This isn’t an article about gas prices, not really. It’s about taking our collective eye off the ball. It’s, regrettably, about forgetting.
As Denverites, we’re lucky to have the Democratic National Convention in town. Not because our city is in the national spotlight or because it will boost the local economy. Not because we might catch a glimpse of a celebrity, but because we have the opportunity to be reminded firsthand of the importance of this election.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see true heroes participating in democracy. You won’t see this on television, folks. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War marched to the front gate of the DNC yesterday and requested entrance so that their voices could be heard.
It wasn’t easy for them. But it was clear from their actions that it was out of a sense of obligation to their “brothers and sisters” in uniform that they stood there in protest of a war that took the lives of so many of their friends. Tearful embraces helped them through their task as painful memories of war were brought to the forefront of their minds. Michael Franti sings powerful songs about the Iraq war. In one song, he says the line, “Even though I’m far from home, I’m not alone.” These soldiers were not alone last night and their fellow soldiers still fighting were sent a message from Denver last night that they are not alone, either.
They were joined by hundreds of supporters who had attended a free concert earlier in the day to support the end of the Iraq war.
And by a few hundred para-military police that were sent to ensure that their voices were kept to a dull roar. But the protesters stood in peace. They held their signs and called for peace. In the end, all went away from the scene without incident. A member of the Obama campaign agreed to hear the concerns of the group. The protesters ended their night by thanking the officers for their professionalism and they were greeted with smiles and hand shakes from the police.
The images I saw were powerful indeed. But, it all hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw a man of about 25 dressed in desert fatigues eating ice cream and walking down the street with a notable limp. A police officer shouted out to him, “That’s an old man walk right there.” He replied, “This is an old man body. Spend a year in Iraq getting blown up and this is what you look like.”
That man will limp through the rest of his life because his government failed to protect him and then failed to provide him with the proper care he needed upon return, just like thousands of other veterans. Their limp may not be as visible as his, but it’s there.
Iraq has been pushed to the back of our minds as gas prices crept to $4 a gallon, food prices skyrocketed and wages stayed stagnant or we were laid off. I know we are all under strain right now as our economy slumps. But we can’t forget about the contribution of these citizens and the fellow citizens that continue to fight for a false war. This is the real reason that November is so important.
Brian O’Connell, Senior Research Associate