Letters to the Editor
Miracles happen: I just read Harrison Fletcher's wonderful article regarding the journey of the Lost Boys, "Coming to America," in the December 6 issue. I was extremely touched by the cause of these young men who, to me, represent a forgotten type of miracle.
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Good job: "Coming to America" -- what a stunning article! The story of these men is inspirational. I am ashamed of griping about my job when these people are elated to get any job.
The part about them getting up early, ironing their white shirts and looking for work every day was touching. After reading the article, I have a new appreciation for the things I have taken for granted. These men are happy, optimistic and appreciative of every little thing America has to offer.
I wish I could give them all jobs. Can't do that, but I can give a donation to the program. Thank you for the best article in Westword or any other magazine I've read in a long, long time.
Information, please: I appreciate immensely the in-depth stories that appear in Westword, and Harrison Fletcher's "Coming to America" is outstanding in the information that it gives.
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Meanwhile, back at the ranch:From the moment I started reading Harrison Fletcher's Lost Boys article until the end, I was captivated and motivated to help the "Boys" anyway I can. I would love to invite them to my family's ranch in Castle Rock for some more American culture.
Thanks so much!
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Reopening wounds: Regarding Alan Prendergast's "I'm Full of Hate and I Love It," in the December 6 issue:
What, may I ask, is your purpose in publishing this "article"? To say that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were very "ill"? I think we all know that by now. Or was it to display a lot of hate that does not need to be displayed at a time when there is plenty of it in our world?
I was at Columbine and have come to know some of the victims' families, one in particular very well. Each time something else is printed about Columbine, it reopens wounds for the victims' families and all who were involved: the students who were there and who are trying to get on with their lives, the counselors, the teachers, the principal...actually, all across the USA, where a public school should be the second-safest place besides the home.
I'm not ignorant; I know we have a lot of work to do as far as families and parenting are concerned. It's very tragic and unfortunate that the parents of these two, in particular, seemed to have been blind to the truth. I work with teens and have two children of my own. You know when there are signs of deceit. Many of us are working on that very subject, how to pay attention to your kids and listen. We are working on building self-esteem and turning anger into positive outlets.
Printing the graphic words of Harris is not helpful. They just hurt those who are already hurt, again and again. Instead of printing all of the hateful, vile words, why don't you choose to help rebuild what has already been destroyed?
May God bless you!
Ruthie Owen Moreno
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The rich are different: Why would Jefferson County suppress Eric Harris's journal and letters that describe what kind of sick animal this person was?
I don't blame the parents for wanting to sue the police and the school. I, too, feel that if the police had followed up on the threats, this tragedy could have been averted. But on the other hand, these assholes were rich or well-to-do, and for some reason, white people think that rich or well-to-do white people can't be vicious, insane killers like anyone else. This fact never ceases to amaze me. So many families have been permanently damaged because these two jerks lived in an affluent community! And to add insult to injury, information is still suppressed!
I say the only decent thing they did that day was to kill themselves, because they certainly didn't deserve to use up taxpayers' money while they were incarcerated. And I hope their stupid parents suffer the rest of their lives, along with the people whose children and loved ones have been maimed or killed.
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Moving on: Who says this last piece of news about Harris's diary is authentic? The judge (not the sheriff's office) refused to release this information based, in part, on the "parents' of slain and injured children" objections, citing future copycat actions. I don't see anything different or new in this last revelation. This is just more tiresome hysteria that keeps us from healing from this pain. One more scab pulled from our wounds.
How is it that the Browns are held in such high esteem? These are the people who let their son resume his friendship with the murderers, despite the death threats. They have left out the fact that they refused to be named in a complaint. There are too many complaints about teenagers having tantrums for the police to investigate without backing. Hindsight is great, but their son Brooks was a truant and was ditching class when the two murderers told him to get out of there. His credibility is questionable, as is that of his media-hungry parents.
Enough of this. The dead are gone and the injured must heal. These people must find a place for their anger other than the media. As hard as it sounds, we must move on. Please let us!
The hating game: Please re-read the last line of the "I'm Full of Hate..." article: It mimics the depravity of the subject character, Eric Harris. There is nothing good about murder or suicide, no matter how depraved the subjects. Those taking onto themselves the luxury of deciding who should die or be killed are coming too close to being God. God will judge. Our duty is to be just and thorough.
Your article covered the neglected followups that could have prevented the Columbine disaster. The writer's hatefulness clouds what he uncovered with his own hatred.
Green Bay, WI
Diagnosis murder: I wanted to express my satisfaction at reading the words "bat-shit mad-dog crazy, in laymen's terms." Not specifically objective language, but much more honest than "psychotic." And you know, we are laymen. It makes more sense that way.
I appreciate Alan Prendergast's writing.
Los Angeles, CA
Scratch and sniff:My first thought when I saw this piece was, how much does Alan Prendergast get paid per word? Whatever the going rate is, it's far too much. This article belongs on one of those free Web sites with the spooky black backgrounds accompanied by pop-up ads for survival foods and "Find Anyone Anywhere" software.
Hey, Alan? Uh, the kid's dead, dude. As in gone, expired -- like that. He was a kid. Boy. Young man. He was not Hemingway, Faulkner, Michener. If he had shown any particular writing skill, somebody would have noticed. High school boys often write diaries, and they don't always keep to reality, because that's not the purpose of writing a diary. You can't determine anything at all by reading the works of a long-dead juvenile delinquent. Presumably, you were once a teenage boy yourself. Would your works of that time stand up to scrutiny? What would they say about you? What qualifies you to presume anything about this seriously ill boy's innermost thoughts?
So, what's your next trick? You got Dylan Klebold's underwear? Five bucks a sniff? I know we're into some slow news days, but why sink to this voyeuristic level on a years-old story?
Trudy W. Schuett
It's geek to us: Reading Eric Harris's journal was very disturbing to me, to see what he wrote about others and what he wanted to do. However, I did not like one comment that Alan Prendergast made toward the end of the article:
"That is how the journal ends -- not with the howl of the wolf-god, but the whine of the pathetic geek who can't land a prom date."
I did not like the remark referring to Harris as a "pathetic geek." Before I explain myself, I would first like to say that I am not defending his actions at all. I would never condone or defend what he and his friend did. The reason the remark struck me is because remarks like that were one of the reasons that Harris did what he did. People often wonder what could drive anyone to do what Harris did. Being ridiculed by his peers day in and day out helped to fuel Harris's rage and madness. Being pushed into lockers, called names, not included in social events can damage one's self-confidence beyond repair. I'm not trying to blame anyone, and I'm not saying that these things were the only reasons that Harris did what he did, but they were fuel for the fire.
Not all the kids were mean to Harris, however. One of the kids who was nice saw Harris and Klebold as they were about to enter the school building the day of the shootings. Harris and Klebold told him to leave and not come back because they didn't want to hurt him.
By calling Harris a "pathetic geek," you are doing exactly what needs to be stopped. You are mocking another person. It has been seen in other school shootings that hatred toward those who mocked the shooters played a role in why they did what they did. I know that words are words and should never lead to violence, and I would never defend any actions such as these. I simply feel that the remark you made was unnecessary for the article.
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The sorrow and the pity: I think that Alan Prendergast wrote a very good story until the last paragraph. I feel so sorry for those two boys. While reading the story, I got the impression that they were looking for attention from their families and their peers. It was not right what they did at their school, but maybe it will make parents wake up and spend some time with their children instead of buying them a video game and using it as a babysitter.
Read it and reap: I was apprehensive at first to read the Harris-journal story, for the very reason I'm glad I did. I didn't want to give the punk kid any more attention than he deserved. As I read the story, though, it occurred to me that this is exactly what nobody else gave him, either.
This guy made every attempt to be heard -- and be taught a lesson before he made his move. No one seemed to care. This is a lesson to parents: Go into your kid's room and see what they are doing! This is a lesson to everyone else: Listen to what people say; they may be serious!
Dear diary: I would like to know who, right now, has the diary of Eric Harris in their possession. I have asked Jefferson County, and they claim not to. Do his parents? And if so, can you elaborate on how Mr. Prendergast was able to view these for his article?
Name withheld on request
Editor's note: In response to inquiries from other reporters, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jacki Tallman has said that the Harris writings published by Westword "appear to be" authentic; they ought to seem familiar to folks at the sheriff's office, since some of the less inflammatory passages were quoted in the sheriff's report last year and also presented to school officials at briefings. Although copies of the materials have been returned to Harris's parents, the sheriff's office remains the official custodian of evidence in the Columbine investigation and has opposed the release of these documents in court.
Patriot games: I'm disturbed by Congressman Tom Tancredo's introduction of legislation that "would prohibit any local government or company that bans the American flag from collecting federal funds" (Patricia Calhoun's "Half-Mast, Half-Assed," November 22). What's next? A Committee on Unamerican Activities? Forced "patriotism" is a slippery slope that we should all be suspicious of. Remember that the flag stands for freedom, which includes the freedom not to fly the flag.
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Teacher's fret: I was fortunate enough to take a class in law school taught by the Honorable John Kane (Stuart Steers's "Disorder in the Court," November 22). He was, by far, the most interesting, compelling and erudite teacher I had.
Not only are his views on this country's ill-advised drug policy astute, but his assessment of the constitutionality (or lack thereof) of mandatory sentences is right on. But for a Reagan/Bush-packed Supreme Court, whose leader makes Rush Limbaugh look liberal, the separation-of-powers theory would not allow the legislature to hogtie the judiciary's ability to hand out just sentences for drug cases. Not mentioned, but just as egregious, is the fact that in Colorado, a person faces a possible twelve years in prison for possessing cocaine residue if it can be analyzed by the state. If that person hands this residue to a friend, he faces up to 32 years.
How this country allows the alcohol and tobacco industries to legally dispense drugs, which are arguably as harmful as illegal drugs, if not more so, is incredible. Incredible, but certain to remain in place, unfortunately. One reason for this is that an attempt to present a logical alternative would be political suicide. Kane has immunity from this fate only because he is a retired judge in a system that, due to partisan politics (see: Allard, Wayne, and his knee-jerk rejection of all Clinton judicial nominees) is in desperate need of jurists.
Our government is ignoring an opportunity to gain a huge revenue stream while reducing the need for drastic acts -- i.e., violence perpetrated by dealers trying to protect their interests. These additional monies could be used to ease the Social Security problem and, dare I say it, to infuse money into an educational system that sorely needs it.
Thank you for having the courage to present this view, for which I'm sure you will be vilified.
Daniel M. Murphy
A public service: In the article on the "shifting drug war," Christie Donner is quoted as saying, "The public doesn't feel it's effective to put drug addicts in prison." It is very difficult for me to believe she speaks for "the public." Is she speaking for the population of Colorado? For the majority of Colorado? The governor disagrees with her, and he was elected by a majority of Colorado voters. Is she referring to the majority polled by Ridder/ Braden consultants? I would hope Ridder/ Braden is clever enough to word the questions and poll in the right areas to provide the answer it was paid for.
If Donner really is perceptive of what "the public" thinks and wants, I would hope she doesn't squander that talent in local politics.
Law and odor: Many thanks to Stuart Steers for writing the informative and inspiring article about federal judge John Kane. As a citizen who does not use drugs and abhors the use of drugs, I have found the War on Drugs disturbing at best. The war is a travesty of justice, because it persecutes citizens unjustly and because the mandatory sentences attached to drug laws violate the Constitution.
Lawmakers should either condone a citizen's right to ingest insidious products such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, etc., or make all of these products illegal. Why is it socially and legally acceptable for citizens to ingest alcohol and tobacco but not cocaine and marijuana? The answer is that politicians do not pass laws based on what makes sense or what is morally right or just. They pass laws based on the desires of the special-interest groups that fund their campaigns and keep them in power.
Although adults use illegal drugs, the War on Drugs has been a war aimed at the American youth, because it is primarily young people who experiment with, and misuse, drugs. Young people will always do what they are not supposed to do, because that is the nature of being young. The politicians who have passed these harsh laws engaged in the same behavior when they were young, and so do their own children. The majority of young people who have been victimized by this war would have outgrown the allure of the drug culture and gone on to live productive lives. Instead, many of them have had their lives ruined by "crimes" such as selling a hit of acid to an undercover cop.
I think it's time that the enormous resources being wasted on this hypocritical war be reallocated more appropriately. Our tax dollars would be better spent to improve education, fund child-care programs for the poor or subsidize prescription drugs for the elderly.
Laws that require mandatory sentences violate the Constitution, because the legislative branch encroaches on the role of the judicial branch, and lawmakers not only pass the laws, they then dole out the sentences. Let's stop the War on Drugs. It's a hypocritical war and a waste of taxpayer money. Then let's restore the power of our judicial branch and let the judges do the judging!
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