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Virtual Patriotism by David Bellavia

Denver — Having the opportunity to sit courtside at the Democratic National Convention the past few days has afforded me many opportunities to examine what is wrong with our national dialogue over the war.[# More #]

Sitting in a skybox overlooking the gigantic green-screen stretched across the Pepsi Center stage, the scene looks more like a film set for the next Wachowski brothers CG blockbuster than a political convention. I can’t even begin to calculate the cost of presidential politics.

Everything in the Pepsi Center is robotic and electric. Massive LCD screens are lined up behind the delegate floor and three skyscraper-sized jumbotron screens display the action for those in the cheap seats.

This place makes Vegas look like a Kosovo.

Each trash receptacle aligned inside and outside of the Pepsi Center is guarded by earnest and apparently Red Bull–fueled “Green Police.” They monitor the trash and intimidate passersby to recycle each and every aspect of their refuse — unwanted nachos into one bin; plastic nacho container into another; plastic spork into another; and used napkin into yet another. And yet for a political party that has gone green with such exuberance, no one seems to worry about the carbon footprint of the convention’s theatrics: I’m betting the Back to the Future DeLorean’s flux capacitor used less electricity than the elevating podium I watched going up and down in mere seconds.

The lights go dark inside the Pepsi Arena and the Rocky Mountain Children’s Choir rehearses the national anthem and their acapella performance literally sends shivers down my spine. Children singing our anthem, each face more bright and innocent than the next. Now this embodies the hope for a new America that I have heard ad nauseum since arriving here on Sunday.

Interrupting this moment are loud announcements from the local radio and television media who are broadcasting high above the arena and are taking in the same scene. To his listening audience I hear one personality shout with pride, “There is a large American flag coming down from the ceiling. In the midst of all this technology the lone American flag is a great touch. So patriotic.”

I looked again at the lone Stars and Stripes dropping down from the proscenium arch from atop the stage. This was nothing more than a large rectangular green screen. Old Glory, digitized.

This facsimile flag is the perfect metaphor for the political theatrics I have seen to date in the Mile High City: green-screen patriotism.

During Michelle Obama’s keynote address, the only time I heard mention of combat veterans was to cast us as victims. What we need. What we are missing. Empty chairs at empty tables.

The complete disconnect to why we serve and why we volunteer to do what we do devastates me. I see the anger over the war in these delegates. I have tried desperately — and in vain, thus far — to connect with these angry protesters who, in the guise of passion for American greatness, violate the sanctity of those who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If it were not for this political season, 80 days from a presidential election, would any of this be on display? This is a party whose leadership, for the first time in American history, is unified to stop a war in the midst of the fight. They have tried to defund, derail, and dissuade the American military from the strategy of the surge that has undeniably won the war in Iraq.

This past weekend on Meet The Press, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi again called the surge a failure. And Senator Obama says he would vote against the surge even today.

For the betterment of the country, the Democratic party leadership must stop taking their directives from MoveOn.org handlers and create a new organization that would better reflect the realities of what our nation, like it or not, faces across the angry seas.

GrowUp.org would far better reflect the platform of the party that elected President John Fitzgerald Kennedy — who stared down the barrels of Soviet expansionism and forced Russia to flinch, saving us all from nuclear war while establishing the true power of America.

Veterans with boots freshly dusted with Iraqi and Afghan sand cannot expect their nation to anticipate our every post-war need — but we do expect the ruling parties in Washington to understand and respect the reasons why we are prepared to fight. Politicians who refuse to acknowledge the success that our blood has purchased on the ground in Iraq will never win our allegiance with a few big-government spending initiatives.

“Thank you for the new GI Bill, Congress. But I am winning the war you sent me to fight and told me I couldn’t win. Can I get a little respect instead?”

We fight today for those singing below me on the Pepsi Arena floor. We fight to keep that innocent look on the faces of these children and of our own — to protect them from the horrors of this world and the desperate violence of our enemies. We fight to secure their dreams of the future from those who would steal them away.

No child should understand the realities of our harsh world at this tender age. But we should expect our political leadership to understand. Or must we merely “hope” that they do?

When the Democratic party’s mainstream proposed cutting the funding for the war in Iraq in August 2007, Sen. Joseph Biden responded eloquently: “There’s no political point worth anybody’s life out there. None.”

Amen, sir. There is also no political point or party platform worth the cheapening of those brave men and women who gave their utmost to protect our fundamental freedoms. None.

Before the end of this great convention I hope to hear further proof that we are still on the same page.

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