Letters to the editor

Underage drinking kills

One young man lies dead, and six others are charged in connection with [a Nov. 21] beating and shooting [in Raleigh]. This was not an inner-city gang war, or even a bad drug deal. All the young people involved are students at North Carolina State University.

[Editor’s note: Six North Carolina State University students, five of them athletes, were charged in the shooting death of a 21-year-old NCSU student, who allegedly angered them by firing several shots at them while they were at a raucous party, according to an article in the Nov. 23 Raleigh News & Observer. Most of the athletes charged in the incident were below the legal age for drinking.]

According to one study, 50 percent of violent events — including murders — are immediately preceded by alcohol consumption by the crime perpetrator, victim or both.

What happened on the N.C. State University campus could easily have happened at UNCA, Western Carolina University or Appalachian State, or in any community. Not only was alcohol central to this misfortune, this incident highlights the dangers of underage drinking in particular. We must learn from this tragedy in order to prevent similar catastrophes in our own communities.

Decreasing the availability of alcohol — for instance, by making it more difficult for 20-year-old college students to purchase kegs — will decrease alcohol consumption and the incidence of alcohol-related violence. If our society seriously wants to prevent such senseless tragedies in the future, we must change the very social environment that fosters and encourages underage drinking in the first place. Underage drinking is a community problem. Reducing underage drinking will require community and legislative solutions.

Retailers must be vigilant in checking IDs of anyone who looks under 30. And community residents who are over the legal drinking age must be understanding and supportive of those retailers — and not become indignant when a … clerk asks them to show their ID.

Police must break up rowdy parties and consistently enforce the age-21 drinking law, and not turn a blind eye to “harmless fun.”

Lawmakers must also be part of the solution — because tougher alcohol policies will help to change our norms about what is acceptable and what is not.

Most importantly, young people themselves need to take an open and objective look at this issue and work together with university and community leaders to prevent the destruction of human potential that alcohol and drug abuse can bring to any generation.

Every sector of the community must work together on all these fronts to reduce the incidence and harm that is caused by underage drinking.

— Bonnie Rose, executive director
Buncombe County Drug Commission, and
Barbara Zimmerman, local coordinator
N.C. Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking

Time’s running out for the clean-air agreement

The clock is ticking on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for air quality — while Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Sundquist and the citizens of North Carolina wait for Gov. Hunt of North Carolina to sign.

But Gov. Hunt has been sitting in his office in Raleigh listening to some of WNC’s business community, who are advising him to add amendments detrimental to the MoU. The Memorandum is designed to help air quality in Class I wilderness areas, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Linville Gorge and Shining Rock wilderness areas.

[Unless signed], the MoU will expire at the end of the year, and Tennessee will not again sign the MoU alone.

Gov. Hunt, we in WNC are watching and waiting for you to sign the memorandum. And we are disappointed you haven’t yet signed, because a heartbreaking tragedy takes place nearly every day now in our mountains. On a recent trip to Blowing Rock, with guests from Australia, the smog over Linville Gorge was so thick, even in November, that our guests were shocked and saddened. Their 2-year-old daughter was with us, and she and her generation are the ones for whom we are working so hard to preserve and restore this Earth.

Time is running out on the Memorandum. Please call Gov. Hunt. Ask him to sign the MoU with Tennessee now, without any amendments. Business people are especially encouraged to call or write the governor in support.

Only in the short run will we attract tourists and their dollars if we continue to disregard the poor quality of our air, such as exists on many days in the Smokies and our beautiful wilderness areas. The governor’s toll-free number is (800) 662-7952.

For additional information about the MoU, please e-mail me at celackey@juno.com, or call (828) 645-9945.

— Charlotte Lackey, conservation chair,
WNC Group, N.C. Chapter, Sierra Club

The Citizen-Times is worse than Pravda

[Editor’s note: Debate has continued for more than a year over whether to change the Erwin High School girls’ team name, Squaws, which some find offensive.]

I hope our county school board does not cave in to the small group of extremists who have no interest in the education of our children. The ground rules were put in place by the Buncombe County Board of Education (four of those members are still on the board): It was to be settled by a vote of students at Erwin High School. All the ground rules were complied with: Students voted — not once, but twice — to retain our mascot.

Before the vote, the Asheville Citizen-Times, in its editorial, said give the students all the information and let them vote; everyone will abide by their decision.

The decision rendered was not the decision expected. So now — as usual — the Citizen-Times runs in a different direction. They are now asking the school board to step in and reverse the decision the students were asked to make. This would be a step backward, resulting in a no-confidence [vote] and bad image for our young students.

If we allow every radical in the country to come to our county, call us racist — or anything else they wish — and then we give them anything they request, we have a leadership problem. The request to do away with our mascot is just the tip of the iceberg; Warrior will be next, Black Hawks, and so on.

Pravda, the communist newspaper during the Cold War, would have presented a more accurate description of this issue than the Asheville Citizen-Times. The Citizen-Times brags about promoting the upbuilding of [western North Carolina]. The only upbuilding I can detect is the promoting of the gambling empire located west of here.

They have created distrust between the different agencies of government in our county, sometimes using outright lies. They try to create controversy where there is none. This has resulted in an atmosphere where industry cannot be recruited; industry will not locate where this type of situation exists.

Community or neighborhood events are never covered, unless they are of a controversial nature, or if the Citizen-Times can create some controversy.

They only print letters to the editor that coincide with their liberal views. Their writers are primarily a group of imported bleeding-heart liberals who are completely out of touch with the average beliefs of residents of western North Carolina.

A paper should be in the business of reporting the news accurately, not dictating policy. I know there is a move being organized to boycott businesses advertising in the Citizen-Times. I believe there will be a groundswell of support for that move when it’s fully organized.

— Cuman Dockery

Freedom and an oak board

People: This is a call for attention to a government that is corrupt, backwards and even downright ridiculous. … Listen to my story, so that you may understand why I am angry, ready for change and resolution. …

Today, I, my friend and my son went to the highest place around here, Mount Mitchell. What a place! The smells, the silence, the twisted, weathered fir trees, the prospect of purity in an almost-virgin environment — and today, we were blessed with a view of our homeland and beyond, to where we could walk in three weeks’ time. I give thanks for today’s adventure. It was almost perfect.

I got everything that I went for, except one thing: an oak board that I first saw last July, lying on the forest floor. Apparently, it was left over from some construction [project] and considered too cumbersome to carry back up the incline to the parking area (probably when oak was more plentiful, since a freshly cut board of this size would cost $60 today). However, this board was twisted, knotty and wet, mossy and somewhat worm-eaten — not cabinet-grade material, obviously. It was the perfect board for me; I had great aspirations for it in my rustic-furniture ventures. What more beautiful piece of wood could there have been for my next project than this one, which had lain on the forest floor on that beautiful mountainside for many years! … To me, it was well worth the effort, even in its aged state, to carry it up the hill, bring it home, cut it, sand it, and finish it. I love worm holes!

I had remembered the board from the previous trip and, this time, came equipped to get it home with my ’71 Chevrolet. … I shouldered the board up to the parking lot. As I was securing my humble prize to my vehicle, envisioning its potential, I was confronted by a ranger.

“Where did you get that wood from?” [he asked].

Most of you already know what happened next: Potential art was confiscated from me, my vehicle and my child’s diaper bag were searched; my name, birth date and who knows what else were radioed across the mountains on the “everyone’s business” frequency. Nearly 30 minutes of my time was wasted by a small-minded wimp who didn’t even understand when I told him that his discretion could help to make our legal system just. He did say that his job was to enforce the law as he sees fit. Yes, discretion is inevitably a factor.

The law is that nothing can be taken away from the park. I believe that it is very important to protect this beautiful ecology. You can get away with leaving oil spills from your leaky car, cigarette butts and gum wrappers, even air pollution that kills the fir trees — but don’t try to take something for the purpose of art.

Hey, this board wasn’t indigenous to the park; oak doesn’t grow at that altitude. This was an attempt to disturb my ecology.

Well, I’m not so fragile. Here I am, speaking out! I hope that somebody who isn’t already aware of this kind of thing will hear, and that someone who doesn’t care will begin to, for this did not affect only me. It affected my 20-month-old son, who watched a man tell me, his father, that I was wrong [as I stood] on the land I have lived on and loved for 21 years. It also affected you, because you will never see the beauty that I would have revealed in that board.

Or will you? Perhaps this is your chance!

Put simply, I’m ready for my land, my art, my people to be represented justly and protected by our government. In fact, I hereby publicly cease to recognize an authority that is interested in anything other than the excellence of humanity and Earth. I will continue to use the elements to create beauty for all to see.

I don’t want your silent pity: I want your determination. I want to hear your voices speak out for justice. Tell me what you’re going to do, Asheville. Don’t be afraid.

— Beecher Sherwood


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