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Bob Emmers' feature article about crack was a brilliant, vivid piece of writing and made me feel as if I was right there with the author ("Crack's Back: Or perhaps it never really left," May 21). I, too, can confirm that crack is indeed very much with us, just as much as the wind-blown trash that gathers in the grimy gutters of any large city.
I've tried crack cocaine myself a few times, but (luckily?) I eventually chose the bottle as the means to destroy myself, foolishly counting myself fortunate that I never got hooked on drugs. I was still a walking dead man. I'm now a resident of a recovery facility where, on a near-daily basis, I see men seeking a way out of the vicious cycle of drug addiction. Many were hooked after the first scary experiments with crack and before too long became the pathetic, lifeless shells Emmers mentioned. By the time they begin to look for help, they are cornered, angry animals.
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Even a hardcore crack addict can change. In my year clean and sober, I've witnessed countless remarkable cases where addicts, who are often tough-as-rawhide felons, become likable, happy and helpful people after as little as a week clean, and they remain that way long after they move on. Then there are those who are not ready to quit crack, cannot stop and go from program to program, working the system with their tired-ass, dope-fiend bullshit. For these, there are three known alternatives: jails, institutions and death.
—Robert Stevens, San Pedro
"Crack's Back" proved a good read and exactly what I expected it to be: a portrayal of white, former middle-class users who "if you met them on the streets, you probably wouldn't guess they smoked crack (for that matter, you might not even guess they were homeless)." Why not then use photos of these "unrecognizable" crack users to accompany the article rather than those you chose: African-American males huddled in industrial/impoverished-looking landscapes (particularly the one man looking alone and deprived)? Did you assign a photographer to go out and shoot a few photos of "guys who look like they're dealing and using"? Did you even interview these men to find out that they were, indeed, crack users?
Bravo to the author of the article for contributing to dispel the racist, classist myth of the Crackhead. Shame on the editors for using photos that perpetuated that myth on the very same pages.
—Rebecca Alber, via e-mail The editors respond: No, we didn't tell the photographer to shoot crackheads—he did that on his own—but, yes, the people in the pictures were dealing and using. As to the point of your letter—what's up with using black crackheads to illustrate a story that features primarily white crackheads?—you're right: it was stupid. "FAGGOT" STRIKES A NERVE
With all the pundits finger pointing over the causes of high school violence, I was grateful to see Richard Goldstein tackle the issue of the verbal and emotional abuse that the "dweebs" of the teenage world suffer daily ("The 'Faggot' Factor: The chickens come home to roost at Columbine High," May 21). The fact that this behavior of the "privileged" class of students over the "lowlier" ones is ignored (and in some cases condoned) by the teachers and administrators of our schools makes these situations even more reprehensible.
What happens to the psyche of a teen who is constantly, day in and day out, berated by classmates as a "faggot" and a "cocksucker"? Why do the people responsible for educating our children allow this? In high school, I was one of those disposable "faggots," and while I never resorted to bringing a loaded gun to school, I spent many nights wishing such horrors upon my tormentors. Does this excuse the kid who decides to actually waste his fellow students? Of course not. Is it understandable how a wounded mind and embattled spirit could seek revenge so cold? If you've been there, of course it is.
—Thom Heinrichs, Long Beach
Finally! Somebody gets it! Growing up gay in Huntington Beach (which may as well be the Littleton of California), I've had it all screamed in my face: "queer," "sissy," "pansy" and, yes, the infamous "faggot." Being punched, kicked, spit on, mocked and choked were daily events. Remembering back to the years of grade school and junior high, it is easy to identify with the intense rage and rejection Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris probably felt. I had fantasies about getting back at the rock heads who made my life miserable for so many years. Did they get reprimanded for their actions? Yeah, right!
And don't think for a minute that teachers at Columbine High School didn't witness the jocks harassing the trench coats and failed to report the altercation. Boys will be boys—isn't that the excuse? Jocks are too important to the infrastructure of high school for the administrators to mess with or for the teachers to fail. It is a sad state of affairs when the elite are chasing one another to get a goddamn leather ball or dressed up in skintight jump suits rolling around on a sweaty mat, trying to pin each other. And they are the ones calling me faggot?
—Ian Jensen, Huntington Beach
Goldstein got it right. I'm a suburban high school teacher and recently heard a kid refer to Steven Spielberg as a faggot—and this is a man with a wife and an ever-escalating flock of children. In high school culture, a "faggot"—gay, straight or otherwise—is any male who falls outside an increasingly narrow and hateful definition of manhood that draws its definition from such youth-esteemed social constructs as locker rooms, prisons and the streets of thug life. A faggot is any guy who can be "punked"—high school lingo that refers to prison rape. Every day it amazes me that kids survive these years.
—Terry Minton, Oakland
I just read Goldstein's article and was pleasantly surprised. I just assumed (shame on me!) that any article dealing with homosexuality coming out of Orange County would be derogatory. I thought that the article was very well-written and very informative. Thank you. . . . Unfortunately, the people who "need" to read this and articles like it never will. . . . Maybe you should send it to all school administrators.
—Michael Mauzey, Portland, Oregon
The attempt to expropriate the Colorado high school massacre/tragedy for a pet issue makes Art Bell look like Pulitzer Prize material. I thought there was an oversupply of talented writers in leftist journalism. Goldstein has gotten as facile and cultish as you can get.
There is his arrogant admission that he is going on pure rumor in wishing to believe that the Columbine High School murderers were gay. How poignant: mass innuendo is one aspect of the victimization of gay teens, and he's trying to turn it to some good. How absurd to claim that the kind of boys—gay or straight—who would swagger in trench coats, cultivate a reputation for bomb play and gun play, and intimidate their peers are the kind of boys who would draw the insult "faggot"; and if they did happen to draw it and they were indeed gay, that it would bug them, let alone torment them to the point of suicide. Goldstein let slip the opportunity to put his spin on the published eyewitness reports—not rumors—that the two killers killed Isaiah Shoels, a black pupil who had had multiple heart surgeries and had worked his way up to a spot on a Columbine sports team, because he was black.
At times like this, I'm glad the OC Weekly is free.
—Dale Chock, via e-mail NOTHING TO FEAR
Thank you so much for Mike Males' article "Manufacturing Fear" (The County, May 21). Sane voices speaking out against media manipulation of public opinion are always welcome in my book. Also, I am deeply concerned with the problems and concerns of young people and am not, shall we say, "pleased" with the media and government war on our country's youth. It's absolutely appalling the way adults are attacking the character and feelings of young people with such malicious frequency.
I've read many OC Weekly stories showing the true story about very low crime committed by young people and appreciate everyone for standing up to counter the lies against young people. It is truly madness to attack young people.
—Leonard Baric, Long Beach SHELTERED LIFE
The disturbing article on the Orange County Animal Shelter was thought-provoking (Bob Emmers' "Pet Hell!: Somebody please put the county's animal shelter out of its misery," May 14). The horror and shame of this facility in one of the richest counties in the United States is certainly appalling. Please continue or update.
—Joan Richardson, San Clemente The editors respond: Your wish is our command; see "Changing the Cat Box: Sweeping changes at the county's Soviet-style animal shelter?" in The County. FALSE ALARM
I initially thought about ignoring the meritless, illegitimate and defamatory diatribe of lies, slander and other pejorative rhetoric used by writers Tim Meltreger and R. Scott Moxley to castigate the Orange County Board of Education's recent resolution opposing Sheila Kuehl's Dignity for All Students Act ("Hey, Kuehl Aid!: OC Board of Education torpedoes protection of gay students," May 14). It is obvious that Meltreger and Moxley only promote abhorrence, hatred and malice toward conservative Republicans and those who oppose their narrow political agenda. But ignoring the article would indicate that I don't care about the false impressions that were deliberately given to many OC Weekly readers.
To begin, I am not sure where the reporters obtained the inaccurate information printed in the article. It certainly did not come from any of my public or private statements, or from any communication with the Weekly. The article did not even mention that I agree that violence against all human beings, either gay or straight, is morally wrong and evil. It did not even state that I have many gay and lesbian patients who come to me for a family doctor because I care and love them as fellow human beings.
This was my first dialogue with the Weekly, and my experience did verify that the Weekly will use deceitful and mean-spirited means to smear its political opposition. This experience proved that it was a waste of my honest efforts to take the time to articulate in a well-meaning manner our obvious differences in public policy. I want to communicate primarily, though, as a Christian, that I forgive you. I forgive your utter hatred toward myself, as well as other culturally conservative men or women—Christians, Jews and Muslims—who do not share your political agenda. I pray for a change of your hardened heart and elimination of your anger toward anyone who disagrees with you on public policy.
—Ken Williams, trustee, Orange County Board of Education R. Scott Moxley responds: See "Loathe Thy Enemy" in The County. CORRECTION
In "A Gray Area: OC judge is wild card in citizens' drug inquiry" (The County, May 28), the Weekly had Santa Ana Superior Court Judge James P. Gray breaking into the wrong man's address. The speaker was not Los Angeles attorney Gordon A. Greenberg—who was listed in the program but unable to appear—but Paul Lewin, research director at Common Sense for Drug Policy and board member of the November Coalition, an organization that advocates the rights of drug-war prisoners and their families.
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