April 9 Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Your April 2 issue contained news articles illustrating how times of social crisis can bring out the best and worst in human beings. An example of the best is, of course, the creation of Marfa Steps Up to raise and distribute funds to Marfa service workers laid off as a result of government action to stop or slow the spread of coronavirus and protect the community. The organizers of this effort deserve commendation by all.

An example of the worst is the lawsuit brought by multimillionaire J.P. Bryan, owner of the Gage Hotel in Marathon against Brewster County officials and a local doctor in an attempt to keep his hotel open during this health crisis. Mr. Bryan apparently values his profits over the health and safety of Gage staff, residents of Marathon and potential hotel guests. Universal condemnation of his ignorance, mean-spiritedness and greed is appropriate.


Kent C. Anschutz

Austin & Marfa


Dear Editor,

Excellent job in putting together a great issue with pertinent news and the right kind of focus in these trying circumstances. Those who are criticizing our local elected officials and administrators who are taking the kind of rational steps which the president and some incredibly stupid Republican governors, including ours, have not, need to pay attention to the vast amount of information and the graphs widely available. Those curves are not derived by an orange madman with a Magic Marker. And they should shut up if they cannot bring themselves to seek ways to help. Much is going to be needed over at least the next year.

Dr. Escovar is providing helpful leadership and information and deserves praise for that, not attacks. As to some price increases at Porters, one should inquire of them for explanation before suggesting gouging. I have noticed that sale prices were still being honored. They certainly have stepped up.

Last, surely Mr. J.P. Bryan, who has done a lot of good for Marathon and our region, recognizes by now that his filing suit against Brewster County for taking wise action was a huge mistake. He should drop that action and get on board with all the positive things your stories note being done by Marfa residents and other citizens of our Tri-County region.

Many of our friends and neighbors are already experiencing drastic economic effects and the real horrors which are coming to us have not even begun. Some of us in Far West Texas have recognized, even occasionally taken some pride in, the fact that we are frequently a bit “behind the times.” Timewise, we are behind the curve, but we are on it. Make no mistake: we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  It’s not going to be pretty.

Dale Christopherson



Dear Editor,

Wouldn’t it be refreshing for the Gage Hotel to offer some of its rooms for emergency use during this pandemic? They could continue to employ their staff and could take the pressure off the local medical facilities that will become easily overwhelmed if large numbers of COVID-19 cases appear. Some people with the virus will only require simple care and isolation. It would serve as a model for other hotels and motels in the tri-county area.

Mitch Smith



Dear Editor,

Misguided Notions

The following is a response to the editorial, “See how easy it was?” written by Alpine Avalanche managing editor Gail Yovanovich, published in the April 2 edition of the newspaper.

Irresponsible and inaccurate describes last week’s editorial, “See how easy it was” by the Avalanche’s managing editor. My immediate concern for writing is that a still significant, but stubborn, segment of the population retreats to holding onto similar views. Quoting: “Mainstream and social media we now have mass panic, hysteria and complete government control of, literally the world.”

Whoa, Nelly, talk about hysteria! Ms. Yovanovich, in minimizing the actual state of affairs, casts doubt upon the legality of local governmental efforts to contain a pandemic while completely skirting the central matter of COVID-19 being deadly serious. Her lack of appreciable insight into a worldwide crisis dismisses the importance of a coordinated national strategy; likewise, involving and recruiting private enterprises (much less state and local governments) acting responsibly.

Encouraging those agreeing with her lack of regard for the social contract, uber-hyperbole proclaimed “All … resources are now controlled by the government.”  Unless newspapers, including this one, received directives from a commissar about what to publish, the First Amendment is doing rather well these days, notwithstanding restrictions on gathering for the purpose of promoting and protecting public health and safety.

The Preamble made clear, “… that an overriding purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to ‘promote the general welfare,’ indicating that issues such as poverty, housing, food and other economic and social welfare issues facing the citizenry were of central concern to the framers. However, the Bill of Rights has been largely construed to provide procedural mechanisms for fair adjudication of those rights.” (From the American Constitution Society website: https://is.gd/PA3U4o.)

It is the obligation of all levels of government to take reasonable measures to ensure the general welfare by addressing the aforementioned concerns, sometimes under dire circumstances. Instead, Ms. Yovanovich joined Nero Trump, some state governors and too many among us fiddling while digging America deeper into a hole.

Are we truly “Exceptional”? By April 4, the USA had a quarter million cases with deaths surpassing the rest of the world! It’s going to continue to be geometric by the time Avalanche readers see the next edition. COVID-19 has gone viral in ways the producers of the movie Contagion couldn’t envision – or did they? The Obama Administration had it all laid-out for Trump – who willfully gutted key elements of CDC operations!

We’re supposed to suspend belief too. Thank goodness the virus knows to keep out, since “we have had no cases in the Tri-County.” That was also true the day before there was a first case in America. Without testing, how could anyone possibly know for certain?

More from the editorial: “Our garden variety influenza … kills tens of thousands each year …” False comparison duly noted. Recall our family and friends’ bouts with the flu? Did the Asian flu sufferers cough-up blood from mucus-clogged, disintegrating lung tissue? Responsible journalism would acknowledge “COVID-19 isn’t the flu!” John Hopkins Medicine describes the differences here: https://is.gd/h5dNlm.

Speaking of “belief” and “borders,” before submitting this on April 5, nine states still hadn’t enacted complete “shelter-in-place/stay-at-home” measures as had the other 41.  What physical, emotional and economic toll will the exponential geometry of this viral pathogen bring next week? How long should anyone wait? What’s appropriate, Ms. Yovanovich? Does prudence suggest waiting?

What of the “seven fat years/seven lean” Biblical lesson of preparation that’s lacking in the mentality exhibited primarily by the socioeconomics of failed red states, and, more recently, the federal government? The sound emanating is “Dance Band On the Titanic,” now that the iceberg’s already hit the starboard side.

The cost of overreacting will be far less than under-reacting. “Penny-wise and pound foolish.” It doesn’t take hindsight making it 20/20, not when paying attention to the whole of the human experience.

If events haven’t demonstrated the abject failure of that sort of ideology, what could it possibly take? Our Texas ranked 49th three weeks ago among the states in a nation itself last in responsiveness. Belatedly, even Gov. Abbott announced measures restricting various behaviors to save lives.

The surgeon general of the United States, Jerome Adams, during an interview on Sunday, April 5’s “Meet the Press” said: “The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, it’s going to be our 9/11 moment … And we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part.” Is he being hysterical, adept at shredding the Constitution, or being responsible in fulfilling his mission?

This calls for a science-based approach; reducing opportunities for spreading and contracting the disease have been urged for months. South Korea, which had a first reported case the same day as the U.S., has already “flattened” the curve of new cases.

Fear, not to minimize legitimate concerns, is compounded by irresponsible leadership unmoved by the need for immediate, selfless actions in a WWII “all hands-on deck” mobilization! The president hasn’t done anything more than sign the Defense Production Act, but not done what any decent self-proclaimed “wartime president” would by now, as many governors and health officials have pleaded.

I do not criticize asking important constitutional and legal questions vis-à-vis any governmental actions(s). But that’s not quite the scope of the editorial. Misplaced notions of freedom fall under the category of “humanitarian-lite.”

Ask: “Did our tri-counties and City of Alpine have a legal right to restrict movement and assembly?” I regret bursting any journalistic inkwells, but not a single one of the Constitution’s rights is unlimited!

(See “When May Government Restrict Your Right to Gather and Protest?” https://is.gd/Vrelfl. Tracked under the heading “Rights Have Limits,” the law is that “No First Amendment rights are absolute …” Indeed!)

“There is a particularly high ‘clear and present danger’ standard for government officials to meet under Cantwell v. Connecticut, 210 U.S. 295 (1940) to overcome if they want to prevent planned gatherings ahead of time. Violence or the threat of violence isn’t the only limit on the right of assembly. Authorities may also prevent or stop gatherings that clearly pose other immediate threats to public safety.”

Gratuitously inserted was: “As a final indignity, states, counties, and municipalities around the country are restricting the sale of guns and ammo.” Ignored was the 2008 SCOTUS District of Columbia v. Heller decision.

Conservative Associate Justice Scalia wrote: “… Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms of by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as school and government building, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

“In the blink of an eye, the Land of the Free is gone. See how easy it was?” the editorial concluded.

No, that happened with the Patriot Act after neocons lied America into war. The deal was sealed when Trump’s administration imprisoned children under “Zero Tolerance” and illegally refused admittance and physically pushed Central American refugees seeking to apply for asylum back across the U.S.-Mexican border (https://is.gd/Adrjvw, https://is.gd/wIJRgY). Want to know about suspension of Constitutional rights? Try justifying children caused to represent themselves at immigration court hearings! What’s underpinning the editorial’s mindset, and of those holding a similar view, more than hubris? Is it a “to cry fire in a crowded theatre” becoming an honored norm in a “you’re on our own/survival of the fittest” Conan the Barbarian/Ayn Rand world? Presented, however, was an ideal of freedom with an undercurrent of too much narcissism and little enough sense of community and the needs of others.

There are important issues, such as the ever-diminishing resources of a planet exploited against the grain of commonsense. In that worldview, money became one of the new gods, its theological-liturgy somehow more important a consideration than lives in our interdependent global community. And it doesn’t want to let go but for our fingers forced open by this other disease pandemic, perhaps finally able to see through a life-affirming lens.

When assessing whether to adopt the editorial’s misguided notions and conclusions, prudence dictates looking elsewhere. Accept non-medical and uninformed constitutional legal opinions at one’s own peril.

Consider, too, there is more than just ourselves. We operate from a position of a mature love by following reasonable enacted safety protocols.

It is written: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4

Rev. Barry Abraham Zavah