Letters to the editor

Protecting children from sexual abuse

After reading [your] coverage of Asheville City Council’s Nov. 21 work session [“Just the Facts,” Nov. 29], I’m grateful that light is being shed on the issue of child pornography. However, child pornography, including the estimated 100,000 child-porn Web sites, is part of a much bigger problem: the sexual abuse of children.

To reduce the number of children victimized by the making of child pornography, we must set our sights on tackling the root of the problem, [which is] keeping our children safe from all forms of sexual abuse.

The statistics on child sexual abuse are staggering. By the time young people reach the age of 18, one of every three females and one of every five males will have been sexually abused. It’s even more astonishing to learn that child molesters are not strangers to these children. In fact, 90 percent of child molesters know their victims. Research also shows that sexual abuse is not tied to where children live or their socioeconomic status. The numbing, bottom-line fact is this: Any child is a potential target for this horrific offense.

What can be done about this growing problem? Enforcing existing laws and drafting new legislation to protect children are the first steps toward addressing this problem. I am thankful to Mayor Terry Bellamy, City Council and members of the Asheville Police Department for taking action.

However, it’s imperative that we inform children about what they can do to protect themselves from sexual abuse. As adults, we constantly preach to our children about things that can hurt them, such as alcohol, drugs and reckless driving. The same urgency should be applied to sexual abuse. Children need very specific information about what to do if someone they know goes over the line. And they need to know what “over the line” is. Who can they talk to if they suspect an inappropriate advance by someone? And will they trust that you’ll believe them? These are questions we need to help children answer.

ARP/Phoenix is an agency that strives to reduce substance abuse in Western North Carolina. One of this organization’s key strategies is to reduce the known causes of substance abuse. Child sexual abuse is one of those causes, and ARP/Phoenix offers Good Touch/Bad Touch to help reach children at a very impressionable age. The program is for children in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade and teaches them — in a nonthreatening, nurturing way — that there are basic skills they can use to shield themselves from sexual predators. This program also educates parents and staff who work with children about ways to communicate with them about this important issue.

We do not protect our children by keeping them isolated or in the dark on this critical issue. Therefore, it’s crucial that this problem doesn’t take a backseat among our lengthy list of priorities. We must provide our children, parents and families with the tools they need to protect our future generations.

— Danielle Arias
Prevention Coordinator, Buncombe County

A French Quarter apparition

I was in Asheville a couple of weeks prior to Halloween and chanced on a most remarkable musical experience at Jack of the Wood. The band was Ghost Mountain, and I wondered at the time why, with such a name, this band wasn’t booked on Halloween. After the performance, I understood. It would just be too scary. The phenomenal expertise and soul of this band evoked the spirits of blues through the ages with one step into the future.

Some music is informed by the blues. This music has a Ph.D. in the blues. The sound was excellent, and the music peaked with the materialization of three dancers who were obviously from the French Quarter. With the fading of the last note, the girls vanished as suddenly as they had appeared. As I left, I could have sworn I saw Robert Johnson having a drink with R.L.

With the loss of New Orleans and the consequent displacement of many fine jazz and blues musicians, it is more important than ever to be able to hear this genre of music live, as it was intended. Thanks for providing a venue for this music, Jack, and please bring ’em back.

— Margaret Chamberlain

Turkey rehash

[This is] in response to Alex Lekas’ letter and reference to the “natural” and nonvegetarian state of man [“Pass the Turkey, or the Ham,” Nov. 29].

Within [the last] century, the diet of the average American has undergone a radical shift away from plant-based foods. Studies of primates indicate that we are all opportunistic meat eaters. This means that, given the opportunity, we are likely to consume as much animal food as we can — a characteristic that is an evolutionary carryover to make sure that we eat enough protein as part of our mostly vegetarian diet. In the wild, the amount of animal protein available to primates is limited by infrequent opportunity. The hunter-gatherer tribes of today consume primarily a vegetable diet. An analysis of 58 societies of modern hunter-gatherers revealed that one-half emphasize gathering plant foods, one-third [emphasize] fishing, and only one-sixth [are] primarily hunters.

That said, there are many alternative sources of protein today, and 7 billion (and counting) souls on our planet make it the moral imperative of our time. Seventy percent of all grain in this country is fed to animals, while 70 percent of all grain in Africa is shipped to Europe for the same reason. One-half of all fresh water on the earth is also fed to livestock. It is really not about choice, acceptance or tolerance; it’s about people, animals and the earth.

Further, my husband and I have been vegetarians for over 20 years and have raised our kids that way. They are both big for their age, and my husband and I need to watch our weight — as opposed to being “too skinny.” The pathetic, fast-food-oriented school-lunch programs of this and most school districts should be so lucky as to have fresh, vegetarian meals. In a country where one in every 32 adults is in prison or [on] probation and the constant presence of police and metal detectors is now “normal” for junior and public high schools, I’d say it’s time to reevaluate and move towards a less violent diet.

— Lisa G. Leming

Exception or rule?

Although I am not a vegetarian, I resent Alex Lekas’ stereotyping vegetarians as “pale, skinny and not very happy” [“Pass the Turkey, or the Ham,” Letters, Nov. 29]. Case in point: Joe Walsh (author of the Nov. 22 letter “A Fowl Tradition”) is a competitive weightlifter — with a healthy tan and a contagious smile.

— Jonathan Scott

Viewsheds don’t provide housing

Shame on Sandy Mush and Newfound Range landowners Duckett, Hearne and Thornton for abandoning hard-[won] subdivision rights and with them, the responsibilities to affordable housing and to themselves. By accepting conservation easements and failing to subdivide, these elitists not only prevented affordable housing directly on their own land but also indirectly through the regional unit count and supply curve, and also because they could have affected the viewsheds in a counter-elitist manner that could have made housing more affordable all over the county, including Asheville.

[Protecting] viewsheds is not real environmentalism, as no endangered species has ever cared about them one bit. They are pure elitism, and these landowners, the [Buncombe County Board of Commissioners] and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy now owe a substantial new debt to the homeless of Asheville who will be priced out as a result of elitist viewsheds. Commission Chair Nathan Ramsey especially should have known better as a supposedly anti-tax, anti-zoning and anti-liberal/elitist conservative who should have more respect for the moral imperative behind supply and demand, demonstrated by the late Milton Friedman. I guarantee the per-capita environmental footprint of Buncombe will increase as a result of this action and “viewshed preservation” in general.

Also, if two out of three parents are so environmentally callous that they would turn down even free, subsidized contraception, available at the Health Department for [those with] incomes up to $18,100 per year, then there is something else a city or county can do for the planet, and that is to stop subsidizing parenthood. Democratic-led child subsidies like playgrounds, ball fields, child-care, parental leave and public schools are encouraging and enabling reproduction and thus causing an environmental catastrophe at the unfair expense of child-free taxpayers like many gay people and myself.

— Alan Ditmore

When good is not enough

One day I’ll learn not to go on assumptions.

I’m minding my own business, expecting the rest of the world to be living up to reasonable standards, right? (Yeah, I know.) My baby girl’s about to turn 21, and she’s been the same way — going about, abiding by the rules, waiting for the legal privilege associated with that milestone, whereafter you can gamble and drink.

So we thought: Whoop-de-do, go out to Cherokee to gamble and drink. But lo and behold, guess what? Hold onto your hats; I’ll bet you didn’t know this. Cherokee is a dry county. No alcohol. No nothing. Gambling without alcohol. What is that? That’s bingo at the VFW, that’s what! I am appalled, aghast and affronted. What is up with that? Who’s going to go there? A busload of retirees? Give me a break. Whoop-de-do.

So now we’re at a loss as how to commemorate this rite of passage. How to kill drinking and gambling with one stone? Need we travel to the coast and take a boat? That’s such a bother.

I am perturbed. I thought our mountains had it all. I thought we had it covered. I thought if I just was a good person when the time came, necessary things would be convenient. Not so, apparently. I stand by the side of the road with a teardrop in my eye.

Just sayin’.

— Delhi Fine

Mistakes can be made

The U.S. Constitution is under attack: [first] illegal wiretapping, and now Bush’s signature on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [that] provides for the establishment of military commissions to conduct “trials” of any persons deemed to be “unlawful enemy combatant[s] … under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.” Helps to make us safer? Sounds reasonable?

Well, consider the determination of who is or isn’t an unlawful enemy combatant, and for what reason. That is left entirely to the discretion of the president or defense secretary. The detention of such a person begins and ends with executive authority. Indefinite incarceration is merely one of the possibilities. If, for some reason, you or I were mistakenly thought to be an “unlawful enemy combatant,” we could be incarcerated without access to our legal system — or anything else, for that matter.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is a declaration of war against the Constitution. Article I, Section 9 states: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” The basic premise is that people have the right not to be incarcerated without just cause. Human nature being what it is, the arbitrary use of power by those in authority is a given. Mistakes can be made. Protection against such abuse is a necessary part of our legal system protected by the Constitution.

We are experiencing frightening attacks on the Constitution in the name of security. I am as concerned about that as much as, or more than, terrorists. I do not want to live in a police state in the name of security.

— Joe Zinich

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