Letters to the Editor
Now that both dailies have their Pulitzers (as Michael Roberts predicted and then recapped in hisApril 13 Message
), maybe they'll quit forcing Columbine onto Page 1 day by day, month by month. And since the local and national media, the jocks-rule administrators, some parents and students and the pious preachers have kept healing from happening, they've given the killers even more than they sought with their sick actions.
Why not just name the memorial park and the library for Harris/Klebold?
Although we have all felt the aftereffects of the Columbine shootings, most of us do not know the pain of the true victims. As we all know, this was a tragic event, and it should have been prevented. Through all of the newspaper articles and TV stories, not only are we, the public, disillusioned about what actually happened at Columbine, but we feel it is our place to remember the people who are no longer with us.
Although I share the sentiment that it is important to remember our classmates and the students at Columbine, I also feel that the media has imposed itself upon the families of Columbine too much. We are the public, and we have a right to know; however, when we're not reading about specific details and how the case is being dealt with by local officials, the news isn't really news -- it's entering people's personal lives for the enjoyment of the media. Over the past year, we've all rehashed the stories, experiences, pain, hurt and maybe even guilt for not paying attention to our own kids. But what happened at Columbine happened a year ago. And the families of the victims will always remember what happened there, without a front-page article on a survivor's story.
Last week was filled with more Columbine stories than I wanted to read. Perhaps what the papers needed to print last Thursday was nothing. Maybe a completely blank page should have graced our newspapers that morning to signify that we do care, without the same stories we've read over and over. A blank front page would have proved that the media does care, but it would not have interfered with people's lives. A blank page would have meant whatever it needed to, to whomever needed it to mean something. And we would all have taken a minute to reflect on what we've learned, to ensure that this doesn't happen again.
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I was going out on the afternoon of April 20 when I turned on the TV to catch the noon news. From the moment that I realized it was a live broadcast of something happening in Littleton, where I live, I couldn't continue my day, couldn't turn it off. I will never forget seeing two young girls sitting in the window with a sign saying "Help us." I heard the descriptions of the killers and heard that they were in the library. I saw a sign saying "I'm bleeding to death" inside one window. I saw Patrick Ireland's jump in real time.
And the only thing that kept running through my mind as the hours passed was, "Where are the police? Why are they hiding behind vehicles around the perimeter instead of going in?" I ran to other apartments where people had their TVs on, asking the question again and again. No one had the answer.
The next day I went to the park and spoke with a policeman guarding the drive to the library. The gist of the conversation was that no policeman had been hurt, to which I replied that was nothing to be proud of. That should be a matter of shame in a situation where unarmed people were stuck inside a building for hours waiting for help. If the SWAT squad -- with shields and high-powered rifles -- was afraid to go in, then what good were they? I'm sorry, but I still see it that way. I've read the stories about problems with radio communication, I've heard the argument that a dead officer can't help anyone, I've heard that one SWAT squad was in there quickly but didn't know where the shooters were -- none of it washes. Janitors had more courage and saved people by locking classroom doors; paramedics had more courage and went in to pull people out who were near the entrance; Dave Sanders had more courage. If that is what we can expect from our trained and armed SWAT squads, then a big shakeup is needed -- especially in the leadership area.
I know hindsight is 20/20, but I was watching it all as it happened.
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Regarding Juliet Wittman's "Murder by Death
," in the April 20 issue:
Your coverage of Lisl Auman is spectacular. This is truly one of the biggest injustices of all time in Denver. Keep up the good work, Westword. The only paper in Denver worth reading!
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After reading Juliet Wittman's admittedly interesting follow-up story on Lisl Auman, I have to agree with Jay Hanley, whose April 6 letter noted that Westword seems obsessed with stories about bad teens. Bad teens to the rest of the world, that is, while Westword apparently thinks they have done nothing wrong. While I agree that Lisl Auman should not be in jail for life, it's undeniable that she belongs there for a significant period of time. Her time with Matthaeus Jaehnig was no innocent joyride.
Officer Bruce VanderJagt's widow could tell you that.
What is it with you, Jay Hanley? The people at Westword met a woman who, through negligence on the part of the Aurora Police Department (the APD being unable to distinguish a criminal from a hot rock), lost a good son to one of Aurora's "bad boys." Justin Berton did not go to bat for Aurora's bad boys in his "Left for Dead," published in the March 9 issue; he exposed the actions of the APD in dealing with them.
Alan Conner was not a bad boy, as Mr. Hanley so ignorantly implied. I hope Alan's killer's jury is able to reason better than Mr. Hanley can read.
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John Travolta has more talent in his little finger than all of yourWestword
writers combined. Your jealousy may excuse the fun you made of him in yourApril 13 Off Limits
column, but to also mock Scientology was uncalled for.
Travolta, like millions of Scientology followers around the world, is very sincere in his beliefs and his desire for a better world.
Three weeks have passed since F.A.C.T.Net, a nonprofit organization, broke the story surrounding allegations that the movie Battlefield Earth, starring John Travolta and distributed by Warner Bros., may contain sophisticated subliminal advertising designed by the cult Scientology to recruit viewers into their cult and influence them to reject psychiatry and other mental-health organizations. F.A.C.T.Net posted a formal request in numerous public forums, the original of which was sent to Warner Bros., asking them to make a public statement on the Battlefield Earth subliminal-advertising allegation as well as other serious allegations surrounding the film's release. Warner Bros. has remained publicly silent.
While his point about the loss of Denver's character due to growth is well taken, Michael Paglia's gross oversimplification and mischaracterization of the new urbanism in his April 20 "Against the Grain
" bears correction.
The new urbanism is a community-planning discipline that encourages pedestrian-oriented lifestyles and a mix of building uses; it has little, if anything, to do with the facades and "meaningless ornaments" he describes. In fact, a crucial tenet of the new urbanism is that it seeks to redevelop urban areas and save historic structures.
With the online resources available for research, there is no need for these sorts of inaccuracies. Please ask your writers to do some research before they launch into vague, hypercritical generalizations.
Tell Paglia he forgot the beautiful fish mural Westword needlessly destroyed on the side of its new building.
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Michael Paglia replies: The philosophical underpinnings of new urbanism are irrelevant, given how it's being expressed in urban environments by greedy developers and dim-bulb planners. How is Lowry, billed as a new urbanism frontier, different from Highlands Ranch? And for the record, the mediocre fish mural was gone long before Westword signed a lease at its new building.
Rodger Lang, professor of art at Metro State College, died April 12.
Rodger and Me have first names that a lot of people cannot spell (although Michael Paglia was correct in his April 20 Artbeat). Rodger taught at Metro State for thirty years, and the damn school paper couldn't get his name right in its obituary.
But the slip of clarity in thought, comment and performance that have followed the declines in our lives and environments never got to Rodger the way they have to many of the rest of us. Rodger watched the tides ebb and heap and overflow -- and let them. Rodger was a benevolent being with a sweet, chubby, innocent face who gave his time to all of us, and especially our students, patiently and quietly, without arm-waving or flamboyant mannerisms, nurturing and nudging without provoking or discouraging.
If you were planning on taking a ceramics class with Rodger in the fall, I'm sorry for you. You missed out, a significant loss. Rodger was everyone's Morrie. I'd see him for ten, maybe twenty minutes a week and always feel better about myself and Metropolitan life when I left his company. Are there people who make you feel that way? Let them know.
We knew a good man, a significant artist and an exceptional teacher. I think his spirit will continue to visit us, even as his soft-white footprints are disappearing from the art-office carpet, and we will remember him in the way that we remember the very best people who touch us and make life bearable and frequently inspiring.
Please join us for a celebration of his life at Artyard, 1251 South Pearl Street, at 6:30 p.m. April 28.
Craig Marshall Smith, art professor
Metropolitan State College of Denver