As we deconstruct all that has happened at Netroots Nation 2013, I find myself at a loss for words and with a surprisingly strong desire to communicate an idea that I feel so strongly but can't seem to get across on a computer screen. The sad thing is, I can't seem to get it across in real life either. And I'm not the only military community member to feel that way.
You must be wondering where all this going. I'm not really sure. I just know that I have a story to tell and I just don't know how to tell it without breaking down and crying.
This year at Netroots Nation, a veteran I hold near and dear to my heart had a near breakdown right before my eyes. Some of you were there and experienced it with us. I thought he was going to write about the experience so that we could all better learn and understand PTSD, so that we as progressives could be smarter in our big tent approach and make the progressive community a safe place for our vets. But he either won't write or he can't... I'm not sure which. And I'm not even sure exactly what happened. But I can tell you what I know.
A wonderful organization called the Purple Mountain Institute won a free booth at NN'13. I know because I helped edit their proposal. I sold their non-profit as a boon to progressives - an organization that worked with veterans to help manage their PTSD in a holistic manner. They were not an organization that glorified war, they were not an organization that railed about the horror of the medical system, they were not an organization that said, We Need To Organize!, as I often heard again and again and again at this conference.
No, Purple Mountain Institute is an organization that focuses directly on veterans. They don't limit help to post 9/11 vets. They don't limit help to veterans only but offer their program to spouses as well. As a spouse of a veteran, I can't tell you how important that is.
We all expected that PMI would be welcomed with open arms and they did find individuals that were nice and polite. But most people didn't even visit the booth; especially missed were those who could have intentionally driven traffic that way. Sadly, that loss magnified the opinions of the few people that did show up and were often cruel... I don't know exactly what took place but my dear friend used the words babykiller several times to explain how he felt. The reaction of one, two, three, many? political activists to him and his partner took him back to a place in time where our veterans where unwelcome and were vilified for the choices made by our civilian leaders. If it had been a single person, I don't think we would have lost Danang65 here at DailyKos. I think enough of our own members made him feel like shit that he doesn't want to return. He has decided to quietly fade away.
To top it off, as I sat with Danang at the final Keynote, we watched as a young progressive activist, dressed in butterfly wings and professing the importance of art and artists in the movement, flashed images from the Vietnam War on the overhead screen as casually as you and I sip from our coffee cups right now.
Her overall message was important. We know that. But could it have been as strong a message without those images? Did she even know that veterans where in the audience? Did she care? Does it even matter to anyone but those in the military community? So one of our own felt dissed both by Kossacks and by the progressive community at large.
Many of you know that I'm not a Democrat. And after this weekend, I won't be for a very long time, if ever. But if Democrats hope to gain more military family members into the fold, more veterans, more active duty members, they need to understand that dissing our veterans in any way, shape, or form, is not a great way to convince us to join the party. We won't become Republicans but we will remain among that growing number of dissatisfied Independents that will sometimes fight with you and often fight against you.
And I can hear you right now... But I didn't diss a vet!
And many a Republican isn't a racist.