Letters to the editor

Xpress election coverage rocked!

I can’t thank you enough for your coverage of the [Asheville] City Council candidates, both for the primaries and for the Nov. 4 election.

Usually I go to the polls feeling rather unformed when I cast my vote. This time, I was able to make choices with confidence.

Your newspaper is terrific. Keep up the good work.

— Ro Ricci

Wrong camera angle, Xpress

I was most disappointed when I picked up this week’s copy of the Mountain Xpress. It boldly proclaimed Asheville’s first film festival, as did several other media outlets.

My problem is that the Eye of the Beholder Film Festival was held here Oct. 21-31, 2002. I saw independent films at Vincent’s Ear, the YMI [Cultural Center] and the Be-Be Theatre. Although I can’t say for sure, I’d wage I saw this festival advertised in the Mountain Xpress, which I try to read weekly for entertainment news. Am I mistaken? Is this year’s event truly not Asheville’s first film festival? Or, has accuracy in reporting, aka truth, yet again fallen to economic considerations?

— Jack Saye

[Ed. Note: We should have qualified what we meant in calling the Asheville Film Festival the city’s first (on our Nov. 5 cover) and Asheville’s first (in our subsequent story). We didn’t mean to imply that no other film festival had ever been held here (and yes, we ran an Oct. 16, 2002, Smart Bet for the Eye of the Beholder event), but that the AFF was the first such festival that the city of Asheville itself had undertaken. Our bad for not being a little bit clearer.]

Thoughts of the bigger world this Thanksgiving

As the leaves change and the harvest ends, my thoughts turn to Thanksgiving. And naturally, Thanksgiving has me thinking of Tanzania.

Perhaps the connection between our quintessentially American holiday and an East African nation is not apparent, so allow me to explain. On my recent visit to Tanzania, I learned it is the home of over 120 ethnic groups, each with its own language, customs and beliefs. The population is [about] one-third Muslim; one-third Christian; [and] one-third traditional, Earth-based spiritualities. It is a country where pretty much everyone belongs to one tribe or another. Indeed, one of the worst insults a person can receive is to be called “one without a tribe.”

Yet Tanzania is unique in that strong tribal identity has not resulted in division and civil strife. In fact, Tanzanians are proud of their history of peace based on tolerance of differences, and they have welcomed thousands of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. This willingness to embrace other peoples — and to measure abundance by how much can be shared — is the ethic of Thanksgiving.

When faced [there] with the oft-asked question, “To what tribe do you belong?” I hesitated. I’m your everyday, white, middle-class, tribe-less American — an existence incomprehensible to many Tanzanians. The story of Thanksgiving, [however], reminds me that America is not, in fact, tribe-less.

If we take our Thanksgiving story at face value, isn’t it about people who were here first — the Native Americans — reaching out to some new folks who sure looked and sounded odd, but needed [the original residents’] help? American history tells a tale of things going catastrophically wrong after that first, cross-cultural feast. Ninety-percent of Native Americans — over 10 million people — died due to war with the white settlers, European-introduced diseases and famine. Those Pilgrims and their descendents pushed [the native inhabitants] west in wave after wave of forced relocation, where they finally were allowed to settle on marginal, undesirable lands.

Even today, the maltreatment continues. Our government refuses to compensate several tribes for the lease of their land for uranium mining, and simultaneously seeks to install a massive nuclear dump on the sacred Yucca Mountain [in Nevada]. Certainly, it is a cruel irony that some Native Americans are so impoverished that they will go hungry on the holiday when most of us will burst our belts with overindulgence.

As a descendent of the Pilgrims, I reckon it is time for me to offer whatever support I can muster to the native peoples of this land of plenty. It is my turn to bring financial, physical and social resources to the communal table. There are many ways I might do so: making a donation, volunteering time, writing to our representatives, inviting a stranger for supper — these are all ways of showing gratitude. Numerous local-and-national nonprofit agencies depend on our support to continue their work to ensure that all the benefits of modern society are fully extended to Native American communities, while also supporting [Native Americans] in reclaiming and honoring their cultural heritage. Our elected officials need to hear our voices of dissent when our government seeks to break treaties and refuses to pay what it owes.

Even without an autumn, a changing of the seasons and a November harvest, people in equatorial Africa understand the spirit of our Thanksgiving. We in the so-called First World too often assume that we have all the answers. When it comes to the preservation of indigenous cultures — [and to] offering solace to strife-torn neighbors and sharing the common good — we should seek the wisdom of our own past, and learn from the example of our friends abroad.

— Jodi Lasseter

The right writer for the right time

It is a great pleasure to read [Xpress] articles by Marsha Barber once again.

For many of us who have been readers of this paper for a decade or so, her name is synonymous with “independent journalism,” and we love seeing her presence in print. And at a time when too many journalists are afraid to be honest and have sold themselves out through conformity, she stands apart from the ho-hum crowd, and she does so with a great sense of humor.

Welcome back, Marsha.

— Tom Kerr

Where are you, Sen. Edwards?

If you look at the Congressional roll-call report, you will notice that we only have one senator voting — John Edwards has gone AWOL this year to pursue his own goal, The White House, totally forgetting his promises made to us on the road to the senate.

I voted for him then, but cannot trust him with the presidency based on his past record. What really gripes me is that he is still being paid full salary for the job he left. In the private sector, he could expect to be docked in pay, or to be fired.

Who is keeping tabs on an AWOL senator? Not our Congress, who just gave themselves a nice raise while cutting back on services to the public. We may be forgotten people now, but we will remember when we go to the polls and send Edwards back to his lucrative law practice.

— Catherine Alford
Black Mountain

Note to Sen. Dole: Work for clean air now

“Lethal Legacy,” a report released this month by the U.S. PIRG [Public Interest Research Group], shows that power plants in North Carolina and the Southeast are still proving to be the dirtiest, and are still seriously threatening public health. It is time for our senators to take action to reduce pollution by supporting strong national four-pollutant proposals, and rejecting the president’s weak Clear Skies plan.

Just recently, Sen. Elizabeth Dole was inundated with 2,300 “action cards” from residents and [national]-parks visitors who participated in the Great Smoky Mountains Clean Air Campaign by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a regional clean-air advocacy group. With a total of 6,800 citizen action cards for Sen. Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.), Sen. Dole (R-N.C.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the campaign provided a summer-long campaign asking senators to support proactive federal multi-pollutant legislation that would truly protect the air quality in national parks, one of the main engines of tourism for North Carolina.

With a regressive presidential clean-air plan now on the horizon, these constituent communications demonstrate the urgency and importance for Sen. Dole to show us leadership to clean up power-plant pollution across the country. Since North Carolina has some of the strongest state policies in the nation, the quality of our air is now dependent on [our] ensuring that our neighbors are held to equal standards. Air pollution knows no boundaries, and much of our air pollution here comes from out-of-state pollution like that generated by [the Atlanta-based] Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The health of our families — and our quality of life — now depends on Sen. Dole’s decisions and leadership.

— James Gooch
Air Coordinator, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Don’t gobble down our “gobble-gobble” friends

As the holiday season approaches, compassion urges all of us to consider those less fortunate than ourselves. Each of us possesses the personal power to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer the most this time of year.

The 340 million turkeys raised in the U.S. each year for our holiday consumption are forced to breathe toxic fumes in crowded sheds, as their beaks and toes are cut off to reduce damage from stress-induced aggression. After 16 weeks of agony, they are hung by their legs from a conveyer belt and beheaded while fully conscious by an electric saw. Do you really want to support such extreme torture of innocents?

Turkey flesh is laced with cholesterol, saturated fats, hormones, antibiotics and deadly pathogens like salmonella and Campylobacter. Think about that before you reach for that drumstick, and instead purchase a vegan UnTurkey or Tofurky.

Turkey producers are polluting our natural environment. Much of the 10 billion pounds of manure generated by 7,300 turkey farms in 33 states winds up in our drinking water.

Grain fed to turkeys denies lifesaving foodstuffs to millions of starving people. Raising grain for turkeys involves depletion of topsoil and groundwater essential to a good harvest. You have a choice and a voice, but they do not. Thanksgiving truly is murder on turkeys. Won’t you please make a difference by choosing to have a healthy, humane holiday season this year?

It’s as easy as getting your free vegetarian starter kit at www.GoVeg.com, or by phoning, toll-free, (888) VEGFOOD.

— Kayla Rae Worden

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