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Sensationally biased

To the Editor:

I expected your article concerning the relationship among the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment, the Board of Health, and the El Paso County Board of Commissioners to be biased and sensational. It was.

When the facts become known, the actions by the Board of Health, [county] commissioners, and county staff will be shown to be in the best interests of the taxpayers and the dedicated staff of the Health Department. The Board of Health, with its current membership, are the right people at the right time. One year from now, the department will be better managed and have better staff morale than one year ago.

The county commissioners have the right and responsibility to monitor the operations of the department and the Board of Health. Although statutes require only about $800,000 in support for the department, the actual support by the county in funds, facilities, services and benefits is closer to $5.5 million, a major budget component.

Direct communication between county and Health Department staff is routine and occurs at all levels on a daily basis. Direct communication between myself and Dr. Dowe was initiated by Dr. Dowe as routine even before I took office in January 2001. It was satisfactory for Dr. Dowe and no problem for [then board president] Dr. Olivier until the conversation became uncomfortable for her as a result of legitimate questions about budget and programs.

Quotes from county staff and officials that you pulled from context came only after months of efforts to work constructively with certain Health Department staff and officials. The statements reflect frustration and anger resulting after extended efforts to prevent a train wreck in the Health Department.

No one worked harder to help than Terry Harris and Jeff Green, whom you unfairly misrepresented as bad guys. Terry was right and justified. Jeff was and is striving to salvage a situation not of his making.

The most strikingly cruel and unjust treatment in your effort was that of Karen Rooks Nauer, a recent addition to the Board of Health. Ms. Rooks Nauer is accomplished, knowledgeable, forthright, and no one's lackey. She has the character and integrity you and I want on a board.

Conflict of interest accusations were no more than a last-ditch effort to keep this tough, smart lady off the Board. She will remain precisely because she does not back down to self-serving bullies and she will be a great asset to the department.

-- Tom Huffman

Chairman, El Paso County Board of Commissioners

Editor's note: As was pointed out last week, Ms. Rooks Nauer did not return numerous phone messages seeking comment.

A thousand other stories

To the Editor:

The new Latino immigration hit me two Christmases ago when I took a bus from Colorado Springs to Chihuahua, Mexico. No seat was left empty as local workers made the pilgrimage back to their families south of the border. The El Paso bus station was packed elbow to elbow with chattering young men and woman, their arms full of gifts. They reminded me of the sandhill cranes gathering in the San Luis Valley, noisy and excited, and just as mysterious in their origin and destination.

So I was glad to see the Independent take a look at the Latinos of Colorado Springs ["Vivir en Colorado Springs," March 7]. One problem though: I don't think reporter Andrew Hood talked to a single real Latino in his article. It looks like he flipped through his Rolodex and got a quote from every Latino talking head in town, but never actually spoke to la puebla.

Please give us the real scoop. Tell us about the man who mows lawns for $5.25 an hour and subsidizes his income by driving used cars down to Mexico every weekend to sell them for a small profit, returning home with a load of alligator boots and Mexican soft drinks that he sells to his compadres working here in the Springs, or his wife, who is desperately homesick but wants to stay here because her daughters are in school.

There are a thousand other stories. At least tell one of them.

-- David N. Philipps

Colorado Springs

Viva Latinas!

To the Editor:

At first, I was pleasantly surprised to read "Vivir en Colorado Springs." I was amazed to discover that Mr. Hood had correct information about the many different Latino people residing in our community and that he fairly depicted the reality of the situations in which they live.

I was very encouraged to read that true leaders in our community such as Joseph Garcia, Lionel Rivera and Roman Tafoya had been contacted to convey information and discuss topics of critical importance to Latinos.

I was pleased to read that concerns about racial profiling and educational opportunities were presented to your readers without inflammatory "us vs. them" rhetoric. I was also pleased that the point was made clear that a critical need exists for the Latino community to identify, nurture and mentor their future leaders.

It was with disbelief and sorrow, then, that I realized there were no female leaders identified or referred to in this article. Did Mr. Hood think that there were none or was he just not interested in hearing from any? Although Mr. Garcia, Mr. Rivera and Mr. Tafoya certainly have important and dynamic things to say and should be heard by the larger community, these gentlemen are not the only people who speak for the Latino community.

While Latinas have traditionally cherished their roles as mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, we also have fulfilling, successful careers and business ventures, and we will be a driving force in shaping the future of our country and of our community.

Try speaking to the Honorable Theresa Cisneros and Sylvia Manzanares of the District and County Court. How about Intel Manager Deanna Saucedo, or Josephine Benavidez and Carmen Abeyta of UCCS? Marge Vasquez, business owner and a City Council member long before Lionel Rivera, might have a thing or two to say about life here, as well as Robbie Solano of the Better Business Bureau and Faye Garcia of District 11. Terry Hernandez, who works directly with those thousands of Latinos at Guadalupe Church, probably has a thought or two, as well.

Perhaps one day your reporter could spend some time with these and other strong, brave and creative Latinas to hear their stories and learn their perspectives. I am positive he will learn a thing or two about life in Colorado Springs.

-- Denise Ortega

Colorado Springs

A portrait in prejudice

To the Editor:

Although Steven Fowler's March 7 response to my guest column, "Driving While Hippie" [Feb. 28], was critical, I appreciate his letter as evidence of one of the points I was arguing: a deep prejudice in America toward hippie types.

Fowler writes, "Aside from candle making, weaving, handcrafting of certain limited use products and the pursuit of self interest, there have been no contributions to mankind . . . made by hippies."

Trivializing is a trademark of bigotry, and incidentally, though only 30 to 35 years old, hippie culture has made real contributions: every Beatles album since Rubber Soul, for instance, could be considered a product of hippie culture; that music will endure for ages.

Or we might note the healthy impact on mainstream cuisine of hippie foods. For that matter, according to the film Revenge of the Nerds, a surprising number of the developers of the personal computer were hippie types.

And Fowler's personal attacks on me conform exactly to hippie stereotypes: "scared," irresponsible, unwilling or unable to deal with reality. Hey, man, like throw in dirty, smelly, weak and lazy, and you've got it all! Likewise, "leftover hippie" is a pejorative term used to disrespect hippie types, usually by those who never thought the counterculture had a right to exist to begin with.

Lastly, the tone of Fowler's piece -- laden with heavy-handed attempts at shaming and humiliation -- is the tone in which supremacists have traditionally lectured "inferiors." A portrait in prejudice.

Sadly, some Americans still need some scapegoat group to feel superior to. As for the rest of us, haven't we learned our lesson? When we allow bigotry of any kind to go unchallenged, we all lose.

-- Paul Dougan

Manitou Springs

Maybe he was in a cave

To the Editor:

Regarding Mr. Fowler's assertion that the hippie movement never contributed to the development of mankind or had any long-term effect on society, I would point out that, wasn't it a bunch of pot-smoking, acid-dropping, counterculture flower children that started a social movement that ultimately put pressure on the social and political conscience of America to end an insane, tragic, useless war in southeast Asia?

If not them, then who was it?, because it damn sure wasn't the conservatives (or the liberals for that matter). I would ask the men who were subsequently excused from dying in that war if the hippies had any long-term effect on their lives and the lives of their families.

One who has at least some rudimentary awareness of the culture he or she lives in this society can hardly deny the long-lasting impact of the hippie movement and the musical and lyrical concepts they brought into mainstream public consciousness.

Mr. Fowler's myopic view of the culture in which he lives is truly astonishing, but not surprising. His mentality in this regard reminds me of the days when having long hair meant you risked being harassed by the police, being beaten severely, or even killed by those who deemed themselves some sort of guardian of the American Way.

To truly understand the hippie movement and what it was, pro and con, I suppose you had to be there, which judging from Mr. Fowler's ludicrous statements, he could not possibly have been.

-- Michael J. Fetler

Colorado Springs

Editor's note: We received a blizzard of letters responding to Paul Dougan's piece, "Driving While Hippie," and Steven Fowler's response, declaring that the hippie is dead. Many of them can be read online at

www.csindy.com.

We're here, we've got hair, get used to us

To the Editor:

An Open Letter to Mr. Steve Fowler:

I suppose it's no surprise that some "socially conservative" person would just have to object to Paul Dougan's excellent "Your Turn" article labeling cannabis prohibition for just what it is and always has been: cultural repression. In fact, I suppose that your letter was merely the most literate of many received by the Independent. But that literacy doesn't make your logic work any better. Viz:

You say that you "agree that a lot of the reported facts about grass/hemp/weed are not true." Well, that's a good start. But since conservative supporters of hemp prohibition, as opposed to liberal or libertarian opponents thereof, are the ones who think that the medical or chemical facts about a plant like hemp constitute some justification for prohibition, you should proceed from this realization to, at the very least, a questioning of the legitimacy of hemp prohibition. But, somehow, you don't.

You also quote your own experience to label the idea that Grateful Dead bumper stickers trigger law enforcement attacks as "ludicrous." But I'm afraid the lack of such an incident in your personal history doesn't preclude its happening under the aegis of lots and lots of other cops around the country.

I've talked to too many of the victims of such actions to believe that it's all somehow just exaggeration or myth. It's not ludicrous. It's real, and it's just the evidence that Mr. Dougan says it is for the moral bankruptcy and dishonesty of cannabis prohibition.

As to culture, you argue that 1) hippie culture has made "no contributions to mankind" (a highly arguable value judgment, by the way) and that 2) because of this, it doesn't really deserve to be called "culture" at all. And you don't say it, but you imply from this dubious line of reasoning that cannabis prohibition is therefore somehow justified, after all. Sorry, I see this as just one more ad hominem attack, offered in lieu of any real evidence or valid counter-argument.

And then there's what you offer as your main argument: "[T]he hippie is dead." Well, I beg your pardon, Mr. Fowler, but I am not dead, nor is the anti-authoritarian culture on which I have never turned my back.

Oh, to be sure, the extreme violence which you so blithely support has had the effect, over the last 30 years or so, of driving a great deal of that culture out to the margins and underground, and it has killed or otherwise neutralized a great many of my contemporaries and compatriots. But, like it or not, you have not killed all of us or our culture.

Not only are we still here, we still intend to see your repressive regime of prohibition ultimately defeated.

It's impossible for me to say definitively whether or not you really believe your statement that the "main reason" so many people still oppose prohibition repeal has something to do with "reduc[ing] the population" to some least common denominator (whatever that means).

But I know the real reason: an unrelenting barrage of slimy, dishonest, self-serving government propaganda, directed at a poorly educated public, and cleverly designed to produce precisely this result. It has worked so well that very few people these days can even see through it well enough to point out simple truths like those Mr. Dougan pointed out.

I suspect his column made you (and others) uncomfortable precisely because it bypasses all your comfortable propaganda and baldly states the truth that you and other conservatives have worked so hard for two generations to obscure.

-- Patrick L. Lilly

Occupied Cheyenne Canyon

Contributions to mankind

To the Editor:

The article "Driving While Hippie" by Paul Dougan [Your Turn, Feb. 28] was a clear assessment of the social bias that eats away at our country's liberty.

A recent response to this article by a former "peace officer" further legitimizes the observation by Mr. Dougan that our society at an economic level is wholly unnerved by the reality of a people to (irresponsibly?) shun the mechanisms of consumerism for that of a less material awareness.

This individual, in opposition to Mr. Dougan's view, states quite flatly that "there have been no contributions to mankind and no long-term effect on society made by hippies"!

It is worth reminding those that live in a valley, that for at least 5000 years prior to the Roman Empire, long hair was the norm and not the exception. From Sumeria to the Andes the great civilizations portrayed themselves in this manner. This is important, because myself being a longhair, I personally understand the social stigma associated with the length of my hair and its connection to my presumed dependency to some narcotic.

Furthermore, the dynamic force of the '60s culture responded to the primal urge of an advancing people of the time to balance their needs with that of their planet.

From out of this grew a massive grassroots movement that ultimately embraced the key issues of awareness in a Cold War climate, where the state of our government and personal health (yoga, health foods, and those habits that contributed to an overall organic lifestyle) took precedence and were not allowed to be overshadowed by our country's military buildup.

In addition, the movement of human rights, which contributed greatly to the realization of women as spiritual, mental and emotional equals in a male-dominated society, was then fueled by a culture which our news media at the time pegged the "hippie movement."

And finally, there is no disputing the lasting effect the music and imagination of this generation has had globally and its distinct contribution to the spreading of Eastern science and philosophy in the West.

The purpose of those upholding the laws of society should also be to uphold the human rights of the individual. To understand the varied world cultures and viewpoints that contribute to a free society such as ours, where fear and mistrust of one another can be shed in the light of true knowledge.

It is unfortunate that so many urban professionals perjure themselves when their latent prejudices ooze from the pores of their so-called open minds.

"Driving While Hippie" dealt with a basic human-rights violation perpetrated against those who are generally no threat to the public -- those being the smokers of marijuana -- who are categorized as lazy and irresponsible, which, we are told, leads to the inability to groom and cut one's hair, which further leads to a homeless existence, and ultimately leads to our country's economic demise.

But wait ... aren't our corporate and political leaders on Capitol Hill themselves addicted to the pharmaceutical and alcohol habit, or at least allow the American voters to be? Huh!!

-- Jimm Davis

Colorado Springs

Thousands would be free

To the Editor,

In response to Steve Fowler's letter about "Driving While Hippie," I have no arguments with most of his letter. I think the bad police who would target a car with a Grateful Dead sticker are the exception, not the rule, etc. etc.

However, I fail to understand exactly what he means by his claim that legalization of marijuana would lower society to the lowest common denominator. I also disagree with his claim that this could have no positive results.

It seems to me that if marijuana were decriminalized it would bring about much good. I cannot even imagine how much money would be freed for more worthy causes. Thousands of people guilty of insignificant, victimless crimes would be released from prison, and the penal system could focus on dangerous criminals instead. Prison overcrowding would be dramatically reduced.

In conclusion, although this is certainly a controversial subject, it seems a bit close-minded to just assume that nothing good could come of legalization. There are two sides to every controversy. Also, if the vast majority of people were against legalization, as Mr. Fowler claims, why do so many various states keep voting for medical marijuana?

Because something good could come of it?

-- Majel Campbell

Colorado Springs

Not a sparkling, tasty drink

To the Editor:

Marijuana should remain illegal. Lines have to be drawn and it's better to draw them at the gate of waste rather than further inside the dump.

Except as an alternative to medical painkillers, marijuana has no redeeming qualities. It isn't a sparkling, tasty drink. It cannot quench thirst. It cannot fill the stomach or provide calories for energy. Not only does it damage health and property, it also induces a high, therefore it combines the worst part of two vices -- smoking and drinking.

The pot issue is not about addiction; it's about respect. Respect is not a question of whether we agree with a law; it's a matter of whether we agree with the rule of law.

The difference between alcohol and marijuana may appear to be only a small mark on the map, but when the element of respect is considered, that difference is a vast chasm. That difference, up close, is the Grand Canyon of life. People who do not see that huge distinction forever find themselves with big problems and can't seem to figure why. Disrespect is their problem and you can be sure it involves much more than marijuana.

Either we respect drug laws or we don't. If we don't, chances are, we also will not respect the cash register at work, so it's natural to ask before hiring: Have you ever been arrested? That's the beauty of law: It gives society a way to see what people are made of.

People who knowingly choose illegal drugs have no reason to complain about getting caught. It's not like they didn't know. It's not like they didn't have other options.

Penalties for drug abuse should be payable in public service which would result in prison only if they fail to perform the work. Prisoners should be released if they agree to do the work. People need chances to do better. However, penalties for drug-related violence should be severe. They wanted to be cool and mean; let them be cool and mean in prison.

There will always be immature people who think they can impress their friends by being bad -- doing something illegal. There are drugs galore with which to do that, so legalizing one more would not make any difference.

There's no reason this nation should change the present legal opinion that marijuana is bad. It's as good a place as any to draw the line and test respect.

-- Jim Inman

Colorado Springs

Put that in your pipe

To the Editor:

Re: "Driving While Hippie" and the bigoted letter responding to it. It seems to me that in the New World Order, race-based tribalism is on the way out, but humanity hasn't changed, hasn't improved. There is still the desire to cast out and tread down.

The new ethnocentrism is based not on race, but on culture, on ideology, and on mental difference (which may be genetically linked, and is so often mislabeled as "illness").

Some people twist around words to justify saying hippies, skinheads or yuppies aren't technically tribes or cultures. Just as some say science isn't a religion because it has no gods. These are silly semantic games not even worthy of the playground.

There are socially divided groups involved in a groupthink-driven struggle with each other. There is a "scientific establishment" that dictates the "truth" we should follow. If you don't want to call Hippies a tribe, if you don't want to call "the scientific establishment" a church, fine, but don't act like you've dismissed the struggle by shrugging away the terminology.

The struggle is very real. The American middle class (that's yuppies to the rest of us) is attacking everyone who isn't like them.

They select us out for searches and seizures, or outlawing our non-mainstream practices (like smoking pot), or denying us jobs, housing and health care, or bombing far-away poor people. They casually call us names like loser, underachiever, slacker, self-indulgent (which I think I will never understand coming from a yuppie). They call our quality of life "criminal," and whatever else that will justify their Disneyland delusion that we live in some sort of just meritocracy where everyone gets what they deserve, rather than in a distopia redolent of science fiction. This is where the rich get richer, the liars get ahead, objectors get cast out, and the standard of behavior becomes both more tightly enforced and less natural to our evolved state with each passing year (forcing higher and higher percentages of us into prisons or onto mind-calming drugs).

Some of us, whether because of culture, upbringing, religion or genetics, cannot "go along to get along" with the American middle class's social skills, exploit the world, normal, normal, normal, don't rock the boat, expansionist, consumerist culture.

Some of us cannot be so delusional, manipulative and selfish. Some of us feel a greater responsibility than to our own monetary success (achievable almost exclusively in some sort of service to the current social system). But, hey, it's all our own fault; we could be like you. If we wanted to.

By the way, Fowler tried to justify his silly defining of hippies as a nonculture by saying they've made no meaningful contributions to humanity.

Not only is this no threshold for culturehood, it's also ludicrously untrue. Off the top of my head? Voluntary simplicity; revival of traditional crafts and music; environmentalism; feminism; minority rights; the rising of a new spirituality in a religiously stagnant nation; rooms full of beautiful and insightful poetry, philosophy, and fiction; and (drum-roll please) kind bud.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, hippie-hater. Or just have a cup of juice boiled out of addictive stimulant beans, for all I care; it's a supposedly free country, after all.

Tom Hyle

Colorado Springs

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