Tortured Heroes

By Ralphael Prepetit

There is a serious epidemic spreading across the country, and I think that it's about time to shed some much needed light on what can only be described as a tragic issue that is homegrown, and in dire need of correction. As many of you are aware the wars we have waged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other smaller countries in the middle east have lasted 8 1/2 years. In effect, the longest armed conflict in American history.

The 'war on terror' was a very unique war in so far as it was fought by a 100% volunteer armed services contingent. What this means is that over 99% of the American public had no visceral ties to the conflict. In addition, unlike say World War 1, and World War 2, we as a nation did not have to make any serious sacrifices and/or rationing requirements. The result of all of this is that we have a public that is disconnected from the soldiers that have fought for it's existence.

Here is the real issue...Everyday in these United States of America, Twenty-two (22) Iraq/Afghanistan veterans commit suicide. I'lll repeat. Every 24 hours, 22 war veterans commit suicide. That's about one suicide every hour (65 Minutes to be exact). That's basically a 'Newtown' massacre amount of death (26) everyday. In the years between 2004 and 2009 the rates of suicide doubled.

To put it yet another way, that's thirty (30) suicides per every 100,000 people in this country. This is an epidemic. Something needs to be done, this issue requires much more attention than it's been getting. Our soldiers deserve much better. This past Wednesday afternoon one of these veterans 34 year old SPC. Ivan Lopez not only killed himself, but he decided to take an additional three (3) lives with him at Fort Hood, Texas. The second mass shooting at that facility in 5 years. A recent study/survey performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post, found that 55% of Iraq war veterans felt 'disconnected' from civilian society. 43% of those are suffering from some form of physical health problems. 30% are suffering from serious mental health issues. 51% of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans either know someone who has committed suicide, or someone who has thought about it.

We are talking about young people from their late teens to their mid thirties. Our soldiers have made the ultimate commitment to us as a nation, therefore it should go without saying that we owe them our full respect and commitment to look out for their collective welfare upon their return to civilian life. The backlog in terms of Veterans healthcare is abysmal. Soldiers are waiting upwards of a year or more to have their claims attended to, and health issues addressed. This situation cannot stand. As an Army veteran myself, I find this situation appalling. In many ways this is a slap in the face to people who in no way deserve it. Regardless of how you may personally feel about the legitimacy, or necessity of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, you cannot turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of our veterans.

I think that it's important to not only express our gratitude to our veterans, but to also demand action from our elected officials. Specifically in Congress. The issue of the welfare of our veterans should be every bit an election issue in 2014 & 2016 as any other. The United States is the greatest democracy in the world because of the risk and sacrifice of our veterans. It's our turn to give back.

Thanks For Reading.

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By Ralphael Prepetit

Monsanto is American multinational chemical, and agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and of the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets under the Roundup brand. (Wikipedia) The reason that this company in particular is at the forefront of the firestorm against genetically engineered food seeds and agricultural products is that they are on a mission to put family farms out of business. They are notorious for their aggressive patent infringement lawsuits, which many farmers simply can't afford to fight long term. In simpler terms they create what people call 'Frankenstein' seeds.

This is genetically modified food that has been invading our nation's food source since 1987. There is much controversy as to the overall safety of these foods, with many people and groups, including 'Millions Against Monsanto by' claiming that it is in effect poisoning our food supply.

They have not been adequately tested to conclude wether or not they are safe for human consumption. In fact, many scientists have reviewed data from Monsanto's own internal studies and "have proven that genetically engineered foods are neither sufficiently healthy or proper to be commercialized." ( In short, this GE food is NOT the same as organic food, not at all. So why is Monsanto allowed to continue to produce foods that are arguably not safe for consumption? Well, it seems that in addition to the fact that this is a very wealthy multi-national conglomerate, they also have friends in very high places in the United States government, including the all important FDA, who as the foremost authority on the health of our food, has really not been aggressive in dealing with Monsanto. In fact, many would argue that they are secretly working in concert as part of a 'trillion dollar hustle' (Info-Wars) on the American family. All of this would be bad enough, but consider this, Monsanto aggressively sues normal farmers for copyright infringement if ANY of their modified pollen or seed gets blown by the wind onto an otherwise innocent farmers land and takes root. Seeds and pollen that organic farmers in NO WAY want on their land. What can they do? Farmer's can't control the wind can they? Monsanto doesn't care. They send representatives onto organic farmer's land, illegally mind you, and take samples of what they think might be plants that have been contaminated with their 'Frankenstein' seed and/or pollen, back to their labs for testing. If they find their 'Franken-seed' in it, they sue the farmer. How crazy is that?

It gets worse. The farmers try and fight back, but in lawsuit after lawsuit, their cases are thrown out of court. This is a complex issue to be sure, but at the root of it is the greed and monomaniacal business ethics of Monsanto. In 2012 there was a ballot initiative in California to force companies to label GMO foods. That initiative did not pass. It seems that many in the big food industry complex are not keen on that sort of thing, and as a result they spent tens of millions of dollars on a publicity campaign to stop it. Big corporate money at work again in our body politic. As I research this issue, I can honestly say that there is a great deal that still needs to be known about GMO foods and their relation to our public health. What I do know for certain, is that it makes ALL the sense in the world to at the very least LABEL these foods so that the consumer, you and I, can make our own informed choices as to what we feed ourselves, and our families alike. After all we are talking about our food, it's kind of important wouldn't you say? Call/write/email/carrier pigeon/ your elected officials and ask them what they plan on doing about this issue. I don't want to sound morose here, but your lives quite literally could be at stake.

Thanks For Reading.

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Dear Social Media Abstainers: An Open Letter

By Ralphael Prepetit


We all know certain people in our lives who for one reason or another refuse to entertain the use of social media. For the purposes of this blog, let’s define social media as Facebook and/or Twitter. Let me first start by stating that the only time I notice that certain people don’t have a Facebook account is when I go to tag them in a picture and realize that they don’t exist on Planet Facebook. There is no page to be found, no tweets to enjoy, no tagged pictures to gaze open or laugh at or swoon over or turn away in horror and/or disgust. I’m addressing the kind of person who has virtually no Internet footprint. It’s almost as if these people believe that they are part of an intelligence agency and cannot afford to have their avatars be seen in cyberspace. For some reason, they have consciously made the decision to be part of a small minority of people constantly on the run from friend requests.

Perhaps they value their privacy more than the average person. Or perhaps it’s something deeper–something sinister? Doubtful. However, the purpose of this blog is to address, question, and investigate some of the possible reasons for abstaining from getting “poked” and ignoring the hoards of Facebook event invitations that would require a personal secretary to correspond to in kind.

For my money, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is holding a cardboard sign with the following question written in bright red sharpie: “Are you a technophobe?”

Does the notion of participating in e-commerce cause you to suffer episodes of night terrors? Does your refusal to type your credit card number into your keyboard have anything to do with that LifeLock commercial that makes it seem like the entire world is after your PIN? Before you answer that, I need a quick sidebar.

I would like to state that the fact of the matter is that two-thirds of reported cases of identity theft as reported to various reputable nationwide surveys involve stolen credit cards. It’s the normal kind of stolen–not Missing Impossible stolen. Stolen identities? Not so much. At the very least, not anywhere near the exaggerated claims. The fact is companies like LifeLock are trying to sell you a “just in case” product, which they need to scare you into buying. Not to mention that federal regulations cap a person’s liability at $50-$100, and most of the time the card issuer will waive those charges if it has that contingency built into its annual budget. The Internet isn’t a scary place; the corporate footprint on the Internet can be. I’m here to tell you that e-commerce is safer than you think. End sidebar.

I have noticed that the same type of person who refuses to use Facebook also refuses to participate in e-commerce, and as a result, also declines to enroll in perhaps the best invention since the last best invention: the modern miracle known as “direct deposit.”

I have had co-workers who have been adamant about not getting direct deposit. This is maddening to me. It upsets my extreme sense of efficiency.  I ask them, “What do you object to–the speed, the convenience?”  And the follow-up query, “So, you actually enjoy standing in line at the bank?” I have never gotten any answer that resembles anything at all reasonable.

Are you fearful that giving out your Wi-Fi password will allow people to hack your email? Does the appearance of spam in your inbox cause you anxiety? Do you spend any amount of time wondering why you keep getting emails concerning octogenarian bingo nights?

If the answer to any of the above referenced issues is yes, or if I have in any way described your belief system, then I’m afraid that you may in fact be a technophobe.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the definition of a technophobe, is as follows:

Technophobia: A fear or dislike of advanced technology, or complex devices and especially computers.

That definition makes sense to me. What keeps me up at night is trying to understand why. Seriously, people, what are you afraid of? I have several family members 18-40 years old. At least two of them had a smartphone at one time. And now? Well, let’s just say the last I heard, they were on the forefront of bringing the flip phone back in style. Yes. They returned the smartphone in favor of the basically obsolete, uni-tasker flip phone. This is a sickness.

The good news is that there is a cure. Are you ready for it? Because I’m about to kick you down some knowledge. Ready?

OK. So, in no particular order …

a) Go buy a laptop, have the Geek Squad link it up to your new iPhone or Android (either one works just fine), and then get a grip. We are about halfway through the second decade of the 21st century. Does it look like things are slowing down in any way? Failure to utilize modern technology is putting yourself at a severe disadvantage, so knock it off, and get with the program. I can’t be seen with you at a restaurant if you’re going to pull out a Motorola flip phone when your wife calls. What will our server think?

b) Create a Facebook and/or Twitter account. Even if you plan to never use them. It’s an important first step. I believe in you and your ability to do this. Realistically, Facebook is an email account with bells and whistles. It’s a place where people who may be separated by time and distance can access and share information with one another virtually and instantaneously. If that was the only upside–but it isn’t–then it would still be worth it. Technology can be a mixed bag of goodies, while also having the occasional stale mint butterscotch mixed in there.  But what can’t be denied is that it exists for the benefit of us all. I remember what it was like before everyone had a cellphone, then MySpace, then Facebook, and how many people I lost touch with, especially in the years immediately after high school, jumping around through different universities. I wish I had social media sooner in life. I couldn’t imagine ignoring these tools of communication and expression for any ideological purpose, or plain irrational fear, just like I couldn’t imagine using a pager, analog flip phone, or AOL dial-up Internet  access (with that iconic, annoying fax sound) today. It’s like saying “No, I don’t want to drive a Mercedes. I really enjoy cruising in this Model T Ford.”

If I sound harsh or insensitive, it’s because besides the personal slight you are inflicting upon yourself, you are also cheating all of the other people in your life out of a part of you. But what really gets me is the way non-social-media people look down on us active social-media people. You typically look down at us like people suffering with an addiction. Well, you might be correct on that, but it’s a harmless addiction. Besides, four out of five dentists say that it’s all right to use. By the way, I should probably mention that I have an unhealthy fascination with dentists.

The moral of this particular story is that I really wanted to try and understand the psychological underpinnings of technophobia, and perhaps come to an understanding of such people. Unfortunately, after further review, I’m going to need you to start keeping up with the rest of us. It’s a bad look otherwise. You don’t have to be Bluetooth-earpiece guy. And you don’t have to be Mr. or Mrs. Facebook. But what you need to do is not be outfoxed on your laptop by the average fifth-grader. And trust me, if you have children who can walk and put sentences together, they have probably already exceeded your technological proficiency. And you embarrass them. This was a good talk. Go make it happen, champs.

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The Days Of Our Lives:
A Paradox

By Ralphael Prepettit

Paradox: A statement or proposition that, despite sound reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
I believe that we are living in a paradoxical time. Perhaps it’s always been like this, or maybe this is a new phenomenon, however, in either case it’s become an increasingly difficult situation to ignore. There are plenty of good paradoxes to be sure; however, the fact of the matter is that we have taller buildings, but shorter foundations on which to build them. Wider sources of information, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but seem to have less; we might buy more, but too often enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less common sense. There are more educated people with greater cerebral knowledge than at anytime in the history of humanity on this earth…yet our collective judgment remains remarkably sophomoric in tone. We have more experts, but less expertise. We have more doctors, more medicine, more expensive, and it’s never been more necessary. So how are you feeling today? The lady on the news today said that America has an obesity epidemic. Yet, childhood poverty is at an all time high.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, and watch too much television. We get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired too quickly, and read books much too seldom. Many of us pray to somebody, somehow, someway, some short, and some tall, though some of us fail to pray at all. We have multiplied our possessions, but have reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and certainly hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life; we've added years to our lives, but the quality is becoming increasingly questionable.
We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We've conquered outer space, but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not always better things; we've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soil from which our souls must one day escape. We've split the atom, but not our prejudices. 
We write more, but learn less; we plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. Some of us have higher incomes, but lower morals. We have more opinions, but less appeasement. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more information than ever, but have less objective arbiters to aid in processing it. We've become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are the times of fast food and slow digestion. Tall men, with shorter character; steep profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of more leisure, but less fun; more variety of food, but less nutrition. These are the days of two incomes, and one divorce, with many consequences. Fancier houses, with far too many broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, optional morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that claim to do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. 
It is a time when there is much in the showroom window, but there is nothing in stock. A time when technology can bring these words to you, right where you sit. A time when you can choose either to make a difference in your life, and your relationships, and your place in this world or you can do absolutely nothing. Just simply click the 'next page' icon. There will be information there because media is omnipresent. The next page will contain anything from the latest military action, to the latest celebrity gossip. One can trumpet the obvious existence of their knowledge; however, the paradox always lives inside of the source.  
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The Prepetit Column
Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down 2013

By Ralphael Prepetit


As we begin the calendar year 2014, the winds of change are just around the corner. But before we jump too far ahead, I think that it’s important to take one last look behind to those people, places, and things that made an impression on the fabric of the past year. I present to you “Thumbs up, thumbs down 2013.”

Thumbs Up

Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Most recently known as the 266th Catholic Pope, Pope Francis. His ascendancy to this position was remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he is the very first Jesuit to be named pope. He is also the very first pope to hail from the Americas. Those two facts would be cause for admiration on their own merits; however, in my opinion, what makes this pope truly special is his willingness to embrace and understand the plight of the downtrodden, the destitute, and the underprivileged classes of his flock. He brings with him a breath of fresh air to a papacy that has seemingly grown stuffy because of ancient, and often closed, windows–a church considered detached after the layers of scandal and litigation separating the Vatican from followers. Thumbs up, Pope Francis.

Thumbs Down

The Boston bombers. What can anybody say about these deluded and depraved animals? Their callous and savage act extinguished lives prematurely, and affected many more lives permanently. If there is a silver lining to the chaos and terror they caused, it’s that Boston, the New England area, and the nation as a whole was made to understand and admire the meaning of “Boston Strong.” As for the lone terrorist survivor who is in federal custody–and whose name that I refuse to even print here–may God have mercy on your soul. Thumbs way down to the young man with severe psychosis.

Thumbs Up

Edward Snowden. Depending on your political leanings you may see this man, and what he did as either ‘Whistle Blowing’, which should be commended, or a traitor, which is why he is currently on the run. In my estimation, anytime a person makes a principled stand to inform his/her fellow Americans as to any malfeasance, government, corporate, or otherwise, that person should be commended. What he did took extreme personal risk, and life-long sacrifice. Strictly for our benefit, and not his own. That is what I consider a selfless act on a massive scale, and as such, Mr. Snowden gets a Thumbs up. The truth doesn’t care if you are uncomfortable, or embarrassed. It’s just the truth.

Thumbs Down

George Zimmerman. The story of a man, who was found not guilty, but is clearly far from innocent. Instead of showing any remorse for his senseless, murderous act, he has chosen to double down and hide behind his personal cowardice, and overall bigotry. An unarmed seventeen-year-old boy is dead, and gone by his hand, as he continues to live out a cowboy fantasy. In The United States the motto of our justice system is that it is better to let ten guilty persons go free, than to send one innocent person to prison or death. In this case Mr. Zimmerman was one of those ten. While he may be free from the constraints of prison, he is still a convict in the court of public opinion, and has the rest of his life to look forward to living out as a social pariah in many circles, including this one. Thumbs down to you Mr. Zimmerman.

Thumbs Up

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis. She became the newest darling of the Democratic Party in 2013. She came to national prominence after her brave and principled 11-hour filibuster on the floor of the Texas Senate. The purpose of the filibuster, which is just another way of saying that she stood at a podium continually for 11 hours talking, was to help block and fight the passing of the controversial Senate Bill #5 that contains abortion regulations and provisions that would effectively shut down a majority of the access to women’s health services in Texas. Though the law was eventually pushed through the Senate and is awaiting a federal court challenge, Senator Davis has shown herself to be a bright political mind. She is currently gearing up to make a run for the governorship of Texas. Thumbs up and best of luck to Wendy Davis.

Thumbs Down

Aaron Hernandez. If I told you that in August of 2012 this man had inked a five-year contract worth $40 million–with around $16 million of that amount guaranteed–only to throw all of it away less than a year later because he allegedly decided to murder his “friend” execution-style in a gravel quarry behind his million-dollar home, would you believe me? Life is truly stranger than fiction. The name of the victim was Odin Lloyd, who was just 27 years old at the time of his murder. He was also a football player, but not anywhere near the level or pay grade of his accused killer. In fact, he played semi-pro football for the love of the game, and made his modest wages not from football, but landscaping. He is dead today because, as the District Attorney of North Attleboro, Mass. alleged and charged, Aaron Hernandez, star tight end for the New England Patriots, murdered him. And the story that has developed from the initial evidence gathering, sadly, points to no good reason, as the reason. One of the saddest things to see in life is squandered promise, but what is even worse is the kind of senseless violence that robs society of its future and creates an environment where far too many parents have to bury their children. Aaron Hernandez is more than a cautionary tale; he is now another absentee father, brother, son, and lastly, pro-football player. I don’t presume to know what kind of thoughts are going through Hernandez’s head at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he regrets being in prison instead of Gillette Stadium. But I do know that Ursula Ward would like her son to be alive today. 

Thumbs Up

Nelson Mandela. Though it might be considered a bit unorthodox to give a thumbs up to a man who passed away in 2013, in this case the exception has been made. The reason is simple: The celebration of his life through his death has reminded people around the world what one man’s dedication and sacrifice can accomplish. I know that it was a nice refresher for me, in my life. This was a man who spent more than a third of his life in prison, for an idea. It was the kind of idea that eventually led to the emancipation of South Africa from the ruthless shackles of the apartheid. Moreover, it wasn’t simply the substance of his triumph. It was the style. His willingness to forgive, working with the very people who were part of his imprisonment, is nothing short of remarkable. And the world is truly a better place because this man lived. That’s saying something. Thumbs up, Mr. Mandela, and rest in glory.

Thumbs Down

Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R). For a man who is in his very first year on Capitol Hill, Cruz has certainly made a splash. Unfortunately, it was the American people who got all wet. Cruz is credited with orchestrating the wildly unpopular 16-day government shutdown of October 2013. At the end of it all, the government did reopen, but with absolutely nothing in terms of a stated goal being accomplished–except for the fact that it cost tens of thousands of government employees their normal wages, and the U.S. economy tens of millions of dollars. The good news for Cruz is that he has used that stunt to raise boatloads of money from the lunatic right-wing fringe in this country for what will be his eventual losing campaign bid for president in 2016. Other than that, the American people suffered needlessly through a political charade, and you will find the blood for that squarely on Cruz’s hands. I could go on, and perhaps I should, but frankly, I don’t have the stomach for it. Thumbs down, Ted Cruz of Texas (who is really from Canada). I told you, truth is stranger than fiction, didn’t I?

Thumbs Up

The families of Newtown, Conn. They suffered the unspeakable, and had to do so with the entire world watching. To revive an aforementioned statement, it is truly horrible–and completely unnatural–for parents to have to bury their children. The fact that the victims of the evil act perpetrated at Newtown Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012 were 6, 7, and 8 years old is beyond heartbreaking. The reason these families deserve a thumbs up here has a lot to do with the fact that they worked tirelessly throughout the year of 2013 to try and get some meaningful, sensible, and necessary gun reform legislation passed in Congress. Sadly, they were unable to get Congress to, well, do anything. But the mobilization has begun, and their work and dedication will eventually yield results. They have made it a mission to not have the deaths of their children be in vain, because they know that sympathy alone will not make this country safer. They want and demand sensible gun laws in this country. They want and demand that our nation’s children can live in a safer society. I agree with them. More than 80% of the American people also agree with them. Therefore, I say that we should all applaud them.

Thumbs Down

Bashar Assad. This man is the murderous president of Syria. This man’s military actions, in which he gassed his own citizens, men, women, and children with chemical weapons, are well documented. Those actions almost dragged the United States back into another military action (or war). Luckily, that course of action was averted through diplomatic means, but the fact that a leader of a nation would be willing to act in concert with the murder of its own citizens is the stuff of nightmares. I don’t pretend to fully understand the barbarism and violence that has plagued the Middle East for centuries, but one thing I do know for certain is that violence begets violence. Round and round they go, and the carousel is drenched in blood. This man’s methods for trying to remain in power are deplorable. If there is ever going to be peace in that region of the world, it will surely not come from the example of men like Bashar Assad. A definite thumbs down. The man is gross.

Thumbs Up

United States Senator Harry Reid. The reason Reid appears on this list is because he finally did what he needed to get things done in the U.S. Senate: He changed the filibuster rules so that all it takes to get votes taken and passed is a simple majority rules up or down vote. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, Reid was forced to make that change because the Republican Party in the Senate was abusing its right to filibuster in a civil fashion. The filibuster used to be a rare thing. Before Barack Obama became president in 2008, there were a grand total of 80 or so filibusters in the 200 plus years of this nation’s existence. Since Obama was elected the Republicans have filibustered 79 times, just in the past five years. Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader, and he did his job–he led. And for that, a huge thumbs up.

Special Mention(s)

North Carolina’s new voter ID laws that are the most radical ever. Thumbs down.

The people of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. They keep fighting through it. Thumbs up.

Speaker of the House John Boehner. Has refused to bring immigration reform to the floor of the House, even though there are enough votes to pass it and end family suffering. Thumbs down.

The 18 states that have passed marriage equality to date in 2013. A big thumbs up.

It is very likely that I have left out some people, things, and issues that you may have felt worthy for 2013.

I made this list after much personal reflection, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.  Thanks for reading.

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