Letters to the editor

A special Thanksgiving message

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are often reminded to think of the many things we are thankful for. I have had a unique, wonderful, eventful year, for which I am extremely thankful and which leads me to writing this message. I am an adoptee.

I have been aware of this for most of my 38 years of life, although my adoptive parents would not confirm or deny this fact. I have often wondered what my biological mother (and any other family members) would be like. The question remained how to find this woman, since I had no information to go on. Inasmuch as I had no resources to work with, I reconciled myself with the idea that I would never know.

Little did I know that the family that had once known me would be looking for me. They still live in the Asheville area, where I was born and placed for adoption. They had to ask many individuals for assistance in their search. Often, doors were closed to them; but for every closed door, another was opened.

The day arrived, in April of this year, when I was contacted by this family in search of their missing sister. As much as I was hopeful of this day happening, I never expected it. I was stunned, to say the least. For Mother’s Day, I was able to meet my mother and all my siblings. They are all wonderful people! I am extremely blessed to be able to say that I am part of this remarkable family.

I share this story because I desire for my newly found family to know just how thankful I am for them. I am especially thankful for my “angel” sister who did all the investigative work. She has shared her story about all the angels that touched her life while doing her search. Her faith and their guidance brought us together.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt “Thank you!” to all those who shall remain nameless, who assisted in this reunion. I believe that you each know who you are.

I would also like to say “Thank you!” to my family for accepting me and loving me unconditionally. I honor each and every one of you in the highest regard. I left my home out West, a stranger to each of you. Yet I was welcomed immediately as family.

For my annual Thanksgiving project, I list the many things I am thankful for. These ranked highest.

I believe that Thanksgiving is also a time [for you] to tell yours, “Thanks,” and to let them know just how important they are to your life (even if you may not have ever met them, such as the “special angels” that touched my life via my sister).

May everyone reading this story be blessed endlessly with good fortune and a very long list of “Thanks.”

— Name withheld

Hey, DOT: Show some respect

The North Carolina Department of Transportation owes the citizens of Asheville more respect. The proposed Interstate 26 connector — widening the current Interstate 240 to eight lanes through West Asheville — represents a major disruption to our community, as well as offering a dubious solution to traffic-flow problems. Study after study has proven that increasing highway size typically results in more traffic: the “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon.

The original proposal to widen I-240 was justified by DOT based on traffic projections indicating a 30 percent increase of I-26 through-traffic. The traffic models used for these projections came from the 1960s!

When challenged on this, DOT then adopted the position that the eight lanes were needed to carry local traffic and that through-traffic would increase only 10 percent (mostly semi-truck traffic). DOT has failed to address the problem of what will happen if this increase occurs with the traffic as it crosses the French Broad River into downtown Asheville. There are no plans to widen I-240 in downtown, and yet any regular driver through this area knows that most of the traffic now crossing Smoky Park Bridge continues on into the downtown area. If this project is completed as proposed by DOT, it will create a huge bottleneck in this area. Of course, this would then lay the groundwork for yet another huge project.

DOT is a huge bureaucracy, with an appointed director. Its focus has been on new projects such as this, rather than on maintaining existing roadways. Does it make sense to spend $200 million or more on this project, when something far less expensive will get the job done? I urge the DOT to refocus and reorganize, placing emphasis on maintaining existing roadways. I also urge its bureaucrats to show respect to citizens who challenge them. Many of the meetings I’ve attended have been earmarked by arrogance and stonewalling.

Citizens of Asheville, I urge you to take time to address this issue. It is not too late, as DOT would like us to believe. There are countless examples of citizen efforts that have stopped projects such as this dead in their tracks.

Write your state legislators, the governor and the DOT. Let’s stop this proposed expansion and keep our community intact.

— David A. Fitts

Premarin’s tainted origins

Although millions of women take Premarin to help manage their menopausal symptoms, few know about the drug’s hidden ingredient: animal suffering.

Premarin is made from horse urine. To obtain the urine used in Premarin, mares are impregnated and confined in small stalls for six months of their 11-month pregnancies, unable to turn around or lie down comfortably because of the short chains and the urine-collection bags strapped to them. For most mares, this cycle of pregnancy and confinement continues every year until they are barren or lame and are sold for slaughter.

The more than 70,000 foals who are born on PMU (pregnant mares’ urine) farms each year are considered mere “byproducts” of urine production, and most end up on the dinner tables of Europe and Japan.

A growing number of doctors believe that plant-based and synthetic estrogen-replacement-therapy drugs (such as Estrace, Estraderm and Tace) are superior to Premarin.

Dr. Stephen Rosenman, fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has said, “Premarin’s estrogen, made from pregnant mares’ urine, is not the same as that in humans. And, like all animal-derived products, it shares the possible problem of inconsistency, while synthetics, produced in sterile, laboratory conditions … are constant, always in the same concentration, and without the impurities contained in animal waste.”

Readers who would like to know more about Premarin and its alternatives can call People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ toll-free hotline at 800-KNOW-PMU, or write to PETA at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510.

— Kayla Rae Worden

Confederate flags offer little moral guidance

The core heritage Confederate flags represent is war — and without slavery, that particular war would not have been fought. Like all wars, that one was about the oppression of the poor by the rich. Like many wars, that one was about the ownership of one group of human beings by another, and racism.

No, the flag is not about hate — that’s a visceral emotion. The flag is about the power to own people and treat them brutally. It’s about the power to hate people with impunity because they are of a different race, have a different skin color, and have no power — not an aspect of our history that’s particularly helpful to look to for moral and political guidance at this point in our history, as a nation or as a community.

I know this because the Confederacy is my heritage. I say this not as an “ignorant Yankee,” but as a descendant of a brigadier general in Lee’s army and of a prominent member of the North Carolina legislature during the Civil War, who was barred for years from holding federal office (as were hundreds of Southerners after the war) for treason.

By the way, Kirk Lyons’ “foundation” in Black Mountain is listed regularly in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s much-respected and well-researched reports on prominent white-supremacist activity.

Kudos to the people in the NAACP Empowerment Resource Center for carrying on with their business — which is getting education, jobs and housing for people. Not a particularly P.C. agenda, as some seem to think, but rather mainstream USA. And kudos, as well, to the Asheville Police Department — Chief Annarino, Lt. Kirkpatrick and the officers on the street — for their low-key, but decidedly visible, presence during the time Mr. Lyons and Mr. Edgerton were demonstrating — that double demonstration being one of many facts your reporter neglected to bring to light.

— David Schenck

Think before you connect with eight lanes

There will be serious consequences for the health and vitality of our immediate and surrounding community if an eight-lane Interstate 26 connector is built through Asheville.

Speaking to the health effects of the proposed connector, as cited in a Nov. 11 editorial in the Asheville Citizen-Times, this area was once a health resort because of its clean air — but no more. The quality of our air threatens the health of those who live here, and discourages tourists from visiting. We are already told we shouldn’t jog, or even go outside and dare to breathe deep, on many days. My own mother can’t move to this area, or sometimes even visit, because she has emphysema. Of course, there are countless people who already live here who are in the same condition.

We know that we are teetering on the edge of the “nonattainment” label (Citizen-Times Nov. 11 article), which will impose stringent emission standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s alarming that, “in the next breath,” we could propose building an eight-lane superhighway through our area. I wonder how we can possibly meet any standards (whose goal is to improve air quality) if the connector becomes a reality, bringing a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles coming through.

Another factor to consider with the proposed connector is our local economy. The diminishing air quality discourages tourists — not only for health reasons, but because of the effect that the ozone smog has on mountain views (as pointed out in another Citizen-Times article earlier this month). Consequently, our local economy is affected, as so many small-business owners are dependent on tourists for their own sustainability and quality of life.

Noise pollution is another issue that has hardly been mentioned. Though it’s a great thing to see the city developing more parks and river-walks, it’s ironic that some of the newest parks are in West Asheville, along the French Broad River — less than a quarter-mile from the proposed connector. The development on Riverside Drive, the French Broad River Park, the new walking path along Amboy Road, and the former racetrack site (proposed to become a park) will all be adversely affected by the connector — in a big way.

And, lest anyone think this is only a West Asheville issue, I spent the day on Saturday walking the path along Amboy to the French Broad River Park and met folks from Swannanoa and Weaverville who were also enjoying the day in that peaceful setting. But it won’t be very peaceful once there’s an eight-lane road next door. The noise a superhighway delivers to the surrounding area is grossly underestimated (if even considered) — just ask Greenville/Spartanburg residents who learned the hard way with Interstate 85/385.

A favorite boast of regional citizens is that Asheville has lots to offer that is easily accessible. And yes, Asheville is growing. But dramatic increases in population and/or traffic (which the connector will bring) will disrupt the organic growth of Asheville. It would be sad to see us bring a situation like Charlotte upon ourselves. It seems to me that the infrastructure (and personality) of our city cannot sustain the kind of growth that superhighways encourage. It would change both our day-to-day experience and the ambiance of Asheville.

Other issues to consider are local West Asheville businesses and neighborhoods — some of which will be forced to disappear; the remainder will never be the same. It’s sad to think that one of Asheville’s remaining communities will be chopped up and dissipated. This is an old community that has managed to stay closely knit and maintain an identity. There are not many of those left.

With thorough, realistic forethought, I think it’s possible to maintain the current quality of life in Asheville and grow. Right now, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make a decision that benefits, rather than hurts, our residents and visitors. The political and bureaucratic wheels are hard to stop, once in motion. I would, therefore, encourage citizens who have concerns to let them be known, somehow, very soon. That’s the only way we can possibly be a cog in the wheel of this “progress,” which is about to begin.

— Rosanne Kiely

Peter Loewer responds:

[In reference to Ashely Siegel’s letter, published in the Nov. 17 Xpress]

Dear Ashely: As Oscar Wilde said in The Critic as Artist: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

— Peter Loewer

The benefits of gratitude

Here’s to your health! Is giving thanks for our food only a religious ritual? In my experience, it is also physiological. When we give thanks, our body responds differently. We breathe deeper, slow down our heartbeat and relax. We focus on chewing well and being present with our food. Giving thanks sends the message to the digestive system: Prepare to receive food. This communication link between our food and our body helps us assimilate our food better. And the beauty of giving thanks is that anyone can do it. The wisdom of the body responds to our thankful intent. So, let’s make every day Thanks Giving Day. Bon appetit!

— Phyllis Weimar

Tell Procter & Gamble to cut the animal tests

Each year, thousands of animals die in Procter & Gamble laboratories — the victims of painful and unnecessary product tests.

Procter & Gamble claims to be committed to eliminating tests on animals, but after years of empty promises, the household, personal-care and pharmaceutical-products manufacturer continues to poison and kill animals.

Workers force chemicals into rabbits’ eyes and rub them onto animals’ shaved and abraded skin. The animals are forced into restraining devices so they can’t escape the pain; they are not sedated or given painkillers. Some break their necks or backs trying to escape.

P&G has refused to stop testing cosmetics and household products on animals, even though federal law does not require animal tests on these products. More than 550 companies, including large corporations like Gillette and Avon, ensure their customers’ safety by using more accurate nonanimal tests.

Please ask Procter & Gamble to cut out animal tests NOW. Call 1-800-543-1745.

— Pat Killmer

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