Letters to the Editor

Of Rags and Road Rage

Patricia Calhoun, as the editor of a rag that (with justification) regularly bashes King Webb's violations of various statutes and constitutional guarantees, it's surprising that you would agree with him on denying Denver citizens the right to protect themselves with a firearm ("Fire Away," May 11). You use dead bicyclist John Bray as an example of why we shouldn't be allowed to carry guns in cars. Yet you forget that Bray made a choice to get into a fight with James Hall. It takes two to tango, and both partners showed poor judgment. Instead of letting it go, Bray and Hall escalated their conflict, and now Bray is dead and Hall is up on murder charges. And that's the way it should be: Make a poor decision, pay the price.

But your shortsighted opinion blames the gun instead of the people. Webb defends his unconstitutional rules as being necessary to prevent gang shootings. So, of course, because gang members want to shoot each other down on Federal Boulevard (providing a valuable social service by eliminating each other from the gene pool), I, a law-abiding, non-gang-member citizen, should not be allowed to carry a gun to defend myself from carjackers, muggers and other violent criminals. Your illogic is laughable.

I'm glad your rag is free, because when you espouse such poorly reasoned opinions, it's certainly not worth paying for.
Bart Rhoten
via the Internet

Congratulations to Calhoun for putting it so accurately and succinctly: "Whatever words Bray used that day, they weren't as deadly as a bullet." Governor Bill Owens said he was going to get tough on guns this year -- here's his chance to prove it. Encourage him to veto SB 154, so that Denver can continue to enforce its common-sensical ordinance regarding guns in cars.
Mary Perez

Hmmm...the editor is all self-righteous about a shooting outside Westword? She should be glad that James Hall went after a bicyclist, rather than a more obvious target in her building.

Miss Calhoun is always so quick to defend the First Amendment, you'd think she'd give a little more thought to the Second. But that would require thought, wouldn't it?
A. Myers
via the Internet

In my opinion, the bicyclists in this town are getting too pushy for their own good. I myself have had problems with overly aggressive bicyclists in traffic lanes. I'm not saying that John Bray deserved to be shot, but I think bicyclists should leave major roads like Broadway to cars and trucks. That way, problems like this would not come up.
Name withheld on request

I enjoyed Calhoun's "Fire Away" piece. We have similar thoughts regarding how it was covered, at least by the Denver Post. It was a senseless murder by a person who should not have had possession of a firearm for any reason. "Road rage" is a weak explanation for what happened to John Bray while he was riding his bike, even if in a discourteous and arrogant way (which can happen). The accused murderer is a "sick pup" who harbored a deadly weapon intended for one purpose -- to dispose of someone with whom he didn't see eye-to-eye. The rage one feels from traffic, discourteous drivers and the competition on the roadways rarely, if ever, ends in cold murder. Some of the more typical rage is well-founded in impatience, frustration, fear, real or perceived threat, timetables and mood; this will likely never end, especially as we get more congested on the roads. But what can be minimized is the access to firearms, so as not to escalate a consequence of normal human interaction to a deadly outcome.

Sure, many a sick pup and misinformed/misguided others will acquire firearms and arm themselves if they feel they need to do so (likely as a result of paranoia) or feel they need to guarantee a misinterpreted inalienable right. But once again, we are reminded of the fact that there are too damn many firearms. Virginia Lopez, the Denver police spokeswoman, simply and unfortunately explained Bray's death as an occurrence with "no rhyme or reason" -- dead wrong! The explanation by one of James Hall's friends that the killing tool may have discharged when the victim was attempting to grab the firearm makes no difference: The intent to harm and the impact were directly related. The behavior of the cyclist is not the issue.

I am an avid bicyclist and cruise the metro area for pleasure and/or to get to work (a far better way to travel), and am oftentimes dismayed at other drivers and their arrogance toward those who have the same right to share the roads. Yes, I have yelled, flipped off, whistled at and spit in the direction of those who recklessly interfered or posed a threat to my right of way. But to consider carrying a firearm so as to preserve my desire and right to drive my bike is ludicrous and reckless, to say the least. My personal attitude will not change despite this rare occurrence, and my ardent support to eliminate many firearms, especially those with increasing lethality (sounds like an oxymoron), will never cease.

To the young folks and those who are still enlightened (I know you're out there, but inhibited by other personal needs): Don't get disheartened, but get collectively assertive and involved politically, just like we did decades ago when other threats to social welfare were at stake. I can't think of a better cause for the new millenium than fighting the threat of the escalating numbers of firearms that continues to be antithetical to our community nationwide.
Jonathan M. Dietz

As an NRA volunteer instructor and a concealed-carry permit holder, I would like to make a few comments about Calhoun's "Fire Away" essay. I don't find the principle of protecting my privacy to be ludicrous. For me, it's nothing more or less than a principle, since I've signed my letter, but I'm interested in preserving the concept of privacy, as I assume any American interested in fairness would be. Publishing permit-holders' names is part of the media-endorsed vilification of people who wish to exercise their right of self-defense.

I testified to that effect during Senate hearings, sitting across from Senator Pat Pascoe, who seems to wish that women would be more ladylike, and beside the well-paid Tom Mauser, who voiced an opinion against privacy that seemed, shall we say, somewhat irrelevant to his "field of expertise." (Yes, Mr. Mauser -- hire yourself out as a lobbyist and you will be so referred to.) I explained that my expensive permit required a five-month head-to-toe investigation. I went on to say that I knew of many women who put guns in their purses when traveling, buying fast food, etc. I stated that they'd never bother to subject themselves to such scrutiny and expense to become legal, tending to defeat the anti-privacy crowd's purpose of publishing the name of every Coloradan who carries. A look of surprise appeared on the faces of many in the room, but whether it was due to learning, for the first time, that women here routinely carry guns for self-defense, or realizing that this bill wouldn't even begin to reveal them, I can't say.

As a bicycle/motorcycle commuter, I know that the level of road rage exhibited in the murder of the bicyclist is by no means unusual. The attacker used a firearm instead of his auto or other objects. The answer is to prepare for attacks as best one can -- not try, legislatively and in vain, to control what objects may be utilized. Criminals and nuts are a daily threat, even in those societies where the law-abiding can't possess guns.
Shannon Wilson

I just read "Fire Away" -- what a great story. Calhoun did an excellent job. I can't believe how much information she got in, and yet the piece still flowed quite well. I learned a lot reading it.
Brian Johnson
via the Internet

In my ongoing studies of contemporary cultural anthropology, I've learned that one must look in totality at the real reasons why humans have this primordial desire to make and possess weapons -- namely, firearms. I can assure all, the answers are complex and would require volumes upon volumes of text to give a complete picture. But according to notable theorists such as Desmond Morris, Robert Ardery, Konrad Lorenz and Freud himself, sex and aggression are intertwined with each other, and when there is no sexual release, the aggression instinct takes over. Anthropologists refer to this phenomenon as redirection of aggression.

Hence, if one has an inferiority complex, a gun can act as a sexual enhancer or, to put it simply and bluntly, a symbolic extension of the phallus. The simple fact of the matter is, marketing experts know this and utilize said themes again and again to market most if not all products. Please keep in mind that the gun industry exists for one reason only: to expand the bottom line. And all of the gun lobbyists know this.
Arthur Kerndt
via the Internet

A Landmark Decision

Regarding Julie Jargon's May 4 "The First Step," about Colorado Youth at Risk, P.S.1 and the Landmark Forum:

Having spent nearly all of 1999 as a volunteer mentor for Colorado Youth at Risk, I can assure you that neither it nor the Landmark Forum are "cults." Irresponsibly correlating our "core principles," such as commitment, integrity, respect and responsibility, with morons who put on matching jumpsuits and Nike tennis shoes and sit and wait for the next comet to come along so they can all commit group suicide is absolutely absurd!

While all the "privileged" kids at Columbine were winning a state championship in football and getting all the attention and tears and millions of dollars, our East High students were filling a U-Haul truck full of non-perishable food, clothing, money and other items for a food bank and working on turning around their lives. Lives which have never even remotely entertained the privileges and opportunities afforded the students of Columbine. In fact, as one of our youth commented shortly after the tragedy, "Notice it wasn't the poor black kids who went off, but the well-to-do white kids?" Interesting observation, huh? But then, our youth live their own Columbine 365 days a year, and my youth's mom showed me the bullet hole in her arm as living proof of that. And while our students were participating in these activities, I assure you they weren't at home making bombs, sawing the barrels off of rifles or engaging in any other form of terroristic mischief. (But trust me: They don't have to look far to find it in the neighborhoods where they live.) They were working on turning around their lives!

People who don't like the language employed by these two wonderful programs are those who are stuck in their own little world and don't like to look outside their safety zone and the little box that they live in. That's great for them. They are entitled to live their life any way they choose. But don't diminish the effectiveness of a program simply because you don't like the fact that it doesn't jibe with your views. Some people need a new way of looking at themselves and their approach to life. The answer of the powers that be, including our new governor, is to have the youth take even more tests when they have already proven very adept at failing those they are currently taking in the first place! DOH! So which would you rather have your money go to? A program that teaches individuals how to overcome their past and the obstacles that they have to deal with on a daily basis and to reach for the brass ring, or one that simply provides more tests to fail (that is, if you can get the kids to school to take the tests in the first place!)?

The individuals involved with CYAR and the Landmark Forum are some of the finest people you will ever come across in Denver -- or the world, for that matter. Consider yourself lucky that there are programs and individuals such as them and myself who are out there taking the time to actually attempt to make a difference rather than be like those just sitting around enjoying the economic prosperity.

No, we aren't all Columbine! Some of us have it figured out, and we are working to make sure it doesn't happen again!
Brian Kennedy
via the Internet

Many thanks for Julie Jargon's piece on P.S.1. I have had friends who've gone through Landmark's program, and I've seen how they've changed -- and not for the better. These people were adults, too; I can't imagine what happens when teenagers become involved with a similar program. Why is the Denver Public Schools allowing this to happen?
Name withheld on request

All that Julie Jargon "unmasked" in her article was her own naiveté and Westword's desire to disparage a charter school during National Charter Schools Week. A more experienced reporter would not have built a story line on the quicksand of such an obvious personal vendetta and would have killed it when it became clear that none of the "concerns" held water.

Here's the scoop: All other things being equal, teenagers who are fearful, angry, suspicious, cynical, isolated, hopeless, emotionally inarticulate and powerless to change their condition do not learn as well as teenagers who feel effectual, can control their emotions, can trust others, are optimistic, know where their strengths lie and have the courage to manage and take responsibility for their emotions. Impotent victims, blamers, grudge-holders, haters, whiners, bullies, intransigents and hysterics not only don't learn much, but they undermine communities in which learning tends to flourish. Every good teacher and every good school knows these things and tries to orchestrate some kind of dance between the personal and the "academic," the emotional and the cognitive. There's no news here.

At P.S.1, we have always tried to attend to the needs of the whole student. We are as committed as ever to teaching them to read, write, reason, do math and make art. We continue to offer them history, science, literature, challenging real-world projects and interesting electives. We continue to offer them opportunities to learn at sites around the city of Denver and throughout the United States and Latin America. The Steps Ahead mentoring program represents no "new direction" at P.S.1. It is just the latest in a series of efforts to help students think clearly, communicate candidly and take some responsibility for their lives.

By the way, if anyone knows how to brainwash teenagers, please contact us. On some days, we'd sure like to try it.
Rexford Brown
Executive Director, P.S.1

Fair Trade

I am a regular reader of Westword, and Michael Roberts has always been one of my favorite writers. I was disappointed to read that he was going to be leaving his position as music editor and would be helming a new media critique page, but I looked forward to him moving the crosshairs of his stinging critiques from the (for the most part) abysmal music scene to take aim at the laughably shallow and ineptly played game of "candyland" that is the mainstream media in Colorado.

I have found, though, that in the Message, he has more often than not chosen to adopt a more low-key tone. He seems to be confining himself to simply stating facts and (fairly) indulging both sides of any given story. Which, I guess, is the ideal journalistic tack, but I miss the "I don't give a shit if someone doesn't like what I have to say" editorial nature of Roberts's best work, and I hope that he eventually brings this to his new pieces.
Eric Martines

Whatever happened to that idiot Michael Roberts? Checking out your site, I didn't see him around...thankfully! Did he go north to Wyoming?
Ty Longley
via the Internet

Thanks for Michael Roberts's informative Message in the May 11 issue, "A Classic Case," regarding the ongoing saga of Denver's fine-arts music station KVOD. I'm an avid listener of KVOD and will be sorely disappointed if the new owners choose to make major changes to the station from its current professional, classic format hosted by equally professional members of our music community.

As I heard Jim Conder point out the other morning, this article of Roberts's was much more explanatory of the situation at KVOD than have been stories provided of late by other media consultants in the area. It also described the ongoing efforts and position of the Citizens for Classical FM, a group of which I was not aware.

Thanks again for the information and for bringing, once again, this potentially unfortunate situation to the public's attention. Perhaps it will, in some measure, increase an appreciation for what we already have in KVOD and help to keep the station with us just as it is today.
Craig Grimm

Oh, Grow Up!

Regarding Stuart Steers's "Where the Sidewalk Ends," in the April 27 issue:

Seeing the growth issue from both sides of the fence -- as a citizen and working in an architectural office with developers as clients -- I strongly feel that controlled growth and mixed density make for better and sustainable living. The Front Range is not, and shouldn't become, L.A. Unfortunately, it will happen sooner than we think. Look at the Boulder Turnpike corridor and Highlands Ranch for examples of bad and bland planning. They call it "new suburbanism," which means you only have to drive two miles to shop instead of five or more. That's also called "marketing."

Colorado used to have walkable neighborhood communities, but thanks to legislators, their tax-based incentives and a bastardized "American Dream," we develop five miles on the outskirts of town and reap what we sow: bland housing with bland buildings and lots of asphalt. But since everyone has to have a mini-mansion to put all of those shopping bags in, they move to those exact housing developments they despise. The communities and design professionals have to demand and encourage smart and responsible development that meets the community needs -- read: "mixed use and increased density." If the planning departments and county commissioners spend money for master plans, they need to make them enforceable, not a recommendation. It's akin to saying, "It's bad to drive drunk, but we recommend you drink only two beers instead of six."

Most developers are willing to do what the cities require, because in the long run, the developer will make money and provide services to communities that want them. Developers just want a streamlined and logical way to bring amenities and housing to market. Citizens want controlled and smart growth, and they ask for it over and over and over again.

The politicos and bureaucrats played the same way when the citizens of Colorado cried for fiscal responsibility, then turned deaf ears, and TABOR was born. Legislators are going to get it in the ass on this one, too, when the initiative gets on the ballot and passes. By then the people who didn't want to change will have to. So let us hope that CoPIRG and the parties working to put the initiative on the ballot stick to their guns and make it a growth initiative that can positively affect and sustain the way of life that people live here for: purple mountains and amber waves of grain.
P. Williamson
via the Internet

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