Letters for the week of October 22-28, 2003 

Two and a half pages of letters praising our cult story but bashing our coverage of the Berkeley Bowl, Bertolt Brecht, Berkeley's shellmounds, and more.

"Children of OM," Feature, 9/24

The healing has begun

I am glad that Piero has made peace with Marilyn. As a former housemate of hers in the mid-1990s, I would characterize her as a compassionate and loving person. I have enormous respect for Piero, and understand that he is doing what he must do to heal. I truly hope that Cybele will be out of the woods one day soon, and will regain the will to live.
Debby Segal, Berkeley

Coming forward takes courage

Thanks for Katy St. Clair's excellent story on surviving an abusive cult.

As Webmaster of www.scientology-lies.com, I regularly hear from people who have been hurt by a coercive group. The appalling betrayal can take years to heal -- especially for those who lose family ties and longtime friendships (not to mention staggering sums of money) as a result of their involvement. As with so many forms of abuse, victims often feel stigmatized and alone. Getting the word out -- especially through individual stories, and especially through the media -- is tremendously helpful in replacing stigmatization with understanding.

I'm grateful to Piero and Cybele for telling their stories, to the remarkable Ms. St. Clair for a fine piece of reporting, and to the Express for bringing it to us.
Kristi Wachter, San Francisco

Tolerance has its limits

For as long as I can remember, I've seen the buses. I always regarded their presence as some poor bloke down on his luck fortunate enough to own a home on wheels. Now, after reading this article, I view these buses (and the person living inside them) as a potential threat to the safety of our children and the sanctity of our fair city. Yes, Berkeley is a tolerant community, but we must not be so "tolerant" as to become lax in the fight against child molestation and abuse of any form.
Noelle A. Lyons, Berkeley

Child protection should be our priority

Over the years, I've worked with kids all over this country who have been through similar shit. I also did time in prison and I actually got to know some of these beasts. What really fucked me up was they were always either teachers or some other profession and you wouldn't have known what they were in for. I had a friend who worked in the warden's office, that's how I found out who they were. There is something really sick about a nation that spends gross amounts for wars and yet backpedals on laws to protect children.
Mark Tyme, Oakland

Dreams die hard

When I saw the front page of the Express, I immediately recognized the person I have known for about 25 years as an acquaintance in the Bay Area music scene. I haven't really spoken with him much -- the last time I saw him was at a musician's house in Oakland in passing. I was aware of some of his past troubles although I had no idea how incredibly awful his childhood was.

Yet his story parallels much of what I saw other kids go through during that time of Me-decade-influenced "parenting" -- if not in severity then in concept. At the time, it wasn't so strange to hear of these "revolutionary spiritualists" influencing parents to let their children be left basically unprotected from whatever was out there in Berkeley in the 1970s. And boy, was there a lot out there that was "out there." I saw so much drug use that I thought it was normal that ninth graders all smoked weed. I remember going to an eighth-grade birthday party where the host parents knowingly let the birthday boy pass around a doobie. I was thought to be abnormal because I DIDN'T smoke dope. It was also normal for parents to be divorced. I saw so many kids that lived between houses that I thought I wasn't hip enough for many of my peers. My mother thought I was a prude for not wanting to skinny-dip at a hippie bluegrass music seminar where every adult and their kids were skinny-dipping. I wonder now how many kids there actually felt like me. For some reason, these were seen as healthy, normal things to do in the summer with a bunch of complete strangers. Their utopian idealism warped their common sense.

It's no wonder that cults exist. Combine liberal white guilt, opportunism, sexual freedom, and a sense of Berkeley "entitlement." No wonder dreams die hard.

I really feel for Piero. He's an extremely talented fellow with a lot of fire. I can never know how horribly he suffered. I know I had a great set of loving, caring parents who instilled in me good values. For anyone in the 1970s growing up in this town it would have been confusing, as it is confusing for today's youth I'm sure. I just sincerely and passionately wish Piero the best in his continual recovery from such an sorrowful ordeal.
Paul Hanson, Berkeley

"Bowling for the Bottom Line," City of Warts, 9/24

Antiunion hype dolled up as lifestyle reporting

Thanks for an article that simultaneously manages to imply that workers who know about collective bargaining are suspect and illegal union-busting tactics are an acceptable approach to labor-management relationships, and posits that the success of local businesses depends entirely on the personality of the owner. This attitude also explains the improbable citation of an architect as an expert on the grocery business.

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