There is a major problem facing the young people of Spokane -- discrimination! This may seem like a trivial problem given the massive racial discrimination we face in this part of the country, but it affects ALL of the young people of the greater Spokane area. This is not the open discrimination of the Aryan Nations, but rather it is the storeowner or employee that provides less-than-friendly, hostile service. I have personally had this experience numerous times while patronizing Spokane area business establishments with my hard-earned money.

One of my most embarrassing moments occurred when in seventh grade. I decided to spend my money to purchase a pack of gum at an Exxon station near my school. Upon entering the Exxon Station I was promptly asked to surrender my bookbag to the clerk. I was treated like a common criminal, even though I had not committed any crime. What has happened to "innocent until proven guilty?" When was the last time an adult had to surrender a purse, backpack or briefcase? Are adults never arrested for shoplifting? Is it an absolute that all youth will steal? Not only is this brazen discrimination, but it bluntly discourages young people from being viable leaders for our community, while encouraging them to participate in activities counterproductive to our society. Young people can only live up to the best expectations of society, and when our society tells an entire class of people that they are criminals, they will be.

The fact is, I work every day with teens from all over Spokane County who are working, through the efforts of the Chase Youth Commission and other area organizations, to make their society a better place in which to live. These teens are the ones striving for a better tomorrow. Their adult counterparts are almost completely removed from today's society, voting in fewer and fewer numbers, and expressing a general feeling of apathy. Teens are the ones doing something, yet teens are the ones who are bearing the burden of discrimination within our society. The fact is that only 4 percent of our youth are in trouble or making bad decisions.

It is time the people of Spokane recognize the positive influence of our young people and accept them as a resource, and not a problem. Next time you are in a store waiting on a teen, refocus and look at them as a member of the human race -- worthy of respect and trust. Fight the desire to judge and categorize, and raise the bar of your expectations. Thank them when they meet those expectations. Only united can youth and adults in our community enter the 21st century as competitive members of our new world economy. This economy leaves no place for discrimination. Period.

Nowell D. Bamberger

Spokane, Wash.

We want to thank you for the commentary by Harold Meyerson entitled, "What right to vote?" It alerted us to the fact that under the United States Constitution, there is no right to vote for the president, which was a real shock. We hope everyone will get on this new Congress to correct this. Keep up the good work of keeping the public informed.

Ed and Joyce Bergtholdt

Colbert, Wash.

The New Year provides us with an opportunity to consider how we can improve our lives and make the world a better place for all. A simple but powerful approach toward this goal is through food choices. By shifting to a plant-based diet, we benefit our health, preserve the environment and reduce animal suffering.

According to the American Dietetic Association, studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes mellitus, gallstones, heart disease, hypertension, kidney stones, obesity, osteoporosis and stroke.

Because livestock animals are injected, fed and sprayed with antibiotics and pesticides, their waste is filled with toxic chemicals. Much of it is washed by rains, untreated, into our waters. It is estimated that 90 percent of the organic water pollution in the United States is attributable to animal agriculture.

The Animal Welfare Act does not apply to animals used for food. More than 90 percent of farmed animals in the U.S. are raised on factory farms in intensive confinement. The animals spend their entire lives in tiny cages and stalls where they are often unable to even turn around or lay down. They live on concrete, slatted metal or wire mesh floors. They are forced to live in their own and other animals' waste.

Indeed, the new millennium provides every one of us a great opportunity to examine the impacts of our diet on our health, the planet and the billions of animals tormented and killed for food. During these first days of the New Year, let's turn over a new leaf, kick the meat habit and get a new lease on life.

Jeff Caldwell

Spokane, Wash.

Colville Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch @ Colville Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch

Through Oct. 31, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
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