Our readers talk back.

Unintended Stereotyping

Dear Editor,

While I appreciate Michael Ventura's esteem for Jesus and his extolling the virtues of helping the poor in his article "Panhandle Christs" ["Letters @ 3am," Sept. 2], it would be nice if he did not engage in stereotyping. Ventura states: "Jesus, like other Jewish prophets, distinguishes himself from Buddha, Lao Tzu, and the great Islamic mystics by his absolute insistence that the poor and destitute be included in his Kingdom."

The Historical Buddha (563-483BC) was a prince born into vast wealth, which he voluntarily renounced to realize enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. The Buddha also rejected the caste system of India and argued that all beings, regardless of social or economic status, could reach enlightenment. By his life and teachings he demonstrated a special compassion for the poor.

Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam offer the same compassionate doctrinal teachings regarding the "poor and destitute" as Christianity. Ventura should read texts such as the Cariyapitaka of the Pali canon (written almost 2,500 years ago). The Buddha's care for those who are "hungry," "thirsty," and "naked" is paralleled in the beatitudes uttered by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:7).

We live in an age of great religious violence and turmoil, and religious stereotypes, even if unintended, only make matters worse.

David Zuniga

Appreciate Passion

Dear Mr. Editor,

Kurt Cobain once wrote in a private journal (that is now sold in bookstores across the country) that "life isn't nearly as sacred as the appreciation of passion." Marching down Congress with Cindy Sheehan on Aug. 31, those words came back to me. For me, it's not just about supporting Sheehan. It's about showing others that when you see a cause that is worth standing up for, you have to do just that. Fear is often the death of our passions. While Sheehan spoke at City Hall, I stood with a few others on Cesar Chavez, holding signs so that passersby might be inspired to seek some passion within themselves. Across the street, counterprotesters held their own signs. It was beautiful to see them expressing passion, even if it was directed toward a different purpose. My makeshift "poster" (a peace sign hastily scrawled on the back of a notebook) seemed to draw the attention of a male counterprotester holding a "Footprint of the American Chicken" sign. He mocked, I smiled. The point I'm making is that at least I have passion. He obviously does also. And the fact that we are on different sides of an issue should be irrelevant. I'm sure I will receive criticism for making that statement, but passion is the point. If you have no passion, life really isn't of much importance. Voltaire said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Sure, he's a dead French satirist and Cobain is a dead grunge rocker. But both were brilliant and both understood passion. I think we all could learn to appreciate passion a little more. No matter what side we are on.


Cassie Burnham

Congratulations to Austin!

Dear Editor,

The city of Austin deserves our recognition and accolades.

I toured the convention center on Monday evening alongside other social service providers who are helping the city respond to the needs of more than 4,000 hurricane evacuees living in our midst.

I was in awe of how well organized everything was. From the Red Cross, to city emergency and medical personnel, to countless volunteers, there are not words to describe the immense appreciation I feel for my city's compassion for others. Phone banks, showers, computer centers with Internet access, food, clothing, medical supplies, and all the basic needs were in place to help others find comfort in a chaotic time.

As a community we have an enormous undertaking in front of us, but providing the most basic needs is the first step to ensuring safety. I am proud to be a part of this community; your graciousness is unmatched.

Julia Spann

Executive director


Kim Resplendent

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the lovely fashion write-up in the Chronicle ["The Big Squeeze at Riverside," News, Sept. 9]! I'm glad my "Queen Amidala" outfit was noticed. I'm currently working on a Princess Leia look to carry on the Place 3 tradition of colorful, trendsetting dais-wear.

Regarding Town Lake Park and the subsequent Riverside Drive lane reduction and traffic circle, I see this as a public safety issue, and that's why I voted against it. I know my colleagues had this in mind as well, but I believe there are several looming issues. To cover operating expenses, on occasion the Palmer Events Center and the Long Center will need to hold events simultaneously. No operational plan has been developed to address peak event activity that could yield 10,000-12,000 people and 150 buses. The Public Works Department was concerned that the reduction to two lanes from four and the addition of a traffic circle would be premature before the Long Center is operational. Many of the events will be for children. I worry this project will now make it hard, if not impossible, to accommodate the large volume of cars, buses, and pedestrians during peak activity. We have no plan in place to prevent driver/pedestrian accidents. Furthermore, staff raised concerns that Riverside serves as a major response route for fire and EMS. Traffic accidents or disabled vehicles on this road could halt emergency response on the one-lane segment of Riverside, creating life-threatening delays to medical treatment.

I look forward to the day Town Lake Park is completed for all of our families and visitors to enjoy, and I truly hope that everyone – drivers, pedestrians, event-goers, and kids – can do so safely.

Jennifer Kim

Austin City Council member

Place 3

[News Editor Michael King responds: We applaud Council Member Kim's sartorial exuberance; indeed we hope it spreads beyond the traditionally colorful confines of Place 3, providing at least some visual relief to endlessly droning zoning cases. And despite the recent council approval after several years of debate and compromise, we expect the argument concerning Riverside Drive – which we will report in all its resplendent variations – is far from over.]

Sexist Observation?

Dear Editor,

Wells Dunbar's column on the Riverside park debate ["The Big Squeeze at Riverside," News, Sept. 9] was, overall, informative, but I take issue with his remarks about Jennifer Kim's outfit. Look, I didn't vote for her and I don't agree with her position, but I think it's childish and harmful for Mr. Dunbar to make fun of what she's wearing. Women politicians have it hard enough. I wonder, if she had gone along with the rest of the council instead of speaking her own mind, would she have been likened to the Star Wars queen?


Carolina Trevino

[News Editor Michael King responds: With the exception of an occasionally blinding cravat on the mayor, we earnestly await the advent of a male council member with enough stylistic flourish, à la Kim, to allow us to make juvenile comments about him. Council meetings are already excruciating enough without giving them the C-SPAN treatment.]

Smoking Ban Working

Dear Editor,

I celebrated the smoking ordinance on Sept. 1 with an evening of Bloody Marys and the lively jazz of the Pete Rodriguez Quintet at the Elephant Room. I had only visited this formerly smoky jazz club once before and relished the chance to return there for all the jazz and none of the smoke. I met some friends and stayed till well after midnight and returned home with no sinus congestion, no burning eyes or sore throat, no need to quarantine my clothes, or jump in the shower. It was great for me, and the solid Thursday night crowd indicated that Austin will not be deterred from live music by the smoking ban. Now let's hope I make it to work on time.

Von Allen

Ventura's Piece Great

Dear Editor,

I live in Puerto Rico and had never heard of The Austin Chronicle before. I found Michael Ventura's article "$4 a Gallon" ["Letters at 3am," April 29] on a blog and read it out of curiosity. This is one of the best pieces I have read regarding the connection between mass transit, increasing oil prices, and the future of suburbia. Because of this article I will now begin to continually read The Austin Chronicle in search of other great pieces like this.

Arthur Eisele Guaynabo, Puerto Rico

Sorrowful Irony

Dear Editor,

I just wanted to thank Marc Savlov for writing such a wonderful piece on Randy Turner ["Making Biscuit," Music, Aug. 19] and for the follow-up part two of his interview ["True Today," Music, Aug. 26].

As an old friend, I feel that Marc captured Randy's humorous, gentle, and reflective nature.

I'd also like to thank the Chronicle for finally singing Randy's long-overdue praise as a visual artist.

What a sorrowful irony.

Adriane Shown Harjo

Finally, Recognition

Dear Editor,

Finally, some recognition! I'm glad you guys finally put Jennifer Gale on the cover. Well done!

David Saldivar

[Editor's note: Last week's Austin Chronicle [Sept. 9] featured a photo of James McMurtry on the cover, not current gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Gale.]

Where Was God?

Dear Editor,

To all the Christians who want to push Jesus and God on every warm body they encounter: Where was your God during and after that hurricane? On the throne?

To all the churches that are now giving actual help to the people in need: Thank you for proving that people need to do the work that a loving God refuses to do, after he refused to prevent the disaster in the first place.

I'm so glad that humanism is in full swing in America.

Joe Zamecki

Keeping Austin Weird

Dear Editor,

It's stuff like "dean of the dead" happening at the Erwin Center that keeps Austin weird ["Good for Your Blood," Screens, Sept. 2], not buying more stuff from the mall. Way to go, guys; that's pretty funny stuff!

Art McMillian

Praise to "Troubletown'

Dear Editor,

Praise be to Lloyd Dangle! The punchline to his Sept. 9 Troubletown [Comics] made me laugh out loud and heartily for the first time since Katrina hit.

Tina Mack

Ventura's One of the Best

Dear Editor,

Mr. Ventura's article about the future of the U.S. is one of the best I've read on the subject ["Letters @ 3am," April 29]. I'm grateful there are still such independent writers and newspapers. If we keep repeating the message maybe people will start to hear it.

Cindy Watts

Lowgap, Ark.

Sheehan Is a Commie Who Emboldens Terrorists

Dear Editor,

Please write the truth and state the facts about Cindy Sheehan ["Sheehan's Field of Dreams," News, Aug. 19] and the communist groups who support her cause – Code Pink, ANSWER, Crawford Peace House,, all who have extreme left-wing views of America and who support the insurgents in Iraq. I just wonder if both sides of Cindy Sheehan were finally printed in the newspapers across this country how many Americans would support her cause? Cindy Sheehan is a disgrace to her son, who fought bravely for America in its fight for democracy across the Middle East. Fortunately, there are more people who oppose her – I saw the grassroots of plain, ordinary Americans who support the troops but cannot participate in a counterprotest because they work for a living. However, when she comes to DeLay's office there will be many more counterprotests. America is beginning to find out just who the real Cindy Sheehan is – she is one who emboldens the terrorists! What a way to honor your son's death – make it unsafe for the troops that are there now. Did you know that her son volunteered freely, and that he volunteered to return to Iraq for his second tour of duty? Also, the polls taken on Aug. 30 state that 80% of Americans have not been affected by Cindy Sheehan's anti-war protest. I dare you to print that!

Kandace Heimer


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