Letters for November 21, 2013
Trio on homelessness
Re “Fountain of infamy” (Cover feature, by Tom Gascoyne, Nov. 14):
I have seen Jasper quietly sitting on benches or sidewalks downtown for years. He never appears to be on drugs or alcohol, nor does he seem to be bothering anyone. I had a feeling that he was a local boy.
Due to his own personal problems, he is homeless and living on our public streets. Isn’t that enough punishment for him? Do we have to punish him further by saying that he has no right to be in our city as he is? What is the matter with people who want to kick those who are already down?
Shame on you, Harold Ey and E-R Editor David Little, for your heartless attitude toward Jasper. Jasper is not a transient; he is a local boy who is having a difficult life. Why don’t you two try living outside for a few days and see how you like it?
What is homelessness? I’ve asked myself for years now. When I lived in Washington, I had friends who called the streets their home. Are they homeless? Home is where you live. I live in Chico; it’s my home.
The idea of homelessness makes many conjure up images of someone who looks unkempt, perhaps dirty, asking for help or money; we call it begging or panhandling. These images are often scary-looking males whom some people might cross the street to avoid. I often hear the word “bum.” What I very seldom hear is that someone looks “in need” or “vulnerable.”
We often think of “homeless” people as dangerous or unpredictable more than being vulnerable. The reality is that whenever you marginalize a population, it becomes very vulnerable—vulnerable to stereotypes and worse, vulnerable to becoming marginalized to the point where we don’t want to see it anymore. It’s time to take a compassionate case-by-case look at this instead of trying to solve it by sweeping it off the street. “Homelessness” is not going away unless we redefine it.
Rather than complain about how much of a nuisance the homeless population is, why not think about the bigger question: Why are there homeless in the first place?
There is enough housing in Chico to give all of us a home, yet hundreds sleep on the streets, and empty homes continue to be built. What kind of system allows this? The same one that spends more money imprisoning us than educating us, where the dollar has overcome our sense of self-worth and overshadowed our sense of community, so that we forget that most of us do not choose to be homeless.
We are powerless to this system of “freedom,” and because we are powerless, we complain about those who are “lower” than us.
Lee Dent III
It’s racist, not satire
Re “Police drama” (Second & Flume, by Melissa Daugherty, Nov. 14):
Do the citizens of Chico, and especially the few African-Americans who live here, need Police Officer Todd Boothe on the CPD?
Of course he has his constitutional rights to post anything that he likes on his Facebook page. Can one separate his clearly racist statements from him performing his job without prejudice? Officer Peter Durfee, speaking from a “prepared statement” calling Boothe’s statements “political satire,” shows he is a man who doesn’t understand those words.
I have read Jonathan Swift, and I know political satire when I read it. Here is something even more exiguous: “Durfee charges that Stone’s allegations endanger the lives of Boothe and his family.” Oh, right, The New Black Panther Party of Chico is looking for him and his family? There is no person who is not dangerous to someone else.
Morgan, the errand-runner
Re “Pieces” (From the edge, by Anthony Peyton Porter, Nov. 14):
Anthony Peyton Porter asks some interesting questions about Sean Morgan—our councilman who is trying to shut down the Orchard Church’s feeding of the poor. Porter wonders why anyone would “want to prevent poor people from being fed.” “What was in it” for Morgan, and does he “get some kind of gratification or satisfaction” from this effort?
I doubt that Sean Morgan gets any satisfaction out of depriving anyone of a meal. His motivations have more to do with a desire to be associated with “winners”—like real estate tycoon Wayne Cook, for whom it appears Morgan runs errands. (And from whom Morgan can expect fat campaign donations.)
It seems that more than a few people, unencumbered by conscience and empathy, are almost constitutionally predisposed to ingratiate themselves with the rich and powerful. They accomplish this by doing their bidding. In the Morgan-type value system, having a place to shine among the elite eclipses all other concerns.
History is replete with examples of this value system gone wild. What do you think motivated George W. Bush, other than deep insecurity and a lust for the approval of the “haves and the have-mores,” as he adoringly called them? Mr. Morgan has a bright future.
Bad call on sit/lie
Re “Clear the sidewalks” (Newslines, by Melissa Daugherty, Nov. 7):
Pushing a problem away doesn’t fix it. The “sit/lie” ordinance is a waste of the city’s time and resources. It’s simply bigotry toward the homeless, and it makes me sick. The current laws we already have that protect the community from antisocial behavior just need to be enforced properly.
The only way to improve the homeless situation in this town is for the community to work together and help these people. When I say this, it’s always met with ignorance like, “Oh, let them sleep in your back yard then.” You know what? I have let homeless people stay with me; allowed them a place to shower, and use the Internet and a phone; and gave them some food. I’ve volunteered with homeless-outreach programs and shelters.
If everyone who is able to could take eight hours out of each month to volunteer to do something to help someone else, I’m positive the homeless situation would be a lot better. These people are human beings. Maybe if you sat down and talked to them, and got to know what their situation is, you’d be able to see that not everyone on the street is there by choice, and they’re just as decent people as you, if not better.
Aw, shucks. After reading the Sue Hubbard comment about no reason to be homeless because of the myriad services, I looked up her phone number to ask what they are and where they are. However, the phone had been disconnected. Maybe a lot of other people called before I thought to. She’s incorrect, however.
It’s also disconcerting to read that the district attorney thinks sprinklers will act to curtail homelessness rather than noting a national count of 5 million homeless people, with 20 percent of those in California.
No more downtown hotel
Re “Private security” (Newslines, by Tom Gascoyne, Oct. 31) and “Alone on a mountain” (Cover feature, by Allan Stellar, Nov. 7):
I am distressed to read about the private militia in downtown. I come to Chico regularly and often choose to stay at a fine hotel there. I like to walk to dinner. I like to walk after dinner. Usually, if I am served more than I can consume at a restaurant, I save it for a hungry person on my way back.
I have often chatted or played guitar with some of the “vagrants.” I find most of them to be humans just like me, only more unfortunate at the time. The homeless folks never made me feel uncomfortable walking around Chico, but the armed militia certainly does.
I recently saw a video of many animals, from chimpanzees to a parrot, showing more compassion for other beings than Chico is showing for their less-fortunate people. I hope you can come to terms with this issue.
Also, the cover story about Allan Stellar’s trek is fantastic. I am so jealous, and commend him on his ability to take advantage of the government shutdown in such a remarkable way. And I commend you for printing his story. I will be back, but I may not be staying downtown.
Barclay W. Neumann
An irresponsible story
Re “Alone on a mountain” (Cover feature, by Allan Stellar, Nov. 7):
Your cover story and related article was, at best, in poor taste. Glorifying trespass in Lassen Volcanic National Park and idealizing Edward Abbey and his Monkey Wrench behavior are not suitable topics for a responsible publication. If nothing else, we still are a land of laws. Applauding a renegade with a cover story encourages more of the same behavior. He should receive a citation and a fine instead.
R. Judd Hanna
A senseless death
Re “Independent review needed” (Editorial, Oct. 17):
On Sept. 22 of this year, a young woman of 19, Breanne Sharpe, was shot at 19 times by multiple Chico Police officers. The young woman had stolen a vehicle and led the police on a short chase that soon ended her life.
“The shootings, individually and jointly, were justified under the circumstances,” said Butte County’s District Attorney, Mike Ramsey. It was completely uncalled for that this young woman lost her life because of this incident. The first shot fired was straight to the back of the driver’s headrest. It seems so ignorant to go straight to killing her before even trying to stop her.
Instead of shooting and killing her, the police could have easily stopped the car by shooting the tires or even putting themselves before the situation like police are expected to do. At first, the multiple police officers thought the driver was a white male. They didn’t know that it was a woman who did have previous offenses until after she was killed. Even though she had previous offenses, she may have needed some jail time to set her straight.
Now that she is not here anymore, she has no time to improve or even turn her whole life around.
Too many leaves
Re “Leaf them alone” (UnCommon Sense, Oct. 24.):
Thanks for the reminder to keep leaf piles in Chico’s streets well away from storm drains, so they don’t end up clogging creeks and choking creek critters, using precious oxygen to decompose. On our suburban lot, we’re happy to have five shade trees, three of which drop an enormous amount of leaves. They provide shade, beauty, and many homes for birds, and lower our energy bill. Small (open or enclosed) home composters can’t possibly handle the torrent of Chico leaves.
Yes, we mow some of the leaves as mulch for the lawn, but at some point their thickness causes run-off into the street. Next, leaves are raked or blown into perennial garden beds, ensuring a warm mulch for plant roots. However, too many leaves bury root crowns, keeping them wet, inviting mold, rot, disease and, eventually, death.
Excess leaves go into the green-waste can, and my understanding is that they are added to compost that is sold to landscapers. The rest get carted to the street, where they are collected and also end up in the city compost. I would appreciate any clarification, correction, alternative methods or ideas people have. And I invite you to come on over and rake! Here’s to our gorgeous autumn.
Blame the prosecutor
Re “Memories of murder” (Newslines, by Robert Speer, Oct. 10):
Reportedly, the dismissed juror did not express reservations about the death penalty different from those expressed by potential jurors who were in fact impaneled.
The prosecutor probably sought this juror’s dismissal because he thought, based on her race or color, that she would be more likely to stick with her reservations. Since 1967, there have been only 13 executions in California, all between 1992 and 2006. In the history of California statehood, prior to the death-penalty moratorium in the 1970s, there had been fewer than 700 known executions. Maybe it would be a good idea to read the district court’s decision more carefully.
You might want to consider, also, that the prosecutor willingly put his own prosecution in jeopardy for the sake of obtaining a death sentence that likely would never be carried out. Maybe, if the death penalty is taken off the table, Crittenden will admit his guilt and there can be legal finality.
Michael N. Field
The GOP and the Tea Party are using popular prejudice, false claims and unrealistic promises to manipulate uninformed and gullible citizens. Their lust for power, insatiable greed and fanatical ambition is self-destructive and likely will take the rest of us down with them. The systematic autocratic obstruction of democratic principles is destroying the middle class. A productive engaged and active middle class is essential and necessary for good government.
Those who support arming civilians with military weaponry should be ashamed of their paranoid fantasies. Those who produce and serve generate the wealth of this nation. The corporate-owned politicians, CEOs, stock brokers, money brokers and their ilk parasitically siphon the wealth off those who work for a living.
Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.
Uncle Sam is so riddled with the aforementioned parasites that he’s on his knees gasping for air. Mother Earth is suffering life-threatening disease brought on by irresponsible and reckless exploitation of natural resources and overpopulation. Atmospheric and terrestrial pollution is a very real threat to life as we know it. Future generations will most likely be overwhelmed by the insoluble dilemma brought about by the herein cited conditions.
Gushing about Abbey
I just finished my “environmental literary fiction” novel inspired by Edward Abbey, so was struck by the synchronicity of spotting Allan Stellar’s article as I entered a restaurant in Chester after camping and goofing off for a few days in Lassen National Forest (had the dogs). Allan, yes, Ed would be damn proud of you.
My book is dedicated to Abbey. Since writing it, I have been rather depressed, since no one under 50 seems to have heard of him and those who have (mostly women) gave me shit for dedicating my first novel to “that sexist misogynistic bastard” (Confessions of a Barbarian does kind of confirm this and Black Sun almost borders on child pornography; the man was not a saint, but then again, he never claimed to be). It’s been lonely out here, in other words, so I greatly appreciated reading Allan’s article more than I can say. It will be cut out and tucked into one of Abbey’s books.
Abbey got a lot of us in trouble, including me, to the point where after ranting about (former) Secretary of the Interior James Watt, my mother, tired of it, told me to sit down at the kitchen table, then calmly asked me what the book was in my hands that seemed to accompany every rant. I will never forget this: She is staring at me and I am staring back at her, and in between us, clamped tightly in my 22-year-old hands (it was 1982), is a book called The Monkey Wrench Gang. “Open up,” she says to me, motioning to the book. “Let me see it.”
My parents had to put up with quite a few Abbey-induced rants, so the book is also dedicated to them (and the above vignette is part of the dedication).
I am relieved now, Allan—he is not forgotten. He still might be the only person dead or alive who would understand my near compulsion to take out maps and head to the most remote places I can to get away from my own species and see the Earth before we trash it completely—to step into this precious and endangered window of time and history.
Thank you so much, Allan, for reminding me, us, that indeed, Abbey lives!