Thursday, December 10, 2015

What passing gun control laws will actually do.

Will passing gun control laws work? What's the biggest argument? What would happen if the United States implemented some form of gun control? Would mass-shootings suddenly stop?

I'm not against guns or the 2nd Amendment. Obviously banning all guns will never happen. I don't even agree with that, it's a ridiculous notion. I  do have concerns about the types of weapons people own and certain people (with certain issues) owning any weapons. Please read on and I'll explain. 

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. I'm sure you've heard that saying a lot. I live in Colorado. The state which cities include Littleton, Aurora, and Colorado Springs. Otherwise known as the cities where (in order of occurrence) the Columbine, Aurora Theater (aka Dark Knight), and Planned Parenthood shootings took place. 

The Planned Parenthood shooting was on Black Friday 2015, a day when I fully expect people to die from being trampled by a crowd trying to get a two dollar toaster, not from a lunatic with an agenda.  

So, how does someone go about obtaining a gun in Colorado? Well, to begin with, take a look at the laws about owning a gun in Colorado: Now that you know what is legal, here's what you have to do to get one: Many gun purchases require a background check. 

But still...

If "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is the reason why we aren't increasing restrictions on gun ownership, improving checks and balances on gun owners, or improving our national database on people who cannot or should not own weapons, then explain the logic in this:

 Kinder Surprise Eggs Banned in US!?!?When I come back from the UK, I am likely to have a Kinder Egg or two in my carry on bag. They sell them at the airport. Even though I don't think they are dangerous, they are still illegal in the United States. But they are oh so yummy. Apparently, we are so concerned about choking on tiny toys in candy and how dangerous that is for our children that we've banned these since they came on to the market in the 70's. 

Am I supposed to believe that chocking on small objects doesn't kill people, people putting small objects in their mouths kills people? Wait!?

From the Washington Post>Do citizens (not police officers) with guns ever stop mass shootings?

I wanted to share this because, while it's not the main focus of this Washington Post article, the part about gun control and mass shootings vs homicide is an argument that's worth having. (The death-by-bullet perspective vs the mass-shooting perspective) More recently the media is covering mass shootings (4 or more people shot:killed/injured) and there's a lot of arguments from those who appose gun control legislation that include questions like " Which bill would have stopped San Bernadino?" "Bad people will still be able to get a hold of a gun, laws won't stop them." and "Good guys with guns will stop bad guys with guns." So yes, in the interest of looking at it from both sides, I am sharing this article from the Washington Post that highlights when a good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun.

I do want to point out that there are those that argue that your personal safety will be threatened if gun control is implemented. For that I have two suggestions, because I know you might be sitting at home with your gun just waiting for someone to break in so you can shoot them, right. I recommend investing in a home security system that includes entry and motion sensors, video, better locks on doors and windows, an alarm that may or may not be monitored, signs that say your home is protected by a security system, and motion lights in the front and rear of your home. Next, if you are dead set on keeping a gun in the house, and not having it locked up because you are afraid of people and a baseball bat or taser are not enough and you just have to to get your gun quickly, then please make sure everyone in your home, big, small, male, female etc. get gun safety education and understand the dangers. And maybe stop being so scared. 

In the instances listed in the article in the Washington Post, and in many others involving mass shootings, those committing the violent act are doing so in a way that makes a statement. They want to be seen and heard. They are making a public scene--not hiding or trying to cover it up--with the intention of ending the lives of one or more human beings. In my previous blog posts I said I wasn't going to share gun-related death statistics in the United States and that YOU should google that. I'm still not going to pontificate about statistics. I stand by my belief that a law that could save one person from being murdered by someone with a gun because it was difficult to obtain a gun is worth every bit of the time spent on passing such a law (or laws). HOWEVER, I've shared some links to sites where you can get the data on gun-related deaths in the US yourself. To start, even though I don't care much for them, my first link is to CNN's site.

The common thread here among all of these statistics is that the more guns you have, the more gun related incidents there are going to be. I'd love it if you'd watch this 3 part series from John Oliver when he was a correspondent on the Daily Show. Yes, yes, I know, a liberal, Democrat sharing a clip from The Daily Show, how cliché, right? In the first part of the series, right at about 4 minutes 20 seconds, listen to what this pro-gun politician says. In the US we have more pools so there's going to be more drownings. This segment is called Whoop-De-Doo.  

The others in the series: Political Suicide & Australia & Gun Control's Aftermath

There's a direct correlation between how many guns and how many gun-related deaths or injuries that occur. So how do Kinder-Eggs, Pools, and the fact that we have so many guns point to the idea that we should consider gun control? 

1. Kinder-Eggs being banned proves that the US is willing to pass laws to protect the innocent (in this case children, but need I mention Sandy Hook?) 

2. No one can bring a pool to a mall for a mass drowning. At public pools you have trained, certified professionals on staff to make sure people don't drown. Sometimes people still die in a pool, which is a risk that you take when you are around one, but your choice to visit a public pool or install one in your yard doesn't affect someone standing 3 feet from you. They will not catch a ricochet off your drowning etc., etc. 

3. We cannot ignore the fact that there is a problem in this country. I'm not suggesting we have a mass exodus of guns in the US. Just more control, regulations, check and balances, training, reporting, etc. 

I know, I haven't answered the question will gun control work yet. Nor have I told you what passing gun control laws will actually do. I'm getting there. There's just a few more things I want you to think about first. I also realize that I keep mentioning that I am not against guns or the 2nd Amendment. I want to point that out because I feel that there are not enough arguments that are being made--not enough publicized or covered by mass media at least--that are middle ground, i.e. not for banning all guns, pro 2nd amendment, and still in favor of gun control 

If the government takes away your right to own a gun or purchase a gun (Again, not saying we should) that doesn't mean they are going to start taking other rights away. I am a believer in the constitution. The 2nd amendment is what it is. However, just like I think many people interpret the Bible in selfish ways, I think people interpret the 2nd amendment very similarly. No one is going around cutting off women's hands or trading goats for daughters like it says in the Bible. I interpret the 2nd amendment with two things in mind. 

First, the right to bear arms was intended to (in summary) allow Americans (An America that was over 200 years younger then) to have guns so that states could form militias to ether defend against a tyrannical government or an invading army. 

Second, it allowed for the right to keep and bear arms that "could also only fire a single shot before requiring a reload." In fact, even in the late 1700's states had methods of gun control. In this article by Discovery News, Why Do We Have the Second AmendmentTalal Al-Khatib writes about the historian Saul Cornell who reported, "The Founding Fathers regulated firearms even in early America. "States kept track of who had guns, had the right to inspect them in private homes and could fine citizens for failing to report to a muster." 

It's 2015. I don't think we need to worry about needing to overthrow our government or needing to form a neighborhood militia. I certainly don't want to go up against our military. So the thought of my neighborhood forming a militia is kind of absurd. Plus, I also trust our country to do what is right for us and defend us against real enemies and I thank goodness for our beloved men and women who serve our country to defend our sweet land of liberty. 

Thank goodness for our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Department of State, DoD, Local and State Police, Sheriffs/Deputies/Constables/Rangers, FBI, CIA, Special Forces, retired, active, reserved, and disabled veterans, alive, since passed, KIA, MIA, POW, the list goes on. I also don't want to leave our Firefighters and EMTs. 

When the Bill of Rights was passed, including the 2nd Amendment, we weren't worried about domestic terror, gang violence, gun accidents, or cold-blooded murder. Hell, in the 1800's you could still challenge people to a dual. 

Again, stop thinking bout this from a mass-shooting argument view-point and look at it from a death-by-bullet perspective. If there were mass shootings all the time in our young country, I can definitely envision policemen on horses riding form door to door confiscating firearms because the 2nd amendment was repealed in order to end such senseless violent acts. I can see it in my mind: 

"I caint leave muh house no more with all them shootins keep happnin. Why just last week ol'Jedd got drunk and fired up the saloon, which'as right thar next to the barber shop that ol'Ed owned, may he rest in peace. The bullet went right through the wall thar and got eem squar in the back a tha head. He never saw it comin. Now Jane's widowed and er keeds ain't got no father. Sumpins gotta be done about all these here shootins I reckon. Now whar'muh gonna git muh har cut?"  I 

 apologize that my vision of the 1800's is a satirical Old West. Yet, Even Seth McFarland knows there was a million ways to die in the West. Aside form the average cold on up to more vigorous illnesses there's still a million ways someone might wind up dead today. Why should a bullet be one of them? (I am not going to start an argument about movie violence and how it's Hollywood's fault! Nor do I believe violence in video games have anything to do with gun-violence)

My point, as long as it may have taken to make, is that making it a little tougher to purchase a gun or outlawing certain types of guns is NOT going to lead to other rights being taken away. Just like giving rights to people didn't lead to the collapse of the world, e.g. all citizens' right to vote or marry who they want didn't lead to legal bestiality, let alone the apocalypse.  Slippery slope arguments and other illogical and/or ignorant arguments, in my opinion, are just fear mongering. 

One of the other big arguments surrounding gun control is mental health. The gun control debate increases every time the media covers a mass shooting. Notice I said "covers." We've seen an increase in coverage of mass shootings as of late. Even though the number of mass shootings has increased over the years, right now, in 2015 the coverage has also increased. Correlation does not imply causation, but it begs the question(s); is it the increase in number of shootings that caused an increase in media coverage, or is it increased coverage has made us care more about it...or maybe it's the fact that we care more about it now and therefore there is an increase in coverage, because ratings. 

As I said before, when someone partakes in a mass shooting they are making a statement, they are not hiding. I'd like to think that anyone who ends the life of another human being is not in their right mind because I want to believe in human kind and believe that no one in their right mind would want to end something so precious as life. Still, murders happen all the time, so for the sake of argument lets put ALL murderers (those that end a life by their own hands in some way) in the category of mentally ill for just a moment. 

Mental health is another area where I think you should educate yourself. I'm not saying you need to become a therapist or anything like that. If you haven't already, do some research and look at the statistics for the United States. Everyone has some mental instability, but not everyone is going on a shooting spree. In regards to gun control, I personally don't think that it's really a mental health problem, but I could be swayed due to my stance that every life matters, and if I  my opinion could prevent one senseless death-by-bullet by I would change it heartbeat. However, my opinion that gun violence/mass shootings may not be a mental health problem has not mitigated my belief think we (the U.S.) could do better to prevent people who are a threat to themselves or others from owning a weapon. We already agree that most felons can no longer poses a weapon. 

With regard to mental health, even Bobby Jindal thinks that there should be some action toward ending gun violence. He was referring to reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. 

Mental health professionals can report people to the NICS all day long, everyday, and while that information eventually (sometimes) makes it to the database that licensed gun sellers use to make sure buyers are not on the list, many times it just doesn't make it in the database or the database isn't updated in time or records get lost. At this point I'm going to leave it up to you again to get informed. If I thought it would help my argument I would go into more detail. Here are some links to start you off:

Also, I can't talk about mental health AND death by guns without mentioning suicide. I'm not a mental health professional, but I am someone who has worked with hundreds of post-9/11 veterans. Many of them shared with me that they had thought about taking their own life at some point and that only with time and help (usually therapy) had they expelled those passive notions. So I have learned a thing or two about people who have contemplated taking their own lives. I can't help but think about all the veterans that I never had the opportunity to meet because they did end their life. But think about it, if someone is in a place in their life where they feel like ending it all and have the thought of pointing a gun at themselves and pulling the trigger...and they can quickly get their hands on a gun? Obviously guns aren't the only way to commit suicide, and there are people who already possess a gun, which, if they chose to end their own life is devastating to thing about. However, what if someone is on their way to buy a gun with the intention of committing suicide and they are forced to wait a mandatory period of time. There's that word again, time. Time and help. Look, if someone wants to end their own life there is not a lot we can do to stop them. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try everything we can. That time might be just enough time to save a life and that should be enough of a reason, period. 

So let me summarize now, and then I will answer the big question.

  • Just because so many people in this nation are seeking gun control doesn't mean that the right to own a gun at all will be taken away or that someone is going to come knocking on your doors demanding you hand over your gun. 
  • Passing a reasonable gun control law will not lead to any rights being taken away.
  • We've proven as a nation that we will pass restrictive laws when we believe that it is for the greater good and will protect the population. ( w/ regulations on drugs, alcohol, tobacco, kinder eggs etc.)
  • Gun control is not just a mass shooting issue. It's about all gun violence and gun-related injuries and deaths from drive-by shootings and first degree murder to accidental deaths and suicide. 
  • The more guns we have in circulation, the more gun-related issues we have. The more violent/deadly the guns (e.g. assault rifles and automatic weapons) the more deadly an incident involving one of those is likely to be. 
  • Mental health is a valid argument towards less gun-related deaths, injury, and violence, but it is NOT the only issue that needs addressed.
  • The biggest problem in the United States may not even be guns or all of the above, it's probably a social paradigm. We need to just change the way everyone thinks, feels, and acts. Except, that's not realistic. Which brings me to the big finale. 
If we are ever going to see change in this country, we have to set an example. We have to do something to take the first steps towards changing how many people are being senselessly killed, injured, and threatened by guns everyday. The only way to really do that is to change our society completely, but that won't happen unless we act now. 

If we as a nation implement a reasonable method of gun control, we are not going to see a huge drop in gun violence overnight. Mass shootings will still occur. Criminals will still unlawfully possess guns. However, it will happen eventually. But we will be sending a message to our children and grandchildren, and our grandchildren's children that we care about people and that gun violence is an issue of grave importance. And if one innocent person is spared  from a senseless gun-related act, then it is important enough to make a change for our future. One will turn into many. Many will turn into a better, safer country overall. That's what gun control laws will actually do. 

So why are so many people arguing that gun-control laws should not even be considered? Go back and watch John Oliver talking to the politicians in Australia. They took away ALL the guns and there were images of thousands of guns being loaded into a shredder by a bulldozer. If we can't agree on a reasonable way to control guns, I am afraid that another Sandy Hook might just push our politicians over the edge and what happened in Australia will happen in the U.S. If you pass a gun law, you have an argument to prevent losing your guns for good. That is what gun control laws could actually do. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

How can we not?

A little over an hour ago, my 11 year old waved goodbye to me as she headed into her school building. I watched her until I could no longer see her, then turned around and took a moment to put eyes on every adult in the vicinity before heading to my car, when suddenly a huge chill came over me. Not from the Colorado winter, but from my inability to avoid thinking about the possibility of tragedy and how horrible it would be if someone terrorized my community (I'll ad "again" here since I live in Aurora) and for no reason, opened fire on these precious, tiny human beings.

In 11 days it will be three years since Sandy Hook, and every day since, whether I was dropping them off myself or watching them pull out of the drive with their mother, the thought of "will today be the day?" has crossed my mind without fail. I guess that's my confession today. 

After the Aurora theater shooting, many people said "Don't let fear dictate your life" as they discussed how they were still going to go to the movies after that. That's all fine and dandy when it's your own life you are worried--or not worried--about, but when it's children, MY children, HOW CAN I NOT be fearful. Yes, for the past 1083 days I have had fear, but it's different all of a sudden. Today I have to read headlines like this from the Washington Post: Attackers slay 14 in Calif. in deadliest mass shooting since Sandy Hook. 

It's craziness! When will something be done to at least try and prevent this stuff? It's a standoff of a different kind: you've got the uber-left side saying  we need to ban all guns; you've got the GOP/NRA/right-extremist saying it's a mental health issue NOT a gun issue; and you've got level-headed people (probably most mental health professionals included) saying that both sides, left and right, are out of their minds if they believed that. Who am I to say which side is correct. I personally don't care if neither or both are. What I care about is that something needs to be done that will actually be worth a damn. The system in place to prevent those with mental health issues that should not own a weapon because they could be a threat to themselves or others from purchasing a gun, well it sucks. The ease of access to weapons in this country is ridiculous. Everyone keeps saying "oh you can get a gun at Walmart," but I think that it's probably because IT'S LEGAL and it makes them money. 

I have a soap box about assault rifles, automatic weapons, etc. I'm not against the right to own a gun. But as a native Texan who hunted deer and quail and the occasional other small animal, I don't want or need to destroy my potential venison steak with a high powered rifle. Growing up I think we had a .22, a 12 gauge, and a 4/10. There are some lingering memories of a tiny pistol too. So keep those, but if you want to go and buy any of those today you should be put through a series of checks and balances. Cars are dangerous and kill thousands of people each year. Still,  you need to pass a test and get licensed to drive one, and then if you own a car it needs insurance, registration, and in some places safety inspections. How hard would it be to implement something like that for guns? 

It's time for politicians to take notice. The scales are tipping and it seems to me like they are tipping in the direction that it will soon be unpopular to be so pro-gun. It's time for leaders on both sides of the party line to step up, grow some respect for life, because goodness knows the term "pro-life" isn't being underused today, and pass some reasonable, sensible laws that will, even if it's not going to fix everything over night, eventually reduce the number of senseless gun violence in the United States of America.

I often see trucks, SUV's and some sedans with "Don't Tread On Me" bumper stickers, which are often accompanied by NRA stickers. Don't you think that someone discharging a weapon with the intent to end lives is treading on you too? I could list all the mass shootings the media has covered since Howard Unruh’s “Walk of Death", Labor Day, 1949, but I won't. You should Google that. I could also list statistics about gun-related deaths in the US (or how low they are in other countries) including accidental deaths, but do I need to? Isn't ONE human life precious enough to try and do something? 

So why haven't we? How can we not? 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Me and my side jobs, like my website and Lyft


Visit -- See anything you would like to buy that does not have a link to a Denver Craigslist site or to my eBay listing, email me at and arrange to buy it from me in person - or I can setup a buy-it-now price on eBay and send you the link at an agreed upon time and you can purchase it there.

Ever see a pink fuzzy mustache on a car. ( parenthetical in case you googled pink hairy mustache or  just pink mustache on front of car)

Lyft: I had to withdraw during a semester in grad school. Now I have to pay back the financial aid. So I started driving for Lyft. I love this job. I made almost $1000 (one thousand dollars) my first week driving part-time NO JOKE!

Try Lyft FREE: Click the link here, download the app, add the promo code you get, and request your first Lyft for free --up to $25 -- ANYWHERE Lyft is offered. If you are not sure, you can find out which cities have Lyft here. I've driven people on rides that cost more than $25, BUT those rides were from the west side of town all the way to the Denver Airport (east of town).

Here's an example of how much Lyft costs: I have a friend who lives right about here. I took a cab from downtown Denver to his house and it cost me $25 (see on a map). I took an Uber ride from downtown Denver to his house and it cost me $20. I took a Lyft from Tom's Diner on Colfax (east of downtown) to my friends house (during prime time) and it cost me $10 plus a tip.

Rides are paid with the application so you don't get chastised because you want to pay for a ride with a credit card (That happens every time a take a cab.) If you aren't convinced yet, then you haven't watched the videos about how safe and friendly Lyft drivers are. Ever gotten a taxi or Uber and felt awkward in the silence? Not in a Lyft! They greet you with a fist-bump and talk to you like you are their friend, not just another fare. Don't worry, if you don't want to talk they understand. Most drivers I have met offer gum or water. As a driver, I offer those, plus candy, a cell phone charger, hand sanitizer and moist towelettes (for when I pick you up from a crazy party--Lyft drivers don't ask questions or judge they just want to get you to your destination quickly and safely with a friendly smile).

Want to make that kind of MONEY$? I'm averaging about $28 per hour, and in some cities it's more. Click this link here fill out the application, download the app, continue through the process, watch the Lyft YouTube videos, then prepare for your first test drive with a Lyft mentor. You are your own boss! You set your hours. Feel like taking the night off? Do it. Feel like making $100 - $300 on a Friday? Do it! Lyft will update you through every step of the application process. They are a great company to work for. They take care of their riders, and they take care of their drivers. If they don't have Lyft in your city, well guess what, you can be the founding driver. So you really should click on this link!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Phi Theta Kappa Founder's Day Speech for PPCC Induction

(Fall Induction Speech Nov. 19, 2010 for Pikes Peak Community College Chapter: Alpha Gamma Alpha)
Phi Theta Kappa was founded by presidents of two-year colleges in Missouri who were looking to recognize their students for high academic achievement and to form a common ground for honors organizations on their campuses. They chose to model this Society after the senior honor society, Phi Beta Kappa. Then eleven years later, and 92 years ago today, Phi Theta Kappa was officially recognized by the American Association of Junior Colleges on November 19, 1918; the date we now celebrate as Founders Day.

The first six years Phi Theta Kappa was exclusively for women’s junior colleges, but in 1924 an amendment to the society’s constitution allowed for chapters in all junior colleges. Two years later the society expanded outside Missouri and was later proclaimed to be the official honor society of the two-year college by what is now the American Association of Community Colleges.

In the beginning Phi Theta Kappa membership was awarded to students at their graduation. Few programs and services were offered but the growth of community colleges in the 60s led Phi Theta Kappa to expand even further. Now Phi Theta Kappa is offered to freshman and there are a large number of programs and member benefits offered today.

Submitted by the Epsilon Chapter of Cottey College in Nevada Missouri, the Phi Theta Kappa song, which begins with “Give Us Wisdom,” was adopted in 1923.

By 1988 Phi Theta Kappa had chapters in all 50 states

Phi Theta Kappa became an international society in 1991 when Alpha Tau Delta was chartered at Medicine Hat College, Alberta, Canada.  

Today Phi Theta Kappa is the oldest, largest, and most respected honor society serving two-year colleges around the world. There are over 2-million members in over 1200 chapters located in all 50 United States, U.S. territories, Palau. American Samoa, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Germany, Northern Mariana Islands, and the United Arab Emirates. It is estimated that about 200-thousand students participate in Phi Theta Kappa programs each year. The average age of a new member is 29, ranging from 18 to 80 / part-time to full time and the most popular major of Phi Theta Kappans in 2009 was nursing, followed closely by Education and Business.

Phi Theta Kappa is divided up into four divisions that are composed of a total of 29 regions. Colorado is a one-state region and is home to 23 great chapters. The Chapter at Pikes Peak Community College is the Alpha Gamma Alpha chapter. Alpha Gamma Alpha was chartered on June 17th, 1976 and remains to be the biggest and (in my opinion) the best chapter in the state of Colorado. Pikes Peak Community College has 1200 to 1500 students eligible for membership each year. These students are among the top 10% overall, and among those, the students who stand before you today are PPCC’s best and brightest. 

Happy Founder's Day!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day Speech for Pikes Peak Community College

I was a guest speaker at the 2009 PPCC Veterans Day Memorial Ceremony. Here is the speech:

I'm humbled to be here today to speak to you on this honorable occasion at Pikes Peak Community College.
Once a Marine, always a Marine, so the saying goes, and I, am a Marine. My Father was a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, and my uncle retired as a Master Gunnery Sgt in the Marine Corps, and had fought in the Korean and Vietnam War. They were half of my inspiration for joining the Marines. The other half of my inspiration was my best friend from childhood who I only refer to as my brother. 
June 19th, the year 2000; only 3 weeks after graduation, my brother and I set foot on those infamous yellow footprints and started our training to become United States Marines.  Both of us knew early on in life that we both were destined to serve our country. Coming from low income families we thought that a college degree and huge career success was only a dream and so we set out to start our careers in the Armed Services as United States Marines. Basic training has changed over the years for Marine recruits. Back in 2000 when my brother and I were finishing boot camp, they put our platoons through a rigorous training event known as the crucible. It’s a three day training that pushes your physical and mental ability to extreme limits.  It is also best known for its team building obstacles.  The battalion of recruits is divided up into groups and led through obstacles that demand your ability to work together, thus creating a sense of dependability and trust for your fellow Marine.  Each obstacle of the crucible is dedicated to a Marine who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty; while fighting for our country and its freedom.  Before beginning each obstacle everyone would gather around a memorial to that Marine and read his story. Some of the honored marines died during a raid or ambush. Many were young privates who leapt onto grenades so to save their surrounding servicemen. Those men will forever be remembered, and since 1954 when President Eisenhower signed the bill proclaiming November 11th as Veterans Day, we gather to honor the commitment of all our veterans through ceremonies just like this one.
After basic training my brother went off to be a member of the infantry, and I was to be a member of the Air Wing. During training I suffered a significant injury and was allowed to serve the remainder of my time in the Marines as a Clerical Administrator for the Support Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Marine Base, San Diego, California, until I was medically discharged. My brother however, completed the school of infantry and was stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was sent to the Middle East soon after 9-11, spent countless months in conflict situations, and has not been the same since.  Shortly before he was up for his first reenlistment, he too suffered an injury. That May, the year 2004; he was sent home awaiting orders for his discharge from the United States Marine Corp because he was not fit to reenlist. This was a huge deviation from the plan to be lifers in military for two young men from Texas.
Veterans Day is often very heartrending because we remember those who have died during their service to our country, especially during times of war. We must honor those who are fighting and those who have given their lives doing so, like the Marines honored during the crucible.  We also must celebrate. Celebrate the lives of the loved ones who have returned and the veterans who are now dependant on an education to determine their future. The Original GI Bill was signed into law on June 22, 1944 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since then provisions have been made and it is now known as the Montgomery GI Bill, but the legacy of the original bill still lives on, as VA home loan guaranty and education programs continue to work for our newest generation of veterans. Veterans like myself and my brother who otherwise would be forced to remain in entry level jobs and never have the chance to fulfill our ambitions and better ourselves through education. Currently there are hundreds students at Pikes Peak Community College that are receiving educations benefits from the VA.  I am one of those students. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that I chose to take advantage of the opportunity that was given to me. The staff at PPCC whose sole purpose is to ensure that veterans seeking education at this Community College get the benefits entitled to them, make is very easy. The staff of the Veterans Upward Bound are here to ensure that those receiving education benefits through the VA are given a better chance to succeed. I know them and I know they are honored to do so.
During my time in the military I had been a part of some great things, such as getting evolved and giving back with the Marines through toys for tots, being recognized as the youngest Marine in the Marine Corps birthday cake cutting ceremony, also coordinating and being a part of prestigious ceremonies for highly decorated Marines. Yet none of these things have been as meaningful to me as the part I have played as a veteran, here at the college assisting the staff of the Enrollment services VA, with helping other former and current servicemen women begin their education. Because of the blessings I have received by being able to further my education at the college level, I will continue to be an advocate for veterans and support any of them who chose to pursue a college education. I will do this Honor, Courage, and Commitment; values instilled in me by the United States Marines
As a student at PPCC it gives me great pride to say that I was a United States Marine and now I am pursuing my dreams. I am a student of the Radio and Television department, and I will soon achieve my Associate of Applied Science in Telecommunications. I plan to attend Colorado State University at Pueblo, where I will receive my Bachelors in Mass Communications.  None of this would be possible if I had not chosen to serve my country. Therefore I will celebrate, and I ask all of you here today to celebrate with me; the students who once served our country. Many of them are now transitioning from military life to student life. Some have service related disabilities. Some have dear friends that are still serving. Better or worse, they will never be the same and therefore should never be forgotten. So as we gather today this 11th day of November, 2008, to remember the veterans of the United States of America, please remember the ones in your classroom and in the hallways and let them know they have your support, and celebrate their achievement of becoming a student at Pikes Peak Community College.  Thank you.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Autism and the Democratization of Information

The Center of Disease Control estimates that approximately one in every 88 children fall somewhere within the autism spectrum. Wow, one in every 88 children has some form of autism!!!!!

The Democratization of Information enriches our lives in many ways, powering our future and enabling our ability to face challenges - understood or unknown, along with perils that will evolve over time.
We often find ourselves believing misinformation we receive from mass media. This leads to many incorrect and often offensive stereotypes. This includes autism.

Despite all the accessible information available on the subject, a vast majority of individuals have inadvertently built stereotypes about autism because of Holly movies like “Mercury Rising,” “House of Cards,”  and “Rain Man,” that portray people performing amazing mental feats that defy conventional wisdom. The truth is that there are many variations of functionality within the autism spectrum.

A specific example of this and the perils and powers of the Democratization of information is the award-winning movie about a woman with autism. The movie, “Temple Grandin,” brought to light many truths about autism, by presenting the history of a woman facing the daily challenges of autism and how she overcame those challenges. A true story, Temple Grandin was born in 1947 and was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old. Her doctors recommended that she be permanently placed in an institution, but out of love, her mother refused and took the much harder road of raising a child with autism in the 1950s. Through patience, and understanding, Temple Grandin learned to adapt to her issues and eventually earn her PhD in animal science and currently teaches in Fort Collins Colorado at Colorado State University. This film has offered a positive outlet and valuable source for the world. On YouTube You can view and abundance of videos of Dr. Grandin speaking to people about autism and giving tips to parents to help them cope with their autistic children, and teach their children to cope with the world.

There is another misconception about autism that came about when the unscrupulous Dr. Andrew Wakefeild deliberately falsified data in a research study to show a link between the causation of autism and the MMR vaccine. His paper was published in 1998 in the Lancet, a medical journal in England. Because of the perils of the Democratization of Information; this unverified data spread rapidly over the next 5 years, evoking fear in millions, and leading many concerned parents to found an anti-vaccination movement. When my daughter was born in 2004 she was not vaccinated, and we were baffled when, at three years old, she was diagnosed with autism. Since 2007, several events have occurred that have shown the truth about Wakefield, including his study being retracted from publication and criminal charges being brought against him. He has even lost his medical license, but it has not mitigated some individual’s beliefs that what he said was true.

You may have heard of a celebrity named Jenny McCarthy, who is spearheading the information drive to keep the anti-vaccination movement going. Correlation does not imply causation, and yet this is the basis for Ms. McCarthy’s argument. She had her son vaccinated at the appropriate age and shortly after she began seeing symptoms of ASD—Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is occurrence a coincidence that many parents of autistic children experience. The age of vaccination is usually between two and three years old, which is also the same age when children are expected to hit certain milestones and usually the time when children start experiencing obvious symptoms of ASD.

There are several doctors and organizations, like Jenny McCarthy’s, and countless web sites that give claims to holding the secret to a cure or recovery from autism. The argument against these claims, from other doctors, parents with autistic children, and even people who have autisms, is that there is no known cause. Treatments and therapies that have been said to cure autism have simply been successful in addressing   some of the outward symptoms of autism.  Intense therapy can enable some autistic patients cope better with some of things that would normally keep them from completing tasks that we take for granted as being simple, like buying milk at the grocery store.

The truth is there is not a cure or prevention for autism, and experts on the disorder still do not know what causes it, but it IS possible to increase awareness, instill empathy, and educate others about autism and about those that have it. 

Facebook pages, blogs, and web sites are instrumental in spreading the message using the democratization of information, and those that are by people with autism are even more powerful. Carly’s Voice, is another web site that is changing the world of autism Carly Fleishman is a young non-verbal girl with autism. At age 11, Carly used her computer to type words on her computer for the first time. That was in 2007. Today, Carly keeps a blog, manages a Facebook fan page, tweets, and uses an iPad in school to help her communicate. She has changed the way many people view autism. Carly typed a message during an interview with ABC News, “It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can’t talk or I act differently than them. I think people get scared with things that look or seem different than them.” Carly has been through countless hours of therapy and her family tried numerous methods to help her overcome the impairment that autism had given her.

Even with the benefits afforded to us by the Democratization of Information, paradigm shifts are still slow to achieve. For example, India has only recently altered their perceptions of autism, transforming it from a mental disorder into a nationally recognized disability. This  is important because it promises more proper diagnoses, increased medical care that is covered by insurance, and appropriate treatment—rather than recommending institutionalism.

April is National Autism Awareness month. It was also when a new movie made its way around the country. Using the democratization of information Wretches & Jabberers, (hold up visual aid) is a documentary by and about two autistic men, and their journey around the world with a goal to change the attitudes about autism. Along with Dr. Grandin and Carly Fleischmann, Tracy Thresher, age 42, and Larry Bissonnette, age 52, travel all over the US and in countries around the world and at each stop, according to, “dissect public attitudes about autism and issue a hopeful challenge to reconsider competency and the future.”

Even if there were a treatment that could help people with autism cope with the difficult issues that consume them, that would not make them any less autistic. What makes this a heated issue is the non-typical behavior that we all recognize with autistic people. As a parent, all we hope for is the ability to give our children a normal life. As a person with ASD, what I hope for…what I dream about, is that  one day society accepts me for who I am, and doesn’t label me as weird  or strange or  especially  as someone who is broken and needs to be fixed or cured.

Through the Democratization of information, we can help make every month Autism awareness month. Can you imagine a world where the negative stereotypes and misconceptions about autism do not exist, and in that same world people understand what it truly means to be autistic?  People around the world with autism will get the love, the support,  the care, and the respect they deserve.

The power of the democratization of information makes possible this promise to the future.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I graduate in 100 days!!!