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Letter From the Editor


s a first-time editor, I thought long and hard about what this issue should contain. Being an election year, the answer was right there. College students and many other young adults are disconnected from the issues that surround the nation today. If it is not on Facebook, then it’s not an issue to many. So, I wanted to bring the issues to them. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the effects of these reasons trickles downs to those that never even seen it coming. Voting is a right that many people have fought hard and died for. I believe that we should respect our ancestors for giving us this right and take full advantage of it. This is a right that we have in the U.S. and although we are called, “land of the free,� a lot of our freedoms are being taken away from us. The entire magazine is not focused around the election, but the issues that are being brought up either directly or indirectly in our nation. The president has the power to make changes. Here at Volunteer Community College we, have had a change in presidency and there is already a possibility of a major change on campus. I believe in thinking globally and acting locally. The colors red, white and blue not only represent the colors of our nation, but also the colors of our school. There is so much that is happening in the world as well as on the campus of Vol State. Sometimes I feel like I can take on the world or the nation, but I know that I am only one person. Everyone should voice his or her opinion and voting is a great way to be heard. If this issue persuades just one person to go out and vote, take a class with Michael Lenz or use a condom, when they may not regularly, then we have done a job well done. I want to thank my copy editors, Chanel Alford and Adam Proctor, for doing a superb job! I am grateful to have such an amazing team this semester.

With love, Margaret Blakemore


Contents 3. A Reason to Vote

A brief look at our ancestors’ struggle to have the opportunity to vote.

4. Millenials Disconnect to Politics

Why are young Americans disengaged from the issues? Maybe it’s all the distractions.

6. Liberal or Conservative Quiz 7. Michael Lenz

The new political science professor.

9. The Possibility of a Smoke-Free Campus


You have heard the rumors? What are people saying?

11. Your Vote Matters

Story of how one vote can make a difference.

14. Living with HIV

A woman living with HIV tells her story of having a baby and a husband who are both HIV negative.

19. Outlawed Imagination


An American oppression of a substance that is used for religious beliefs.

25. The Politics of Cannabis

Would there be a higher voter turn-out if weed was on the ballot?

27. Poverty in America

A look at the poverty level and the need for food stamps in the U.S. 2

A Reason toVote

A brief history of our ancestors’ struggle


nce again we are voting for the highest office in our land, the office of the president of the United States of America. We have the privilege of selecting and voting for the person we think is most qualified to be elected to office, but we never stop to think about the privilege of making our choices or decisions without paying a penalty, or even placing our lives being at risk. This has not always been true in this great nation of ours, especially for women and African-Americans. When our nation was first established, only white property-owners were allowed to

best qualified to lead and govern our nation. Every time a woman casts her vote she should stop and reflect on those that made sacrifices and endured hardships, so that today women have this right and privilege to walk in the voting precinct and cast their vote without any hesitation or difficulty. Sandra Pittman, 73, of Hendersonville, said she and her husband stopped voting in any election, but then they began to watch CSPAN and paying attention to the issues that were affecting their lives, and realized that they needed to start questioning their politicians. Pittman stated that once she realized the issues

By Helen McBride

little if any political power locally or nationally. While we enjoy the freedom of choice in our voting privileges history has certainly not always afforded this right to everyone equally without some paying a high cost for it. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act grew out of both public protests and private negotiations that had started in 1961 with the staging of nonviolent demonstrations in cities in the South. Poll taxes were outlawed in 1964, and in 1965, a resolution was signed into law empowering the federal government to oversee voter registration and voting where unlawful practices had been used.

“Just vote, and if you don’t vote, don’t complain. Each individual vote is important, because each person’s opinion is important.” - Patty Powell vote. Women and slaves were considered to be property, and therefore, they had no rights or say at all. The battle fought for women to be allowed to vote was long and hard. Many paid a very harsh penalty for the privilege of voting rights that is afforded to women today. It took activists and reformers almost 100 years to accomplish this feat. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed into law the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1920, declaring for the first time in history that women, like men, should have the all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. With our freedom of choice and the right to vote we establish our laws, guidelines, and elect to offices individuals we feel are 3

that were at stake she and her husband once again started to vote. She urges everyone to take advantage of that privilege. “The decisions our politicians are making will affect everyone’s life and that you had better vote,” said Pittman. Even though the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments enfranchised African-Americans, their legal rights were denied in the South by using poll taxes, literacy tests and other forms of bureaucratic impediments to prevent them from exercising this right. African-Americans suffered physical violence, harassment, economic reprisal, and other forms of punishment when they tried to register to vote. As a result of his treatment, they had

State legislators and members of the Congress of African-Americans have risen from two to 160, according to Congress of Racial Equality. “Everyone should vote, regardless of choice of candidate,”said Patty Powell, Vol State vice president of Student Services. “As an African-American there was a time when our parents and grandparents could not vote. Every American citizen is entitled to speak on choices of how we want our country to be. It is every American’s right to vote not only for the president of the United States, but to cast an opinion on issues,” said Powell.

Libertarians rallied outside the Nashville Federal Reserve Building protesting to audit the Federal Reserve or end it. Many protestors were millennials.

Millenials Disconnect to Politics

Why are young Americans disengaged from the issues? By Chanel Alford


f an individual were to set the phase “The youth are disengaged from politics,” to Auto-Tune and charge for its use, they could have enough money to make Bill Gates wear a little pink tutu by tomorrow, because the phase is such a mainstay in the vernacular of America. As generational custom dictates—albeit a pessimistic custom but custom nonetheless—individuals from the previous generation generally doubt the will, responsibility and ambition of the next generation. When discussing civic or political engagement, baby boomers, those born after 1946 to 1964, usually have a contemptuous view of the participation levels of Generation X, those born from 1964 to 1985, and the millennials, those born from 1985 to 2002. “I do think our generation does

not care, as a group, but we did not do this to ourselves. We were raised [by baby boomers]. Kids these days are spoiled and lack discipline from an early age. In my opinion, we deserve one-third of the blame but we did come of age on the tail-end of all of this,” said 20-year-old Preston Torsak, a sophomore at Volunteer State Community College. Millennials usually have a good reason to hold an adversarial stance against politics. According to a 2007 study by the Center for Information Research for Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), many in the millennial generation feel that the political institution seeks to exclude them. There exists evidence to support this claim if an individual looks at the death toll from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Photo by Melissa Kelpsey

In all the years of the wars, 6,612 American military personnel have lost their lives in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, according to “Two-thirds of active duty military personnel are ages 30 and younger,” according to data from Pew Social Trends. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan affect the millennial generation and should be an issue for most politicians, but Americans hear little about the war compared to other campaign issues. “So much of the media is advertising which fuels this culture of greed. I mean I live in a fivebedroom house with just my dad, and all you see in the media is this encouragement to buy more stuff,” said Carolyn Large, a VSCC student. “I think the coverage is average, 4


of females,18-22 plan to vote

but they have so many rules, what they have to cover, what they don’t cover, you cannot expect anything that you hear from the media to be true,” said Torsak. Millennials can also see indifference toward an issue usually specific to college students: the true price of student loans. According to a recent article by Forbes, “the average price of a college education has risen six-fold since 1981.” Attaining a college education, at least for the 18- to 26-year-old range, has proven to be a costly measure and yet politicians seem shy to talk about it. “I think the media just tries to make us happy, to give people hope. Most of the time, I think they do what makes us look good. [Student loans] are important. I feel like so many students get student loans and do not receive adequate information about the true cost of student loans. Some student graduate high school or get their GED and want to get help to go to college but they do not know where to go. On the other hand, you have students who attend college and are valedictorians for those first two weeks, get their financial aid and never come to class. That is a problem. Everyone seems to be concerned with small things, not education. It makes me think that they do not really care about education,” said Torsak. “We spend so much money on things that do not matter or are not the most important. In this economic climate, every dollar counts. Eventually, they are going to have to start cutting something and it 5

is usually education. It is terrible considering that some people really want to go to college and just cannot afford it,” Torsak said. With an existing disconnect with our political system, millennials still want to participate in the political discourse, according to CIRCLE. “Millennials seem to dislike spin and polarized debates and seek authentic opportunities to discuss public issues,” according to the report.There exists information to back up that claim. “The growth behind culturewars TV—Fox News and MSNBC—is through boomers, not young people. Millennials would rather die than watch that stuff,” according to economist and demographer Neil Howe, in a piece for the Atlantic. “I am not stupid enough to watch that stuff…. People do not understand that partisan media is so biased and full of lies that you cannot get reliable information from it. With Fox and MSNBC you have to watch the information that they tell you and be able to dissect the truth from what they say,” said Large. The generation gap becomes more pronounced as millennials and the baby boomer generation differ on the area of the future of the country. “Many millenials are optimistic about the future of the country while most baby boomers are pessimistic about the future of America,” according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. A discord exists in many areas with millennials and politics but no issue is more pronounced than that of social issues. Not only are millennials more likely than other generations to say they are politically liberal, but they stand out as significantly more liberal than other generations in

terms of social values, according to Pew. The millennial generation distinguishes itself and its vote, more often than not, by use of their dollar. While millennials made up only 17 percent of the electorate in 2008, they were much more likely to let their voices be heard by way of “buycotting”: buying from companies and businesses whose values and missions align with their with their own, according to Pew. For many in the millennial generation, a belief that consumerism is driving this country into the ground is pervasive. “I think it is crazy that we have technology that is constantly coming up with things that are useless. We make so much trash and we all buy so much that we don’t even need,” said Torsak. The millennial generation proves to be complex. While recognizing that most policymakers are two and three generations ahead of them, there is still engagement. Some millennials still believe that individual voices can change politics in a way that is friendlier to the younger generation. Whether they are buying goods from companies doing good things, standing up for equality or seeking ways to remain involved in politics but detached from spin, millennials are engaged, and want to be included in the discussion. Millenials seem to believe in “the science of the good of man,” also known as politics. They have a voice, but are just waiting on others to finally listen.


Males,18-22 plan to vote

iz u Q he t ! e Tak nd out to fi

Are you more liberal or conservative? 1. There need to be stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment.

7. The government needs to do more to make health care affordable and accessible.

A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree

A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree

2.The government should help more needy people even if it means going deeper in debt.

8. One parent can bring up a child as well as two parents together?

A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree

A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree

3. The growing number of newcomers from other countries threaten traditional American customs and values.

9. Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good?

A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree

A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree Completely Disagree

4. I never doubt the existence of God. A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree

10. Abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree Completely Disagree

5. Business corporations make too much profit. A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree

11. Labor unions are necessary to protect the working person.

6. Gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry legally. A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree

Add your points to get a score. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a.

=3 =3 =3 =0 =3 =3 =3 =3 =0 =0 =3 =0

b. b. b. b. b. b. b. b. b. b. b. b.

=2 =2 =2 =1 =2 =2 =2 =2 =1 =1 =2 =1

c. c. c. c. c. c. c. c. c. c. c. c.

=1 =1 =1 =2 =1 =1 =1 =1 =2 =2 =1 =2

d. d. d. d. d. d. d. d. d. d. d. d.

=0 =0 =0 =3 =0 =0 =0 =0 =3 =3 =0 =3

A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree 12. Poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs. A. Completely Agree B. Mostly Agree C. Mostly Disagree D. Completely Disagree Average Republican

Average Democrat


Very Liberal


18 Average Independent

0-4 – Very Conservative 5-13 – Average Republican 14-22 – Average Independent 23-31 – Average Democrat 32-36 – Very Liberal


0 Very Conservative

Questions provided by



veryone seems to be listening to the new guy on campus. New Instructor of Political Science, Michael Lenz has turned quite a few heads since joining Volunteer State Community College. Whether it is the students he teaches in the classroom everyday or the audiences he draws during the numerous speeches he has given.


Lenz grew up in a small town in New Hampshire where he lived until the age of 20. He went on to receive his undergraduate degree from Keene State College in New Hampshire in journalism, before transferring to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he decided to change his major from journalism to political science. During his freshman year of college, one of Lenz’s professors, Chuck Weed, made a huge impact on Lenz. Lenz said that Weed caused him to look at things differently. Specifically the way that society works and people’s relation to their government. Prior to his transfer to Amherst, Lenz decided to switch his major to political science and make a run at pursuing a teaching profession. Before accepting his current job at Volunteer State, Lenz taught part-time at a number of colleges. He held the same position he holds here for two years at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York. About a year and a half ago, Lenz took a road trip through Tennessee and had an absolutely amazing time. He said that while he enjoyed his time living in a beautiful area in upstate New York, he needed a new perspective. This desire for a new outlook brought Lenz to the hills of Tennessee. Lenz likes how many people in the South exhibit a healthy skep-

Introducing Michael Lenz The new guy on campus ticism of people in power, and thinks the reason for people in the South believing this way could date as far back as the Civil War, when people in the South really had to fight for their freedoms.

Student Feedback

Students who have Lenz in class seem to like how he always leaves room for debate. Anyone with a voice, and an opinion, can be heard in his classroom. Students also enjoy that Lenz even invites them to challenge his opinion on class topics. “His class has been really interesting. There is always something to debate, and everyone has their own opinion, said Parker Flatt, a freshman at Volunteer State. He makes a lot of good points about things I’d never really thought about before.” “While no one has really stepped up and challenged his stance on anything yet, I think that time may be coming. He invites us to all the time, and the closer we move toward the election, and get into some of the more debatable topics, the louder people’s opinions will start to get” said Flatt. His classes aren’t the only place students are hearing what Lenz has to say. Fall 2012 semester, Lenz has provided the student body with two great lectures.

View on the Issues

Lenz believes that America’s police state is spiraling out of control. During the American police state lecture, Lenz discussed the reasons that he believes the government has been gaining too much power

since 9/11. Lenz mentioned the U.S. Patriot Act passed a month after 9/11, it reduced restrictions on law enforcement and made wire tapping into U.S. cell phones legal. It is estimated that 300 million cell phones are wire tapped in the United States today. Lenz also noted that only one of the 100 U.S Senators actually read the 450 page bill, and the one who did, is the only one who voted against it. The massive domestic wire-tapping program was not revealed to the public until 2007, even though it had been in effect in our country since 2001. Lenz saw this as just one example of why we cannot trust our current government as it gains more and more power. A concern Lenz brought up in the lecture was the president’s ability to issue executive orders. An executive order gives the president power to declare martial law without the consultation of Congress. During his time in office, former President George W. Bush signed a total of 291 executive orders, while President Obama has signed 140 of his own, according to Lenz. Many suggested, however, that maybe it is not the fault of the presidents’, but instead Congress’. Lenz lectured and discussed how the Republican and Democratic parties are not really so different after all.

Today’s Government

“What you’ve probably heard from the media is that the two are bitter enemies, well what I’m going to suggest is that the idea of them being different, is mostly an illu-

By Shaee Flatt Photo by Melissa Kepley

sion. On so called moral issues, they’re different but on the core issues, that are in relevance to our country such as civil liberties, their views on the economy and foreign policy they are almost spitting images of each other,” he said. Lenz encourages people to “vote the lesser of two evils”, vote for a third party candidate, or even don’t vote at all. “There is a pretty strong movement out there for people to kind of veto the vote, as a way to show that they aren’t satisfied with the candidates,” said Lenz. “The government on the whole is very corrupt, and vastly out of touch with the American people, but the American people themselves, on the whole are good people. While I detest the government, I think that the people are starting to wake up to the fact that their country’s values are under assault as evidence by the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the massive support with the Ron Paul movement in our generation. Those are all signs to me that we might be on the right track regarding the people speaking up and standing up for their rights,” said Lenz. Lenz will surely have much more to say this semester, and in future semesters as well. While many of Professor Lenz’s issues and views on our American government can be debated, one thing is for certain; the ole Yankee sure has done a damn good job at letting his voice be heard very quickly. 8

The Possibility of a Smoke-Free Campus



Is it a right or a privilege to smoke on a college campus?

grey cloud of smoke glides across your face as you hastily make your way to class. A nearby receptacle emits a steady stream of smoke from a burning cigarette that failed to extinguish. Crushed cigarette butts litter the sidewalks and the parking lots. The frequency of these scenarios is what initiated the September discussion between Vol State President Dr. Jerry Faulkner and the Student Government Association (SGA) over the possibility of implementing a tobacco-free policy on campus. What exactly will this mean for both smokers and nonsmokers? “First of all, in the interest of full disclosure: I am an ex-smoker, and I used to smoke two packs a day, so I do understand what it means to be a smoker. But, I do

By Kayla Cormier Photos by Margaret Blakemore

understand also the health issues that are associated with smoking,” said Faulkner. There are currently 608 colleges and universities in the US that enforce a tobacco-free (no forms of tobacco allowed) policy, with an additional 814 that are smoke-free (other forms of tobacco allowed). Some local schools that have gone tobacco- or smoke-free are Belmont University, Tennessee Tech University, Nashville State Community College, and Middle Tennessee State University, according to Vol State students were asked whether they supported tobaccofree, smoke-free, or neither, and there appeared to be a general consensus among smokers and nonsmokers alike. “The real issue seems to be with the smoke itself, so smoke-free

makes more sense. Tobacco-free is just… overstepping it,” said John Jacques, a current smoker and sophomore at Vol State. “[But] I’m against making it completely smoke-free.” “I can say 100 percent that I do not agree with a tobacco-free campus,” said Chelsea Boike, a Vol State nursing student. “You’re talking about dip and that kind of thing… [and] yes, it’s disgusting if you see it, but they’re not doing anything to anybody else’s health.” Boike, who was a smoker for twelve years, has been a nonsmoker for three months. She concurred that at the most, Vol State should be a smoke-free campus. Belmont University has posted on their website that “[i]t is true that smoking is still a legal product/activity; however, the courts have ruled that the rights of smok-

ers do not supersede the rights of non-smokers to avoid breathing second-hand smoke.” During the meeting with Faulkner and the SGA, it was mentioned that when it rains, smokers have a tendency to gather just outside the doorways to campus buildings, creating a wall of smoke that students are forced to walk through when entering or exiting the building. This has helped perpetuate the idea that smokers don’t respect the health or space of nonsmokers. “I mean, if I wasn’t a smoker, I guess it would bother me that smoke is blowing in my face, so I can understand it. Maybe just move the smoking [receptacles] out of main traffic areas,” said Jacques. “Mind you, I’m a nonsmoker now, but in a smoker’s defense, if you put a disposal receptacle for cigarettes right by the door, where’s the smoker going to stand until they’re done with their cigarette? Right by the door,” said Boike. Thompson expressed concern for people with allergies to smoke who have to navigate the campus uncomfortably. The CDC states that secondhand smoke is just as harmful outside as it is in enclosed areas, and that secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer in people who have never smoked. They state that “[t]here is no riskfree level of contact with secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.” In an effort to compromise with both smokers and nonsmokers, one idea posed at the meeting with Faulkner was that there could be roughly two to four designated smoking pavilions spread out over the campus, appeasing the smokers without affecting the rest of the student body and subjecting them to regular exposure to secondhand

smoke. Faulkner then raised a concern that these smoking areas would mutate into “butt huts,” and would essentially be treated poorly. “They could make a nice-looking smoking area, something that matches the rest of the college’s aesthetic,” Jacques offered. “That way, the smokers themselves will actually, subconsciously probably, want to keep it nicer. Designated smoking pavilions would really solve the problem.” During the SGA meeting, Faulkner assured that this policy would not merely affect the students, but those members of the staff and faculty that smoke, as well. “We will not be hypocritical about it,” he promised. “Now that I’m a nonsmoker, and even before, I’m not against [a smoke-free] campus,” said Kevin Cook, director and assistant professor of criminal justice at Vol State. Cook smoked for nearly fifteen years, and has been a nonsmoker for six months. “In some ways, it’s a good thing if you ban it on the entire campus, because it gets smokers thinking about trying to quit. [But] in some ways, I don’t really agree with an entire ban from campus, either. Find an accommodating space for smokers, somewhere where they could go that’s a little bit farther away from traffic areas, and have it covered and that kind of thing.” While no definitive plan have been put into motion yet, it appears that the campus is indeed leaning in a tobacco- or smoke-free direction. Faulkner said that if it does proceed down that path, he wants to ease the students into it gently through giving notice “well in advance” on the new policy. According to the CDC, 69 percent of all smokers express a desire to quit smoking completely. Unfortunately, many people attempt to quit and find it exceedingly

difficult, which can be defeating. The CDC says this is normal, that tobacco dependence is an addiction that often requires “repeated interventions,” since nicotine has been found to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine, but that effective treatments and resources do exist. “It’s awful,” Jacques said of his experiences with attempting to quit. When asked whether he thought campus cessation clinics or aids would help with the process for some students, he replied, “From my experience, it doesn’t really work that much. It’s more of a temporary fix until you can get home.” One of the goals of the potential tobacco-free policy among colleges and universities is that it will assist current smokers who want to quit, and give them a jumping-off point. While this supposition seems logical, many feel that it will not work. Needless to say, smoking cessation is a stressful experience, but smokers can and do quit. In fact, there are currently more former smokers than current smokers in the US. However, there are also many smokers that don’t feel inclined to quit, who enjoy smoking while being fully educated on and aware of the risks. While it’s important not to put the rights of smokers above the rights and health of nonsmokers, it is also important not to ostracize a smoker because of this habit or addiction. The general consensus among several of Vol State’s smokers and nonsmokers alike is that there should be a few strict designated smoking areas on campus, out of the way of heavy campus traffic areas and doors. If a compromise cannot be met, we at least need to be aware of potential focus issues and irritability that may result from a good portion of the Vol State student body were a tobaccofree or smoke-free policy to be put into effect. 10

YourVote Matters

A look at how one vote can make a difference.


By Brandy Nicholson Photo by Margaret Blakemore

olitics are inescapable. The League of Women Voters in the end if he votes, because the “All of life is politics grew out of the women’s suffrage election won’t be decided by his … Living with another movement. “It was created as a vote. He also admits that if he paid person is a political nestudy organization to help women more attention to politics it would gotiation. Being a part of a family learn how to vote in 1920,” said have a greater effect on his life. is political in that you have to get Bucy, a longtime member. “If he is rational, a citizen will along with each other. You have Bucy explained that the League vote only if his expected gain from to work together, and that’s what of Women Voters really thought voting exceeds the cost of voting. politics really is, isn’t it, people that women could make an imIf each citizen adopts a certain having different opinions. If we pact politically and pushed for an (small) probability of voting, then all thought the same, the world independent woman’s voice when the actual number of citizens votwould be incredibly boring,” said voting. Now they are more focused ing will be just enough to make Dr. Carole Bucy, professor of hison studying and informing people it worth those citizens’ while to tory at Volunteer State Community of political issues. vote,” according to Owen and College. “ In the 1984 edition of the journal Grofman. “People Many Taking a stance like “Oh, I just don’t mess with politics, too don’t underyoung women, stand they’re in dirty, or the world can’t be any better than it is, then that’s like Melissa politics wheth- just giving up,” said Carole Bucy. “Once you give up, you’re Moore, 22 a er they like it or allowing other people to make the decisions for you, be- pre-nursing not,” said Bucy, student at Vol cause the fact of the matter is, the decision has to be made.” State believe regarding the younger genthat their vote eration’s involvement in politics. “Public Choice”, Guillermo Owen is insignificant. “I’m not going to Informed young people like and Bernard Grofman wrote an vote because one vote doesn’t matWill Bursby, a political science article titled, “To vote or not to ter. It won’t make a difference, and major at Vol State, said that politics vote: The paradox of nonvoting.” I have too many other things to is based on money, organizations “One paradox of voting states that, worry about and do that will make and companies’ influences on in general elections, in which many an impact in my day to day life,” politics and whoever pays are who citizens vote, the probability that a she said. benefits. This is disappointing to single voter can affect the outcome “If you don’t vote, who will? see, but we have no alternative and is so small that, in general, citizens And if you criticize things, you there is no changing it. have no rational reasoning for vot- have responsibility to make some Bucy has a retort for such ing. However, if all citizens accept impact, to make things better,” beliefs. “Politics has been corrupt this reasoning, then none will vote, said Bucy. She also said that voting since day one. The world is not and so each vote has a large probis a very basic first step to your perfect,” she said. ability of affecting the outcome. responsibility as a citizen in the To begin to understand the imHence all should vote after all,” wealthiest and freest country in the portance of voting, one must first according Owen and Grofman. world. come to terms with the imperfect “Politics doesn’t interest me,” One vote has mattered in sevnature of the world and politics said Jose Robles, a graphic design eral instances in American history. or as Bucy would say if you don’t major at Vol State. He explained In 1824 there were four major canlike what’s going on, then you that he doesn’t pay attention to didates for president and none of have a responsibility to propose politics because the decisions are them received an electoral majorsomething different and push it already figured out before the vote. ity. The vote was then presented forward, this can be done. Robles said that it won’t matter to the House of Representatives


where John Quincy Adams won over Tennessee’s own, Andrew Jackson by one vote. Andrew Johnson, in 1868 was saved from impeachment by just one vote. Also, in 1960 had Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and Texas received one more vote per precinct it would have put Richard Nixon into office eight years early rather than John F. Kennedy becoming our president. Bertha Mae Hickman, born in 1915, remembers what it was like before women were able to vote. “I was excited,” Hickman said about her first voting experience.

This sort of patriotism and honor comes from her mother and growing up in a generation where many women hadn’t been able to previously vote. Her and her husband didn’t always agree on the same candidates, she said “I had my own opinion, he had his.” For Hickman a belief that voting is a part of your freedom because you don’t have to vote the way someone tells you. Hickman plans on voting this year, but said it’s been harder for her to get around since she’s gotten older. Nevertheless, she says she will try her hardest to get to the

tion everything, but more importantly when we question it, we have a responsibility to do something about it,” said Bucy. Some sense of patriotism like that of Hickman and Bucy’s mother can still be seen today. Even through the generations, young women like Heather Martin, a pre-nursing major at Vol State, and Sarah Veatch, an education major at Vol State said they vote so they can have a say. “It drives me crazy when people put in their input and then don’t vote,” said Martin. For Martin, casting her ballot

She said that she’s never missed an opportunity to vote and she said. “I think it’s a duty for every American person to vote, because if you don’t really vote then you don’t really have any say in the country.… I know people that don’t vote and they get mad [at] whoever gets in there [office] .… If you don’t vote, you really don’t have any say so.” “My opinion may be different from somebody else’s, but at least I get to cast my opinion, I get to cast my vote. I get to cast what I believe in,” said Hickman.

polls, because “one vote counts.” Bucy’s mother, who passed away four years ago, was born in 1916. She was born to a woman who could not vote. “My mother and grandmother, until the day they died, never missed an election,” said Bucy. The Vietnam War era caused a shift in the type of patriotism that can be seen in Bucy’s mother and in Hickman. Bucy talked about how many college-age people began questioning what the government was doing and even lost pride in the government. “Ques-

gives her the right to have a say in political conversations and Bucy would agree. “We’re willing to criticize without taking blame or responsibility, and that’s dangerous,” said Bucy. In Bucy’s opinion, young people, especially women and minorities, “Just do not historically vote. It takes something to inspire them to get out, and a sheer sense of duty does not seem to be enough for young people. Voting has become just one more thing to do,” she said. 12

Finding a job after college, in this economy, can be difficult. Do not let your attire be the reason you were turned down for a particular position. Vol State students may look average when you see them on campus, but outside school, these students are dressed to impress. Whether it’s for fun or taking care of business at the office. Either way, Vol State students definitely have swag! After college, students will be looking for a job. It’s best to learn how to dress to impress now. Start buildingup your wardrobe for interviews in the future. 13

Living with HIV By Summer Powers

Photos by Alan Cockrell

“There’s such a misconception about the disease. People automatically assume that I was either a hooker, a junky or something along those lines to be in the position I’m in.”


ince middle school, we have been learning about sex education and we have heard all the risk and possibilities of catching the virus that causes AIDS. Even though its practically embedded into our brains that a person can live a healthy life with the virus, we still get nervous about it, which you should. Sometimes there is a slight nervous feeling that consumes us after sex. You may fear that you just contracted a disease even with the use of a condom. “There’s no such thing as safe sex. There’s only such a thing as safer sex. There is no such thing as 100percent you’re not going to contract anything in general. The only 100 percent base measure for not contracting any sexually transmitted disease is to not have sex. Period.” These are words spoken from personal experience. Meet Margaret T, 37, a woman who has plenty of experience with HIV. Even though Margaret has had this virus for over 12 years, she has still managed to start a family completely devoid of HIV and has continued to live her life to the fullest. Diagnosed May 16, 2000, Margaret was only 25 when she discovered that she contracted HIV after her first three sexual experiences with the man she was with at the time. Margaret discovered she had HIV after a family trip in which she suddenly became extremely ill. Her family took her to the doctor who ran several tests on her. Less than nine months from when she first started becoming sexually active, she went to the hospital where the doctors did a spinal tap on her and found out she had viral meningitis. Within the next three months, they found out she was HIV positive.

“There’s no such thing as safe sex. There’s only such a thing as safer sex.” 14

If you have had sex, you may want to get tested for HIV, even if it is just to see where your HIV status stands. The legal age for getting an HIV test without parental consent is 13. It is advised, to get tested for HIV before you begin to have sex.

“I’m going to die. I didn’t want to go to sleep because I knew I’d die,” said Margaret When it came to Margaret’s dating life, she said that she never hid the fact that she had HIV., either the guys were cool with it or they were not. She always tried to tell them as quickly as she could and sometimes, they decided to just be friends after hearing that. This also had negative connotations in her social life as people can easily misjudge in our culture. “There’s such a misconception about the disease. People automatically assume that I was

afterward. “My husband was supportive right off the bat.” said Margaret. Although Margaret contracted the virus, her husband has not. Men contract HIV less easily than women. After marriage, he made the conscious decision to have unprotected sex with her in order to start a family. They were successful but even more successful at preventing their son from contracting the virus. From the start of her pregnancy, Margaret had to take daily injections of blood thinners in order for her son to be born healthy. Other

diagnosed, she had just two medications that cost $1,500 a month. “Now I’m on three pills once a day and it’s approximately $2200 a month. HIV is the only disease that has a federally funded program that is just for the person with the virus,” said Margaret. This program started in efforts to help people with HIV live healthy, productive and long lives without the fear of being ridiculed or financial ruin. As long as she doesn’t make $53,000 a year, Margaret qualifies for a secondary insurance assistance which helps pay for her doctor’s visits, co-pays,

“The first couple of days are going to be difficult, but you have to make sure you take care of yourself, immediately contact a doctor and get tested and they’ll make sure to do a couple more tests on you to make sure it’s a true positive.” either a hooker, a junky or something along those lines to be in the position I’m in. And when I tell someone I didn’t have sex until I was 25 and contracted the virus within 9 months… and the reason why I was even putting myself out there in this capacity was that I had fallen in love with someone and that didn’t work out. I weighed 340 pounds and I didn’t think anyone would want me. My self-esteem was just about as low as it could be and I didn’t care about who, what, where, when, how. As long as I was physically and emotionally satisfied, I didn’t care. I lowered my guard and my standards because I felt like no one would ever love me that way. I now realize that’s not a low, it’s a temporary fix. I had to do a lot of soul searching,” said Margaret. After some time, Margaret met someone who was able to accept her as she was, even with HIV. She told her boyfriend about her HIV after two weeks and their relationship continued to flourish as he accepted her for who she was. They ended up getting married shortly 17

precautions were also taken so the virus would not be passed on. “I was obviously not able to breast-feed because babies are just the way they are, they can’t process the milk as easily and actually there are traces of the virus in the breast milk,” said Margaret. Breast milk is just one of the ways HIV can be passed (semen, vaginal fluids and blood are the other ways). After Margaret’s son was born, he had to have several blood draws for the first year. At 15 months, he had his final blood draw in which he was announced HIV negative. One of the many unfortunate parts of having HIV is the amount of money that has to be spent on medications. Denied of commercial insurance because of her diagnoses, Margaret became eligible for TennCare. TennCare is Tennessee’s Medicaid program, run by the state of Tennessee with federal government oversight. When she got a job at Sprint, she was finally able to get her own insurance. Currently, Margaret is on Blue Cross Blue Shield. When she was first

deductible and other costs associated with the disease. The federal government will pick up the difference of her fees. Once she begins to make more than $53,000 she will have to pay for all her medicines on her own every month. “At that point, I won’t be eligible for that program. So all the co-pays and the deductibles will be coming out of my pocket and that’s kind of scary because I realize I how much money I am given every month. I get $1825 a month to spend on that. I don’t get it personally. It goes through Nashville insurance programs for Middle Tennessee,” said Margaret. Margaret was on an anti-retro viral and anti- protein inhibitor. These medications make cells fit together, like puzzle pieces. “If the puzzle is two curved spots and it has to fit between two empty spots, it makes one of the cells flat. So the puzzle pieces are not going to fit. The medication is making it where the cells aren’t able to reduplicate at the rate they would if you weren’t on medication. For instance, within three

months of me being on this medication, my viral load went from 650,000 parts per million in a milliliter of blood down to less than 48. That is one of the most frustrating things for anyone living with the virus. I know someone who has 25 P-cells, but he has an undetectable viral load. This means he is extremely compromised. The medicines are doing what their supposed to do, but the man is on his last leg,” said Margaret. If Margaret remains faithful about taking her medicine, she can prevent herself from getting AIDS, although, there is a chance her HIV could turn into AIDS. “I could get pneumonia. If, while I’m sick, my blood cells go below 200, then I’ll have it. I can’t go back once I get AIDS,” said Margaret. Margaret, however, is very determined to stay healthy and not let her HIV affect her outcome for the future. “I realized that it wasn’t the death sentence everyone made it out to be. A lot of my girlfriends say I’m going to outlive them because I’m so healthy. You have to decide how it’s going to affect you and move on from that point forward. It’s going to be different for every person,” said Margaret. Margaret is very enthusiastic on having a happy and successful life even with HIV and determined not to let it get her down. “It’s not as bad as you think. The most difficult thing for me is that it hasn’t been about medicine and doctors and blood draws. The worst part for me was the social aspect. I’m always going to have to broach that subject. I still hate it,

but I learned how to have a love/ hate relationship with it. It’s all about what you make it. There are days that I feel are crap and I want to blame it on HIV, but I know very well, it has nothing to do with that. It’s all about how you make it. You can have a pity party or you can put on your big girl panties and do what you can do. I’m not one to lie down. It’s just not me,” she said. Though cursed with this virus, Margaret has been able to see some positive aspects that have risen out her situation. “I’ve been extremely blessed. I feel that the reason I’ve done so well with medication and it working for a long time is because it was detected so quickly. A lot of people can go for years without knowing they are infected with HIV. It’s important that when HIV is discovered, that people take care of themselves properly,” said Margaret. Margaret offered advice for student struggling with the disease. “You can’t take it lightly if you’re ever put in that arena. The first couple of days are going to be difficult, but you have to make sure you take care of yourself, immediately contact a doctor and get tested and they’ll make sure to do a couple more tests on you to make sure it’s a true positive. They will be able to find out immediately if some medicines will work and if some will not. This is important because if your body rejects one type of medicine within a certain selection, then your body will reject all other medicines in that selection,” said Margaret. When she went to her current doctor, the doctor was amused with Margaret and her commitment on taking her medicines. Margaret said her doctor responded with, “I just don’t understand. I don’t have patients like you. You take your medicine when

you’re supposed to. Yeah you’re not my patient.” Though humorous, Margaret’s doctor made a valid point through this statement; when someone who has HIV takes their medicines, and takes it faithfully every day and on time, that is a huge step and help in staying healthy. If those who have HIV take their medicines, they can prevent future complications and problems (namely AIDS). HIV is not a reason to give up in life. One thing that changed Margaret’s perspective on life was telling herself after a few years of having HIV, “You know what Margaret, this is your dealing, but you have the options to sit in your room, eat Bonbons, watch Law and Order re-runs, get fat and probably die or you can get up off your ass, get out there, talk to people, make them aware, beg them not to be in your shoes and…. I’m here.” Margaret has been counseling girls ever since then, helping them through tough spots with guy and sex problems. Even though she has had every reason to stay down and keep to herself, Margaret has risen to the occasion and has chosen to help others get through their problems, especially those who are just beginning the journey of a life with HIV. If you have had sex, you may want to get tested for HIV, even if it is just to see where your HIV status stands. The legal age for getting an HIV test without parental consent is 13. It is advised, however, to get tested for HIV before you begin to have sex.


Outlawed Imagination A psychedelic look into the oppression of religious rights.

By Cameron Justice

“It is experience only which gives authority to human testimony; and it is the same experience which assures us the laws of nature.”


revival of sorts is currently taking place in the United States. A return to ancient American spiritual practices is on the rise in popularity from coast to coast, and is even spreading across the pond to Europe and beyond. Long before the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria first saw the sands of New World beaches, a deep relationship thrived between the natives of the Americas and their surrounding homeland. They had mastered the botanical dimensions of their environment, and they were so in-tune with the universe that many dedicated their lives to observing and learning from the heavens and surrounding plant life. Their community viewed the most knowledgeable natives, in the fields of medicine and divine communication, as spiritual leaders. University of California at Berkeley graduate Terence McKenna spent years in the Amazon rainforest, studying shamans and their methodology. She has written several books on the subject. “Shamanism is not some obscure concern of cultural anthropologists. Shamanism is how religion was practiced for its first million years. Up until about 12,000 years ago, there was no other form of religion on this planet, and the practice of shamanic tech-


niques was how people attained some kind of access to the sacred,” said McKenna, in a lecture on shamanism. McKenna believes that natives in the Americas had reached a healthy relationship with their environment and community through the teachings of local shamans. “Shamanism is use of the archaic techniques of ecstasy that were developed independent of any religious philosophy-the empirically validated, experientially operable techniques that produce ecstasy,” according to McKenna’s book, “The Archaic Revival.” “Ecstasy is the contemplation of wholeness. That’s why when you experience ecstasy, when you contemplate wholeness, you come down remade in terms of the political and social arena because you have seen the larger picture.” Even with great advancements in fields of astronomy, time-keeping and holistic medicine, the natives to North and South America were still considered “savage” by the arriving Christian armies from Europe. Traditional spiritual views of the natives were undermined; the presence of non-Christianity was met with violence, and generally ended in the murder of less-confrontational natives.

Virtually no information remains of traditional and better-known hallucinogens. spirituality in the Americas, but fortunately, the “To me, DMT is like a mushroom trip condensed enthusiastic extermination of all traditional religious into a five-minute period, because it metabolizes in a beliefs was not destroyed, and a few shining examples better way. It just hits you instantly and it takes you survived through the ages. there and you’re not left uncomfortable in any way,” Native Americans viewed spirituality much differ- Demetrious said. ently than the invading Europeans; instead of rely“LSD seems more introspective, and DMT seems ing solely on ancient texts to discover the meaning more external and more explorative. You can go to of life and the afterlife, the natives relied on direct more spaces and places and dimensions with DMT experience gained from manipulation of the plant life than you ever could on LSD. Even if you take 3000 around them. micrograms of acid and lay in a bed for 12 hours, it’s Local shamans were well aware of the healing not going to do what DMT does for you in 12 mincapabilities of many plants. Some plants were used to utes,” he continued. heal the physically sick, and others were used to heal Even though the importance of psilocybin mushthe mentally or spiritually sick. To heal the spiritually rooms and peyote to traditional American spiritualsick, shamans were apt to use plants like stropharia ity cannot be understated, the great driving force in cubensis to gain knowledge of extra-worldly subjects. shamanic knowledge and spirituality has been the “In the case of MeDMT-rich substances. soamerican mushroom “The First Amendment is very important, and “There is abundant use, an ancient shamanic people’s First Amendment rights are stripped archeological evidence, religion—of which we in the form of pottery know next to nothing— away every day, whether it is due to drugs or vessels, anthropomorfree speech being banned,” said Micah Wilson. phic figurines, snuffing confronted a Spanish Catholicism whose relatrays and tubes, etc., that tively advanced technology meant complete subjugaa plant hallucinogen use was well established in the tion of the people, complete breakdown of the ancient Ecuadorian Amazon by 1500 – 2000 BCE,” said Dengnosis. Practitioners of the mushroom cult were nis McKenna, in “Ayahuasca: an Ethnopharmacologic burned as heretics. The use of the mushroom retreatHistory.” ed to the remote mountainous peripheries of Spanish DMT is a neurotransmitter found in natural human Mexico,” according to McKenna’s book, “Psilocybin: body chemistry, but it is also found in many plants The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide native to the Amazon. Evidence shows that shamans There, in the mountains of southern Mexico, the have been using DMT for an extended period of time, mushroom culture lived in seclusion until R. Gordon and by 2012, their practice of traveling to the spirit Wasson, vice president of JP Morgan and a mushroom world had been remastered. enthusiast, discovered a people in Oaxaca, Mexico, A new generation of psychonauts has picked up who used mushrooms in religious ceremonies. Once the torch of mind exploration left behind by tradiWasson felt the mushroom experience for himself, he tional shamans and they are attempting to explain its sent samples of the mushrooms to the Swiss scientist transformative powers of such explorations. Albert Hoffman to isolate the chemical factor for this “DMT has been used traditionally by shamans for unusual mushroom intoxication. The same Albert crossing over into the divine realm and for spiritual Hoffman who first synthesized LSD-25 over a decade healing,” said Demetrious. earlier was now the first person to isolate psilocybin “DMT is the holy grail, because it directly transand psilocin as the active neurotransmitters in the forms you into the perfect fulfillment of an existential newly-discovered magic mushrooms. being,” Demetrious said. LSD-25, branded on the streets as acid. Acid, howShamans, for centuries, have claimed to have the ever, is not one of the shamanic plant extracts that has ability to travel to spirit worlds through the mystical been entrusted with thousands of years of spiritual powers granted via DMT compounds. Modern shaguidance in the Americas. There are three naturallymans make the same claim, but Demetrious speaks of occurring plant psychoactives that can be credited many other capacities of DMT. with that title, and those are psilocybin “magic” “A full breakthrough dose is like being thrown into mushrooms, DMT-rich compounds such as ayahuasca an objective space where there is no relativity of time and yopo snuffs and peyote cacti. or of the self. You can kind of forget who you are in Avid DMT user and proclaimed shaman Kalvin an ego-death breakthrough experience,” said DemeDemetrious explains some differences between DMT trious. 20

“It throws you into a space where contact with spirits is very likely. You cannot only be in that space, but you can also cross into other dimensions, or Godheads, as well,” said Demetrious. He also explained that, “Godheads are certain archetypal religious places within the conscious space.” In an eerily similar manner, modern educated Americans are having comparable experiences to uncivilized jungle people from history. These shamans, whom Demetrious calls “magical people,” have claimed to speak to their ancestors and now our peers are making the same claim. “There are some elfey fairylike entities and there are definitely some humanlike spirits in the DMTverse,” says Demetrious. “Different entities communicate in different ways. Some will point at you and show you yourself in a deeply reflective type of mirror or some will dance and playfully make faces at you,” said Demetrious. “Once you do DMT you take in what it is and you know all and within a moment, just a flash. You take on what the spirit knows,” declares Demetrious. Perhaps the notion of speaking to the dead, or the not-yet-born, and traveling to alternate-dimensional spaces is not as absurd as once assumed. Thousands of people through time and history have made this claim, and now some Volunteer State Community College students are doing the same. “It becomes clearly obvious when you smoke DMT that you have been made privy to a part of the universe that people are not ordinarily able to see,” said Vol State student Micah Wilson. In a recent shamanic voyage, Wilson decided to give himself over to the universe under the guidance of DMT, his first experience with the compound. “It’s a very benign experience that’s like being bear-hugged by the universe, as it were. DMT enveloped everything about me, and it did it on a psychological level too, not just on a physical level,” Wilson said. “You do physically feel that you’re there, but in your mind’s eye, you are there, and that is a more powerful force. Much more powerful than the body,” Wilson continued. Lying completely still on their bed and with closed eyes, some users of DMT say they leave the earthly body behind and their spirit goes into another place entirely. “The feeling of doing DMT is as though one had been struck by noetic lightning. The ordinary world is almost instantaneously replaced, not only with a hallucination, but a hallucination whose alien character is its utter alienness. Nothing in this world can prepare one for the impressions that fill your mind when 21

you enter the DMT sensorium,” said McKenna, in a lecture on DMT. The overall impression that many DMT users radiate is their respect for the substance and the holy experience it contains. McKenna, Demetrious and Wilson are three fine examples of users who give this impression. “It is a sacred thing to most people who do it, and it’s not to be taken lightly. It is the key to unlocking your inner self,” said Demetrious. “If people would respect DMT the way it needs to be respected, like the natives do in the Amazon, then it would bring a complete cultural uplifting towards spiritual progression. It would essentially evolve people,” Demetrious exclaimed. “I would say it’s a spiritual substance, because when you take it, you have no choice. Once you do it, it becomes a spiritual experience whether or not that is the original idea you have going into it,” said Wilson, on the subject of DMT intermediated spirituality. A large number of reported DMT experiences have shown strong connections to spirituality. Many of those who have felt the experience firsthand are upset about its current legal status, including both Demetrious and Wilson. “The only legitimate religious experiences I’ve ever had have been through a shamanic hallucinogenic journey,” said Demetrious. Demetrious also added that the notion of criminalizing anything found naturally within the human body, or nature in general, is quite ridiculous. Wilson seems to suggest that his right to experience alternate realities through DMT is already protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. “The First Amendment is very important, and people’s First Amendment rights are stripped away every day, whether it is due to drugs or free speech being banned,” said Wilson. “The use of drugs could be termed as expression. I view the human body as art. The human body being

in its most natural state, DMT, or in a state of higher recognition of planes of reality that you otherwise wouldn’t be aware of, is a great expression of true inner thought as art, just in its own way,” Wilson explained. Wilson’s view of someone doing psychoactive substances in an attempt to better express themselves correlates to an opinion Terence McKenna and Dennis McKenna make in their book, “The Invisible Landscape: Mind Hallucinogens and the I Ching.” “Naturally, the modern shaman will have to search for means of fulfilling his psychopompic functions, which are different from the relatively straightforward ritualistic techniques of his predecessor. One of the most potentially effective of such means lies in his artistic and poetic capacities; the soul of modern humanity is still open to influence by aesthetic means. Evidence of modern shamanism is predominating in the artistic world, and many who profess benefits of DMT are considered artists. The visual artist Alex Grey and the band Tool are some of the best examples of modern artists that take inspiration from DMT visions. “This is a holy, sacred thing, and nobody should be able to take that away from the people. This is people’s legitimate religious experience where one can really progress and evolve themselves and become a better person,” is what Demetrious had to say about DMT’s legal status. Believing that a mind-altering plant could catalyze an authentic spiritual experience might be a radical thought for the conservative thinker. It certainly opposes opinions enforced by federally-controlled propaganda seen on television, but Vol State’s new political science professor Dr. Michael Lenz believes plant use in religious ceremonies could be Constitutionally acceptable. “If they can make a case that DMT or that any other hallucinogen is part of their religion I would think that under the First Amendment they would have every single right to do it,” said Lenz. Lenz even mentioned a few cases where legal precedence for the right to use religious plants has already been made. “Many of the Native American societies that have been given permission to use Peyote made their case to do so under the First Amendment. I don’t see why others couldn’t theoretically make that same case,” Lenz explained. Lenz also mentioned other cases, one being that of a Rastafarian whose religious practice was quelled by federal officers. “In New Hampshire, there was a very similar case where an otherwise law-abiding, peaceful citizen cultivated plants of marijuana for his religion, Rastafarianism. The DEA, who was flying helicopters

overhead, found his plants and brought him up on felony charges of cultivation. “A jury in New Hampshire used the power of jury nullification, which essentially means their right to strike down a law no matter whether or not a defendant was found guilty by the prosecution. The jury ruled that the man was innocent because he was protected under the First Amendment as a Rastafarian,” Lenz continued. “It seems to me that if said religion, being spiritual and organized, can prove that a drug is part of their rituals, or is an important connection to the aspect of their religion, it would be safely protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution; regardless of whether or not it runs against federal or state statutes,” Lenz said. Why, then, are these plants that are claimed to be used as holy sacraments kept illegal? Dr. Lenz gives one explanation as to why. “I think one reason why some plants are kept illegal is because of the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. With pot, for example, the pharmaceutical industry lobbied extensively to keep the drug illegal even though it has been proven scientifically in trials to have medicinal benefits.” Lenz continued to say that, “other special interest groups have fought hard to keep pot illegal as well. I would argue that a lot of these drugs are kept illegal because of special interest groups. “Also, many of these types of drugs, certainly including DMT, have been linked to ulterior realities, and the government fears outside-of-the-box thinking. Even going back all the way to the 1960s and 1970s, hallucinogens have been associated with an anti-authoritarian movement,” he said Censoring the ability of free thought by the people seems like a rather paranoid approach for any government to take. The United States government may have done that very thing in the 1960’s and carried the tradition into the new millennium. “After experimenting with acid, the feds determined that it actually led people to question and challenge formal role structure laid down by the government. That was one of the major reasons for criminalizing it,” Lenz said. “There are some states that are starting to wake up to these facts. Even if the feds don’t want to recognize the validity of usage and cultivation of some drugs, the states will use their right to the Tenth Amendment,” said Lenz. Lenz also mentioned the differences between illegal drugs and currently-legal drugs like alcohol and prescription pharmaceuticals. “If drugs are being used, particularly for religious practices such as cases of DMT or cannabis for Rasta22

farians, it is absolutely hypocritical that alcohol is legally accepted. Particularly when the other drugs are being used for religious First Amendment purposes and alcohol is not,” said Lenz. As Lenz also points out, the dangers found in doing alcohol and tobacco are much greater than the mind altering-hallucinogens. “On top of that, there is another element where we get into some type of arbitrary labeling system of what drugs are harmful and what drugs aren’t. NIH studies have proven time and time again that alcohol has to be one of the most destructive drugs for the human body. The legal status of tobacco also seems highly hypocritical to me, because it is much more destructive than marijuana,” said Lenz. “The fact is that there are legalized pharmaceutical drugs recognized by the government like prescription morphine, oxycodone, Percocets that are proven to be highly addictive,” Lenz continued. A strong impression has been given that the spirit drugs remain illegal with no regard to people’s belief that they are religious. This is an injustice to those who believe their right to experience them is granted in the Bill of Rights. “The Bill of Rights is very important to me, because it declares on paper what is already part of human nature, and that is that we are free as a species. Our rights are not endowed by the government, and our rights are not a privilege. Our rights are endowed to us through our creation,” said Wilson. Others, like Demetrious, are worried about what might happen if ancient spirit plants are kept illegal. “If they keep DMT illegal, all we are left with is alcohol to get sick and die from, and caffeine to make us work harder,” Demetrious said. 23

Demetrious also argues that when a great mass of people steps away from the dark influences of television and alcohol and into the light of DMT, they not only better themselves but their entire community. “If just a few people are doing DMT, they are helping to evolve the planet and to get new ideas out there, but if everyone’s doing it then we are all contributing to a better, higher energy. A better way to conduct our lives and treat our families,” said Demetrious. Demetrious said that because DMT is produced naturally by the pineal gland of the human brain, it is not possible to overdose from, nor is it addictive. “Even the idea of DMT being addictive is ridiculous, because it’s not something you want to do all the time. You save it for a special time for you and your spiritual progression,” said Demetrious. “It is not a party drug and it’s not even like smoking pot. I can smoke pot all the time, but I couldn’t smoke DMT all the time, or even every day,” Demetrious continued. This responsible approach towards DMT use reflects a safe tradition, yet this totally-harmless substance is kept illegal for reasons bewildering to the public. The legendary Vol State history professor Dr. Robert Ruff taught his students to question everything. He demanded critical thinking and held intricate thought processes high above any memorization of assorted facts. Dr. Ruff once asked a class to analyze a short statement made by the 18th century philosopher David Hume. The philosophical quote fantastically encapsulates the idea behind people’s desire to inhale DMT vapor, and that is a desire for greater life experiences.

The Settler

We put out every Tuesday!

The Politics of Would voter turn out be larger if weed was on the ballot?

Cannabis By Hunter Conner



ithin in the last few years, cannabis has made its way into our society. More and more states have gone against the federal government and allowed it for medicinal use. California alone reportedly has more dispensaries than it has Starbucks. Cannabis has slowly become just another part of our culture, leading many Americans, despite their various opinions on the plant, to accept it and allow its legalization. Whether it be for strict medicinal purposes only, or accessibility to all. Jimmy Bowers, a college student at Tennessee Tech University (TTU) is one of those people. Despite claiming to not be a cannabis user, Bowers surprisingly answered yes when asked if the drug should be legalized. “I think we should tax it and try to help out with our economy,” Bowers said. Bowers said that marijuana legalization would perhaps maybe even discourage use. “I think if we treat it like alcohol, and make it available at the age of 21, people won’t feel the need to use it. I also think studies have shown that people, who drink before 21, drink less when they can drink freely. It probably would have the same effect on weed,” said Bowers “Decriminalization definitely will free up our jails, and allow police to focus on larger issues,” said Julian Hicks, who also studies at TTU.

When asked if marijuana would see legalization in the near future, Hicks had this to say. “I honestly think it will be available within 10 years,” said Hicks. He also believed the reason that cannabis has yet to be accepted is primarily due to an age difference among voters.

“I advocate legalizing marijuana. Control it, regulate it, and tax it.” - Gary Johnson, Libertarian Presidential candidate. “There is a big generation gap that is dividing our country. Younger people are more openminded today than the older people in society,” he said. “Younger people are typically more liberal minded than the older people in the country. They have yet to go through the things that we older people have experienced,” said Larry Maddin who is 38 and on the opposite side of the generation gap than Hicks, who is 19. Maddin believes that cannabis should not be legalized. He has worked in various management positions, where he’s seen marijuana impact people negatively in the work force. “I think marijuana is a gate way for harder drugs and needs to stay away from our kids completely. Drugs are serious and could ruin an athletic career, and more importantly life in the classroom,” he said.

Even though Maddin is opposed cannabis, he does support it’s use for medical reasons. “It probably could help people with serious medical conditions, and could serve as a safe alternative to other drugs out there,”Maddin said. However, he did not completely agree with the method that the drug was being handled in states that have already legalized cannabis for medicinal use. “I think it is way too easy to get a hold of. It seems like anybody can get it, which is not right.” Maddin said. Assistant General Attorney over Tennessee’s Wilson, Trousdale, Jackson, and Monroe counties, Jimmy Lea, talked about how he had seen the dangers of the abuse first hand throughout his career. “I have seen people in trouble with cannabis at a young age, only later to be back in trouble for harder drugs,” said Lea. He also talked about states like Colorado that have regulated cannabis use. He said although that marijuana may be bought and sold under a select states law, people who are doing so are still violating federal law and still subject to punishment. “This is a way for states to exercise their individualism,” said Lea. However he did hope to see the federal and state governments to get on the same page Small minorities of politicians among all parties also are getting behind the idea of legalization, giv-

ing cannabis consumers hope that they can no longer be held under the law for their habitual use. Libertarian Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson in the 2012 election is one of those politicians. “I advocate legalizing marijuana. Control it, regulate it, and tax it. It will never be legal for kids to smoke pot or buy pot and it will never be legal to do harm to others,” said Johnson former republican Governor of New Mexico in a 2011 Fox News campaign debate. Perhaps the most notable advocate is Congressman Ron Paul. Paul failed in his quest to become the Republican Party’s nominee in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, building his campaign on the platform of criticizing the U.S. foreign and domestic policies as well as the War on Drugs. While Paul claims to not smoke cannabis himself, he feels as though deciding on legality should be up to the state government rather than the federal government. “I think the federal government should stay out of personal habits,” said Paul during a campaign interview with ABC. “The federal government comes in and puts cannabis consumers in jail who are sick and have never committed a violent crime. That’s how absurd the War on Drugs has become,” said Paul. It is interesting to note that according to, Ron Paul garnered the most of his supporters in his 2008 effort for presidential nomination in the 1824 ages demographic. Even though the drug is gaining traction with the more radical politicians, it is hardly being touched by the more popular politicians. Both President Barack Obama and Republican Nominee Mitt Romney each drew a hard line on marijuana. Despite President Obama’s advocating of the decriminalization of cannabis in as early

as 2004, when he took office it was a different story. In 2009 alone, more than 100 marijuana dispensaries were raided by the DEA under his administration. This left many cannabis users crying foul declaring him a flip flopper. This led the President to reign back on the raids during his tenure. Republican Nominee Romney is strongly opposed to any type of marijuana reform in the near future. “I believe marijuana should not be illegal in our country. It is the pathway to drug usage by our society, which is a great scourge -which is one of the great causes of crime in our cities, and I believe we are at a state where, of course, we are very concerned about people who are suffering, and there are various means of providing pain management,” said Romney in his 2007 speech to students at St. Anselm Institute of Politics in Manchester. It is quite intriguing that most of the major players in politics have somewhat steered clear of the decimalization of cannabis, while the novelty candidates like Johnson and Paul are the most supportive. Do Obama and Romney feel as though there is no warrant in the drugs legalization? Or is it because they are scared of losing voters who are against it? Volunteer State Community College student Benjamin Vincent thinks so. “It is a very touchy subject and I think politicians want to keep as much controversy out of their campaign as possible,” Vincent said. “I really don’t know why it’s such a big deal for Washington. I don’t smoke, but if people want to,

let them. Just tax it,” he continued. President of the Tennessee Narcotics Association, Sgt. Gene Donegan had a very different opinion about the legalization of marijuana. “It would be disheartening and major mistake,” Donegan said. “One marijuana cigarette is equivalent to five tobacco cigarettes,” he said. “There is so much that growers can hide,” he said. Donegan said that marijuana growing has changed rapidly over the past few years. According to Donegan, hydroponic growing has made harvesting cannabis easier and more accessible than it has been in the past. He feels as though this has led to the decline of larger drug dealers and the appearance of more small scale operations by growers who are not always the most experienced. The green leafy substance that is cannabis still lies in the gray. Although not as prevalent in the media as other social issues such as gay-marriage and abortion, it is just as controversial. Americans are left asking with many questions regarding the plant. Perhaps those questions will all be answered one day, but for now, any Tennessee resident hoping to see a medicinal dispensary arrive in their hometown, should not hold their breath.


Lower ninth ward of New Orleans, two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Poverty in America By Chanel Alford


hile what is considered impoverished differs from country to country, the poverty threshold for a family of four with two children under the age of 18 years old is $22, 811, according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau. The issue continues to expand while little to no direct attention is paid to it by those in charge. As a key issue that affects everyone, poverty is not usually discussed in presidential politics. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama did not address it in their convention speeches, even as debate concerning the farm bill, which in part controls SNAP (food stamp) spending, dominated Congress before the summer recess. For many, poverty affects an individual either through food insecurity, unstable housing conditions, or insufficient income. Americans may still be wondering, “Why do these things matter?” For the millions of Ameri-


Photos by Margaret Blakemore

can struggling with getting out of poverty, it matters because it affects everyone. Food insecurity is a lacking knowledge of where an individual’s next meal will come from, according to information from the anti-hunger charity Feeding America. As most individuals pay taxes, many Americans contribute to anti-poverty programs in the U.S.. One program in particular had roots in legislation designed to improve the life of those Americans living in poverty. When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, he stated that it was the intent of the legislation to provide poor Americans with the service that he felt was demanded of Congress by the constitution. “The Congress is charged by the Constitution ‘to provide ... for the general welfare of the United States,’” said Johnson, in 1964 while signing the legislation.

This legislation led to the Food Stamp Act of 1964, which sought to provide food and nutrition assistance to American families in the greatest need. Unfortunately, for many Americans today, the program enables them to get by but makes achieving nutrition difficult. For Rucha Gadre, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank’s SNAP outreach coordinator in N.J., trying to live on a food stamp budget was a formidable task. In an article for, she recounted her experience with an experiment known as the food stamp challenge, where individuals try to live off of the average weekly food budget for a food stamp recipient. “My stab at living on a food stamp (SNAP) budget makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to purchase all the food I need for healthy living. SNAP benefits are hardly sufficient. Nonetheless, for the more than 49 million Americans who participate

in SNAP... This ‘supplement’ to that is not true....I have been at For individuals trying to make their food budget makes the difthe Nashville Rescue Mission for a life for their families and provide ference between having food on almost three Christmases. My first for themselves, many low-wage the table and going without meals. Christmas here, we saw 32 famijobs are not sufficient to achieve For some, it’s the only way they lies of women and children and financial stability. can purchase nutritious food....To the second Christmas, we saw 65 “About 97.3 million Americans those who question the value of families. We are seeing a growing fall into a low-income category, the SNAP program, I say: Think number of women and children commonly defined as those earntwice, or better yet, try living on a who are sleeping on the street. We ing between 100 and 199 percent food stamp budget,” she said. provide 300,000 [families with] of the poverty level, based on a Roger Bogle, Chief Develsafe shelter every year,” said Bogle. new supplemental measure by the opment Officer for the Nashville The picture of homelessness is Census Bureau that is designed to Rescue Mission, agreed that hunbecoming increasingly younger provide a fuller picture of povger is an issue that permeates all and feminine in many aspects of erty,” according to a report by CBS American regions. our society, and when it comes to News. “Hunger assistance is of treyoung adult (ages 18-24) homelessFor many families in America, mendous after paying for need all across housing which “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to can sometimes America. At the the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we consume upRescue Mission, we provide over provide enough for those who have too little.” - President wards of a third 700,000 meals a of a family’s inFranklin Delano Roosevelt year to individucome, according als who need to CBS, it is hard food assistance. Providing meals ness, the facilities are simply not to make ends meet. is such a need. Yes, we believe that there. With food prices projected to the economy plays a role but some A search of facilities in the increase, from the drought that times people make bad decisions Tennessee region that aimed to ravaged America in the summer and need assistance,” said Bogle. provide homelessness assistance months, according to CNN; fuel Poverty exists in realms outside to young adults resulted in zero prices unstable, as situations in the of hunger, as well. results. Middle East go from bad to worse; “A homeless person is an indi“Without a place to go, homeand healthcare costs reaching unatvidual without permanent housing lessness places a burden on the tainable ranges, incomes for the who may live on the streets; stay government and the problem is not impoverished are being decimated. in a shelter, mission, single room just our numbers. You can mulAmerica has taken steps to occupancy facilities, abandoned tiply that by all the metropolitan improve the situation. While no building or vehicle; or in any counties across the nation, and solution seems to be able to fully other unstable or non-permanent you will see many people who eradicate the problem of poverty situation,” according to the Public are without homes. Homelessness in America, programs like SNAP, Health Services Act. creates health issues for the indiSection 8 (housing assistance) and Bogle stated that as many as viduals and places a burden on the Pell Grants (educational assistance) 29,000 people in the Nashville area government and society. For some all seek to help Americans trying are homeless on any given night, people, they were born homeless. to free themselves from the grip according to information obtained That is the hand they were dealt,” of poverty. For some influential from the Coalition on Homelesssaid Bogle. people in this country, helping the ness. In a population of 600,000, at Income has a major role in poor is a duty that Americans must least according to the last census who is considered impoverished. never relinquish, as it is how histaken for the Nashville metropoliAn individual working for $8 an tory will judge our nation. tan area, that is close to 5 percent hour would need to work for over of the population. one hour to afford a carton of eggs, “When people hear the word a gallon of milk, a loaf of white ‘homeless,’ they have this picture bread, and one pound of chicken, in their head of a scruffy, bearded according to information obtained man, maybe an alcoholic, but from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 28

Credits and Special Thanks Writers Shaee Flatt Chanel Alford Kayla Cormier Hunter Conner Helen McBride Summer Powers Cameron Justice Brandy Nichloson

Photographers Alan Cockrell Melissa Kepley Cameron Justice

Graphic Design and Layout Margaret Blakemore

Copy Editors Chanel Alford Adam Proctor

Editor Margaret Blakemore

Special Thanks Michael Lenz, Carole Bucy, Alan Cockrell, Chanel Alford, Helen McBride, Kayla Cormier, Sarah Anderson, Preston Torsak, Erin Clough, Clay Scott, Ashley Fisher, PBS, and all sources and commentators. 29

Adam Proctor

Kayla Cormier

Melissa Kepley

Summer Powers

Hunter Conner

Cameron Justice

Chanel Alford

Helen McBride

Brandy Nicholson The Pioneer 100359-12 Volunteer State Community College is an AA/EEO employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its program and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Kenny E. Yarbrough, Th.D., Director, Student Life & Diversity Initiatives 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN 37066 615-230-3441 Š 2012 The Pioneer. All rights reserved.

Alan Cockrell 30


PIONEER Volunteer State Community College’s Student Magazine Fall 2012

The Pioneer