Letters for December 12, 2002

The lights are much brighter there
My wife and I spent last Saturday Christmas shopping. Being a typical guy, I hate shopping. I’d rather be doing almost anything else. But I must say that it was not too bad. We decided to do most of our shopping downtown and avoid the malls and superstores. What a difference that decision made!

The downtown stores have wonderful and unique gifts that you won’t find at the mall. There’s even a store that only sells things made in Chico! I had no idea that so many wonderful things were made right here. Even the workers in the stores seemed happier and were more helpful than I expected. In only a few hours, we had all of our shopping done, had a nice lunch, and there was none of that shopping rage I tend to get when I spend time in Wal-Mart. And it feels good to know that you are supporting small local businesses.

I would like to encourage everyone to avoid the insanity of the superstores and shop downtown this year.

John Geiger

Reasonable raking
During the past week I have noticed several Chico residents using garden rakes to pile up leaves from yard trees. Some of these considerate citizens even took the time to create a path for bicycles between the pile and the gutter. I want to thank these kind people for preserving the peace while they groom their yards. Their quiet, clean neighborhoods are a healthy contrast to the noisy, dusty districts groomed by motor-blowers.

Jim Brobeck

Support young talent
We are fortunate in Chico to have so many organizations, clubs, groups, individuals and churches that engage in a diversity of good works to benefit our community. One such group is the Chico Guild of the North State Symphony, which I have been a part of for over 30 years.

Through fund-raising events and individual donations by the members, the guild was able to underwrite the last NSS concert, which took place Nov. 23 at Laxson Auditorium. It was particularly fitting for the guild to choose this concert because it featured the winners of the 2002 Young Artists Auditions, which the guild co-sponsored with the Redding League. Three young musicians of extraordinary talent demonstrated that classical music, well performed, is still the greatest music to listen to, as the applause of the enthusiastic audience proved.

The guild feels it is vitally important to support and nurture young musical talent because it enriches and ennobles all of our lives. The 2003 Young Artists Audition will be held on Sunday, March 2, 2003, from noon to 6 p.m. at Harlen Adams Theater. For registration forms call 345-0744.

Helga Ruge

Don’t toss the cookies
Reading the letter in CN&R Nov. 27 issue [“Cheesy situation”] from the disappointed customer regarding Safeway not having ricotta and mozzarella cheeses anymore, I was surprised because I have just had a different and very positive experience at Safeway.

About a month ago I sent in one of the Safeway evaluation forms they keep by their checkout terminals. I sent it in because I wanted to request that they carry our favorite cookie at the new Mangrove Avenue store as well as in their East Avenue store, explaining that the Mangrove store is often more convenient for our shopping. Yesterday I received two very pleasant and courteous letters from their customer service representative telling me to call a special number to give Safeway all the particulars they needed regarding cookies and that they would do their best to follow up on my request.

Maybe Safeway has noticed that often after I shop their East Avenue store the cookie supply has gone down and their profits have gone up, but, cookies or no cookies, I’m always gotten an abundance of courteous help in both the East Avenue and the Mangrove stores. (You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the name of these special cookies. This is intentional. I am worried that if I do, a lot of gourmet-cookie monsters might hightail it over to the East Avenue store and decimate “my” supply.)

Judy Biehler
received via e-mail

Auto truth
Greg Redeker [“Not addicted to oil, just freedom,” Guest comment, Nov. 28] rightly points out that the private automobile is a great convenience. He uses the subsidization of public transit to help make his point, while leaving the reader to assume that the private automobile is not significantly subsidized. That is far from true.

The annual budget of the U.S. Department of Defense has averaged about $300 billion for many years. Much of that expenditure, perhaps as much as half of it, has been used to maintain our nation’s access to petroleum from other areas of the world. Include the law enforcement and court costs related to automobile use, and the true cost of driving becomes impressive. European nations factor these costs into the price of their gasoline, charging the equivalent of $4 or $5 per gallon.

Most houses in this country have been built, at added expense, with an attached or separate garage in which to shelter the beloved iron chariots. The owners of our shopping malls, such as the Chico Mall, provide large parking areas at great expense to accommodate the automobile. The merchants recoup their added expense by charging more for their merchandise.

There are many other direct and indirect costs attributable to automobile use, such as liability insurance, depreciation, pollution, injuries and deaths. The list goes on and on, with examples too numerous to include here. For those readers with an inclination to explore other viewpoints than that expressed by Redeker, I suggest that you check out the Web site www.culturechange.org.

Paul Smith

Editor’s note: We might add to Mr. Smith’s list the greatest taxpayer subsidization of the automobile, the billions upon billions of dollars spent on roads and highways.

The bigger problem
Members of our community have castigated District Attorney Mike Ramsey for not being “outraged” when informed of the events that occurred at the now infamous Pleasant Valley High teen party. Others—myself included—believe that Mr. Ramsey’s dispassionate approach is exactly what we hope to see in our law enforcement officials.

Our justice system is not, and should not become, a legally sanctioned lynch mob. This holds true regardless of the nature of the violation.

While many in our community seem to think of victimization as absolute, I submit that the word “victim” is a relative term. The painful truth is that people sometimes engage in reckless and/or enabling behavior that greatly increases the probability that they will become victims. My heart goes out to this young woman, not so much because of what happened at the party, but because of the damage that must have been done—to her self-esteem—before she ever got there.

As for the monstrous behavior of the young men, I’m afraid that we will once again miss the central point. People behave sadistically because they are either routinely exposed to cruelty and/or because they have missed crucial stages in their emotional development. Without deep emotional bonding—leading to an awakening of our innate capacity for empathy—humans tend to manifest an array of sociopathic behaviors.

After Columbine—and hundreds of other such incidents—we continue to deny that millions of American homes have become emotionally vacuous media centers. With real human contact in increasingly short supply, these boys are the canaries in the coal mine. They stopped singing a long time ago.

Patrick Newman

Editor’s note: For another take on the incident Mr. Newman addresses, please see the essay, “The five steps of inaction,” on page 12.