Vicky Collins Online

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Guns In My Backyard

The other night while having dinner on our deck on a warm summer evening we heard automatic weapons fire.  We live in the suburbs of Denver, about a mile as the crow flies from the Family Shooting Center in Cherry Creek State Park.  We often hear the peppering of gunfire as people shoot and train with handguns and rifles.  It is background noise for us, just like the planes flying over our house as they line up to land at nearby Centennial Airport.  But this night was different.  It sounded like we were on the front lines in Syria or Afghanistan.  The shooting went on forever.  Non-stop uninterrupted automatic weapons fire.  I called the Sheriff’s office and they said they were getting numerous complaints.  Then I called and left a message at the range, saying they were being insensitive and not being good neighbors, especially in light of the recent Aurora shooting which left so many people dead, injured and on edge.

Much to my surprise, the next evening, the proprietor of Family Shooting Center, Doug Hamilton, called me.  He was very earnest and apologetic that we were disturbed.  He was certain it was an unusual confluence of atmospheric conditions that carried the sound all the way to us.  He told me they were having a special demonstration event for the staff that they do once a year.  He said he was calling back everyone who left a number and wanted to assure me that they were good neighbors.  He even told me about sound buffers they were installing.  We had a good dialogue, but when I suggested to him that perhaps they do not need to fire off automatic weapons at the range, or if it was essential to have this event annually, perhaps his staff could take a field trip to the country, he went silent.  He listened politely to my feelings but when we hung up I wasn’t sure he really heard them.

And therein lies the disconnect.  I will be candid.  I am not a gun person but in recent years my stance has softened dramatically.  My car dealer has his concealed carry permit.  My son’s best friend hunts.  I visited the Tanner Gun Show and understood why some women felt they needed to have a handgun.  I get that people want guns for recreation and protection.  I have learned to respect their rights.  I believe I am being very reasonable.  But I cannot understand why we need to have automatic weapons in my neighborhood or in any neighborhood for that matter.  When I posted my story on Facebook the jaws of my friends in Canada and Australia dropped.  They couldn’t get their heads around an evening in the suburbs listening to automatic weapons fire or even the irony of a place called Family Shooting Center.  They have such a different world view from ours.

Not long ago in another direction a mile away from my house a new business opened.  It is a gun store, with a built in range, and the owners intend to turn the empty lot across the way into a gun club.  Right across the street from my Starbucks and Einstein’s in an upscale suburb of Denver there is now a gun store.  I must confess when I first saw it I had a visceral reaction.  Not in my back yard.  But I’ve accepted it.  The only thing I wish is that since we are sharing common ground, perhaps we can reach some common ground.  Can’t we all at least agree that there is no reason to have automatic weapons around here?  What good comes from them except to kill people?  Can’t we just leave them to those who fight wars?  It seems like such an easy compromise to make and one that many reasonable people are calling for.  It seems like our country and our communities would be so much safer.  It would certainly keep me from losing my appetite during warm summer evening barbeques on my deck in Colorado.

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“This Is What Freedom Looks Like”

Correspondent Ron Allen of NBC News was standing in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt when the news broke that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down. He was in the thick of it and handed the microphone to men standing near him in the crowd for their reactions. They shouted and screamed in triumph. When he retrieved the mic he said “this is what freedom looks like.” How amazing for him to bear witness to such a historic day. And how exciting for the world to see a revolution like this. A regime brought down without guns, without violence, simply with the power of people who are fed up and want the better life that they see in other parts of the world.

Yesterday I was discouraged and even fearful about the cascade of events that seemed inevitable in the Middle East. Would the army crack down on its demonstrators? Would one autocratic leader after another dig his heels in the sand and make life even more hopeless for the people? Would Islamic extremists rush in and fill the vacuum during the transition of power? Would dire predictions about 2012 get their spark in the Middle East? Now there has been a shift and the Egyptians can envision the yoke of oppression off their backs. I wish I could have been in Cairo when Ron Allen heard the news, the joyful noise, and witnessed the birth of a democracy.

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Blair’s First Filmmaking Job

My 12 year old son, Blair Ewalt, a budding filmmaker and 7th grade student at Denver School of the Arts, just produced his first professional film.  It is a two and a half minute promotional piece for an exhibit called “The 4000 Year Road Trip: Gathering Sparks” at Denver’s Mizel Museum. The exhibit opens on February 2, 2011.  

It took Blair less than two weeks to produce the video.  He shot it in high definition and edited it on Final Cut. He did the videotaping over Christmas break so he didn’t miss any school.  What makes me particularly proud about this is that his father and I didn’t get him the job.  The marketing manager of the Mizel Museum, Sue Stoveall, remembered his audition film for DSA, a short called “A Christmas Gift,” and thought he had the right stuff.

He will have his first paycheck soon and the museum is sending a press release out to the Denver Post and other media singing the praises of the middle school kid who they hired.  Congratulations, Blair.  Someday I’m sure we will all be working for you.

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Happy Hanukkah (Yeshiva University Style)

Mazel Tov to the students of Yeshiva University who came up with this clever video, “Candlelight.” What a creative way to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah and appeal to people of all ages. Love all these knock off’s of of Taio Cruz’s song “Dynamite.”

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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War and Remembrance 6

My conversation between Ben Coker, Jr. is getting more interesting as we dig deeper into issues. We come from very different points of view but we’re finding common ground.

Hi Ben,

I hope you and your family are doing well. Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I have been quite busy and wanted to give your note adequate thought. Your really impress me with your knowledge of history. Many of my beliefs are from the gut. As I read through your letter I notice we agree in degree on many points. But why must people destroy just so they can turn around and rebuild? It seems there have been times in recent memory where change came about without us devastating the infrastructure and crushing the people. The Berlin Wall came down without America rushing in. We are not sending troops to Israel or Palestine to settle differences there. We didn’t go into South Africa to end apartheid. We stayed calm when North Korea rattled its sabers. Just because there is a rogue leader or nation doesn’t mean soldiers need to march in and annihilate people and communities to influence and protect our interests. There are diplomatic solutions to tyrants and bad behavior. It may take more time but I believe it is time well spent. People may think by exercising patience we allow the extremists to organize or worse yet, kill those fighting for peace like Ahmad Shah Massoud, Yitzak Rabin and Benazir Bhutto. Perhaps, but I think America must be careful in the world and not shove our values down other throats. Granted some things like 9-11 and Pearl Harbor require swift and strong intervention, but war must be thought through. The world would be a better place if we didn’t beat our adversaries into submission. Wars are difficult to win.

I believe most people around the globe are good and want peace. I think we really need to be careful not to lump people together. I get very frustrated with people who assume all Muslims are bad because they refuse to distinguish an extremist from a woman who wears a headscarf. I am not defending behavior that threatens Americans. I loathe the terrorists and those who would do us harm. But I wonder how many people who denounce Muslims actually know one personally. I wonder how many people who think Muslims aren’t raging enough against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other extremists, have actually asked them what they think. I believe that most Muslims cringe over the behavior of the radicals even if they mind their own business. I agree with you that it would be wise for more moderate, peace loving Muslims to verbally condemn radical behavior, but I think people need to walk in their shoes before passing judgment. If I recall you did not speak out during Vietnam because of respect for your parents. Is it surprising that others hold their tongues instead of risk their reputation or draw unwanted attention to themselves and their family?

And on this next point you will probably want to throttle me. I agree with you that building a Mosque a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero is insensitive. But that said, is it inconceivable that a mosque could be used to build awareness, peace and understanding. Just because there is a mosque does that mean it is radicalizing people? It is a place of worship and a community center and from what I understand it is meant to bring people together in peace. We are a country that defends freedom of religion, yet people are trying to take that away. Isn’t that what we are fighting for? Our freedom? Our rights? I think people are getting kind of hysterical. It isn’t just at Ground Zero. Folks don’t want a mosque in Tennessee. They create laws so we don’t have Sharia Law in Oklahoma. America has always been this great melting pot but now people are getting extremely xenophobic. When did we get so afraid of everyone? I agree the media is whipping people into a frenzy. Looking forward to that discussion too. Hope you and your family are anticipating a wonderful Thanksgiving flush with gratitude. Looking forward to hearing from you. Best, Vicky

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War and Remembrance 5

A couple of years ago I read a book called “The Faith Club” where three women got together regularly to talk about faith. They were a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew. The experience and friendship was transformative as they worked through their differences and came to realize their similarities. I am having a dialogue with a man named Ben Coker, Jr. in South Carolina who responded to a blog I wrote on Veterans Day. We are politically miles apart but we are finding common ground and having an inspired conversation. It continues here.

Vicky, please call me by my first name. I am also enjoying this dialogue with you. I fully agree with your assessment about our not being able to run to every segment of the world. I vividly remember Mogadishu. That was an absolute fiasco. We went over there for humanitarian reasons. There was no functioning government to control the population. Reagan sent the military as a part of the contingency to provide this assistance. The radicals have taken over that area. Of course we exited that area in disarray. We should have never been there.

How do we differentiate between the areas we should try to help and those we should not. I agree with you about our being able to win the friendship through creating conditions that enrich the lives of the people and promoting quality of life. Do you remember the Marshall Plan that was utilized to rebuild Europe in an effort to develop and cultivate friendship and to improve the lives of the people as well as international commerce? This was a very successful operation. However, it was successful because the Allied Armies and the Nazis destroyed all the infrastructure throughout Europe. The Allied Armies had beaten the adversaries into submission. They had nothing left. The military leaders were allowed to conduct a very aggressive battle plan that left them helpless. The adversaries could not resist the USA’s and other’s plan to resuscitate the economy of the world. The enabled the nations to develop a resurgent economy conducive for ALL citizens.

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War and Remembrance 4

Part 4 in the dialogue between me and Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina following my Veterans Day post.

Hi Mr. Coker,

I’m enjoying our dialogue.  I am not the student of history that you are but as a television news producer and international traveler I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on current events.  I would like to address your question on whether we should turn our heads from those who are being oppressed, maimed and killed throughout the world.  Absolutely not!  I personally know the cost of the Holocaust.  My family died in it.  But should we send in armies every time we perceive a threat or injustice?  I don’t think so.  Clearly after 9-11 we had to get tough and go after those who violated us and killed so many of our citizens.  I remember watching NBC’s Today Show on the morning of the attack and telling my then 7 year old son (the subject of the Veterans Day post) that we were going to war.  It was our generation’s Pearl Harbor.  We had to strike back.  But have we really done anything to beat down radical Islam?  We may have disorganized the extremists and driven them into caves, but they’re not going away and in the process we have alienated many moderate, peace loving Muslims throughout the world.

I’m thinking Greg Mortenson who is building schools in the remote reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan is doing as much if not more good than our armies. Instead of battling with guns, Mortenson is fighting so children will grow up educated and be able to look the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the eye and say this is not for me.  So many of the people in the world who become radicalized do so because they have no opportunities or hope for a future.  Our armies may be holding the line but I think we need systemic changes in those countries to beat down oppression.  That is when women and children will be better off.  Our armies, and George Bush, may have kept another attack from American soil, but we shouldn’t forget the work of Laura Bush who went to Afghanistan to champion women’s rights and education there.  This may be very Pollyanna of me and I’m not saying we don’t need war, but I think we need diplomacy and peace more.  Eagerly awaiting your thoughts.  Best, Vicky

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War and Remembrance 3

My conversation with Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina continues following my Veterans Day post.

In response to your letter to me, I very respectfully offer the following:

I agree with you on the point you made about unity going into WWII. We had been seriously violated by Japan’s blatant and flagrant attack on us at Pearl Harbor. However before I discuss that issue, let’s examine the time at which these events occurred. In 1929 the Stock Market crashed and left a nation in disarray and financially devastated. My father was born in 1910, my mother 1917. They told us children of the difficulty they had suffered through the ensuing years to the conclusion of the war. The American people’s endurance of these traumatic years prepared them to face the difficult years of WWII. They were united and had resolved to defeat the tyrants who had inflicted so much devastation.

This unity persisted throughout WWII; However Churchill had made repeated requests of President Roosevelt to enter the war as ally to England and France without fruition. Our leadership had taken the position that “We did not have a dog in the fight” which seems to be the attitude of most people about so many issues that so immensely impact our lives. Nevertheless, coming out of WWII our nation remained united and we enjoyed much growth and financial advancement during the fifties. Nonetheless, there was an effort by the Communist nations after WWII to spread communism throughout the world. Russia and China were asserting themselves in the effort to spread communism to other nations even if this had to be achieved through hostile action as it had been done in so many other instances.

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War and Remembrance 2

Following my Veterans Day post, the conversation continues with Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina about war, service and our commitment as Americans.  Hope others will join the dialogue.  Will keep posting as our back and forth continues.

Dear Mr. Coker,

Thank you so much for reading my blog and for your incredibly thoughtful comments.  Part of the reason I write is to leaving something for my children to discover someday and to dialogue with people like you, at least virtually.  It is always a great pleasure when someone shares their thoughts and stories with me.  Would it be OK with you if I posted your letter on my blog?  To tell you a bit of the backstory that led to my blog post, I was born in 1958 in Hawaii and was a child during the Vietnam War.  Although soldiers were coming and going through Hawaii, the war and the protests were really on the periphery of my life.  It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in my 20’s that I realized how oblivious I had been and had a sense of the toll and outcry.  I learned about the service of my father (he was a Polish Jew who lost his parents in the holocaust and fought the Nazis in the Polish underground and Army) in a short memoir he wrote and by reading Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation.”  I finally understood why my dad jumped if you woke him suddenly or why he didn’t want to talk about those years.  He never shared his experiences until shortly before his death.  Like other veterans of his era, he stoically moved forward and kept the pain inside.  Mostly I grew up in a world at peace and was honestly surprised when I learned my son has to register with Selective Service when he turns 18.  I had no idea.

What has me conflicted, Mr. Coker, is that we seem to wage war for the wrong reasons these days.  Everyone stood together in WWII.  It was a righteous response to tyranny.  These days I’m not so sure.  You have a son in Afghanistan so maybe you can help me with this.  We fight to bring democracy to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan so moderate Muslims around the world can know of freedom, even as we oppress and distrust our Muslim citizens here at home.  We respond to 9-11 by going into Iraq to fend off a rogue leader and search for weapons of mass destruction that don’t exist.  We don’t consider how this will effect the people there and how painful the transition will be.  We boost Pakistan and Afghanistan while the leadership harbors our enemies and Osama Bin Laden thumbs his nose at us.  And we fight for nations with incredible records of human rights abuses and expect our participation will change the culture. If my son goes to war I want to believe in the cause with every fiber of my soul and I want him to believe in it too.  I guess I don’t feel confident that our leaders are taking us down the right road these days.  That’s why a call to duty scares me.  The other thing is that I don’t see a safer world for our troubles.  It seems we have fewer freedoms at home and a more unstable world.

If you would like to continue sharing more thoughts with me I would really appreciate your point of view.  I don’t feel castigated at all and with your permission I’ll put our back and forth on my blog.  This world needs a lot more people who are willing to dialogue through these kinds of things and I feel privileged to have a chance to do so with you.  Warmest regards to you and Polly and your brave son.  Best, Vicky Collins

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Young, Jewish, Proud

An amazing statement of intention and possibly, hopefully, finally, the generation that will lead us to a lasting peace in the Middle East alongside young Palestinians just like them.

http://www.youngjewishproud.org/

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.