that Charles Taylor doesn’t give a damn about his constituents or the truth. … Maybe I should feel sorry for his lack of class and compassion, but I don’t. The man has more money than the majority of us will ever see, and I’m supposed to worry about him? I don’t think so.

Finally, if there is anyone out there considering a run against Taylor in 2006, better get a shovel and some air freshener, because the only way to unseat Taylor is to do what he does — only in a meaner, uglier, more vicious fashion … .

— William F. Stephens

I’ll miss Jeff Long

Recently, on Sept. 16, I lost a good friend, Jeff Long. He lived in Apt. 7 at 145 E. Chestnut St. in Asheville. He was 55 years old.

I met Jeff a little over a year ago. He was friends with me, and Tommy and Torie, who live in another apartment. We hung out together and watched football in their apartment.

I hung out with Jeff a lot. We had several common interests: reading, ’60s music, and talking about world events. Jeff was an excellent painter. He painted in the abstract expressionist style. He also wrote songs and stories.

Jeff was fun to hang out with, and was a good listener. I could talk to him about anything. He was always there for me. I will miss him a lot. He was a good friend.

— Michael C. Coffey

[Publisher’s note: Jeff Long came to Asheville about five years ago, having worked as a journalist. He was also a Vietnam vet. Like many vets, more than his body sustained injuries. In Jeff’s case, both his heart and mind took their hits — but his spirit held strong and kept him going.

In 2003, shortly after the Jason Blair scandal, Jeff wrote Xpress about the role of journalism in a free society.

“So there I was in late June of 1970, working as a ‘cub reporter’ — covering police, fire and court beats, and taking a half-dozen obituaries each morning for a daily (afternoon publication) in Massachusetts with a paid circulation at that time of 150,000.

“I was 20 years old then, was married and had a son of 2 years. My salary was $100 a week.

“But I knew that I had stumbled onto something sacred and can clearly remember taking a personal vow to print only the truth — insofar as I was able to ascertain it. Later, as an investigative reporter, I was told by a powerful politician who had his own private businesses — one of which was daily spewing toxic effluent into the then fairly pristine air of Cape Cod, Mass. — that if I ran with a three-part series on his violations of environmental regulations, he would mandate that a contract he’d already taken on my life be executed.

“Well, the story ran — a byline piece for three days on Page 1.

“Once a rogue police chief threatened my two children and wife by name if I continued on with my interviews with more than a dozen police officers who’d resigned ….”

To finish that story, Jeff didn’t back down. His story ran, and the police chief left Jeff’s family alone.

In 2004, regarding mental illness, Jeff wrote:

“Call me Ishmael. Call me Job. Call me one of the more than 10,000 residents of Buncombe County who suffer from some form of mental illness. I really don’t give a damn anymore.

“I am writing in response to recent events and situations at the Blue Ridge Center — the only source of “help” available to those who can’t afford to bring a $100 bill, and put it on the private psychiatrist/psychologist’s desk in exchange for some form of psychiatric therapy. As I have been 100 percent disabled by chronic pain and several forms of mental illness since Jan. 1, 1975, that luxury is unavailable to me.

“Perhaps before you begin to snicker and think this a communique from a lunatic, let me help you get to know me.

“I am a 1970 cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a B.A. in English from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., a highly respected member in the ranks of our nation’s small colleges and universities. I have been a professional newspaper journalist most of my life, beginning in the 1970s, working first as a beat reporter and later as an investigative reporter and feature writer, and finally as a regional news editor for a daily newspaper in Massachusetts, then with a paid circulation of 150,000. I was accountable for assignments, editing, and design and layout of a full-page of regional news six days a week.

“No one is immune from mental illness. It can strike one down with the speed of an anti-personnel mine, blowing as soon as the trip wire is activated.”

Jeff tended to champion the downtrodden. Back in 1999, when Mickey Mahaffey was taking an unpopular stand for the rights of the homeless in downtown Asheville, Jeff wrote this letter:

“Those rare truth-tellers and truth-doers have always been persecuted by society, for the fearless clarity of their vision threatens our comfort zones and the established order of things here on Planet Earth.

“Mickey Mahaffey is most definitely a truth-doer. … [People like him] are automatically branded as societal deviants hell-bent on treason and sedition, flag burners and/or communist spies, socialists (left-wing extremists) or, even worse, nihilists who’ve taken solemn oaths and vows to ‘screw the system,’ which is bought and paid for by the True Believers, whose numbers are legion. [These latter are the] zombies, the Walking Dead, terrified to think any original thought, hot on the heels of the lead lemmings, who, unbeknownst to the masses, have already transgressed the precipice and have fallen from the cliff. …”

“Much like St. Exupery’s fox in The Little Prince (guru, wisdom-keeper and master teacher), Mahaffey ‘knows’ and embodies the fox’s simple secret: ‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'”]

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