Um, what? Packagers _do_ release fixes faster than upstream. They even release _upstream_ fixes faster than upstream. If they didn't, there wouldn't be a reason to patch in the first place.
I can patch a freetype bug in Gentoo and have it out to users sometime within the next hour (whenever the next rsync mirror update is). I don't think they can make a release that fast. In fact, we patched a security vulnerability in freetype-2.3.9 back in May, and as of now there still hasn't been a new upstream release. So, should we drop freetype or fork it? (note: i don't mean to pick on freetype here, it's just a package i happen to maintain)
And by "release" I mean get the fix out to the people encountering the bug, not fix it in the repo for whenever the next release may be. If you have some other definition then please share it.
We also recently patched fontconfig because recent upstream changes were causing problems with our sandboxed build environment (packages calling fc-cache during `make install` would fail because fc-cache now runs chmod on /var/cache/fontconfig and we don't allow packages to change permissions on files or directories they don't own outside of the DESTDIR during install). I did let upstream know about the issue, but ultimately I fixed it locally because it was our policy causing the issue, not upstream. Debian also modifies most packages to comply with their policies. Expecting upstream to accommodate the (sometimes conflicting) packaging policies of every major distro is ridiculous.
Trust me, we would love it if everything worked the way we wanted out of the box. We don't go through the trouble of maintaining large patchsets for the sheer enjoyment it gives us.