The One Who Stood Up.

IGTNT Display

Here at the convention center, between rooms twelve and sixteen, there is a long hallway with panes of frosted glass on either side that allows a soft gray glow of light to come in from the outside. Maybe that's why they've chosen to put the art project, I Got The News Today (IGTNT), in this hallway.

Or maybe it's because the hallway was just long enough. Long enough to accommodate fifteen panels of poster board, uninterrupted, listing the name of every soldier killed in Iraq to date.

Blogger Lesley Wischmann started this as a way of keeping track of troops killed from her home state of Wyoming. The panels are modest and scrawled in a neat print -- not exactly the Vietnam Memorial Wall, but I suppose the Department of Defense can't erect a wall when they're still adding names to the list.

In the panel I went to yesterday about milblogging, I mentioned the person who stood up at one point, before they opened the forum to questions from the audience. He was near the front, and just stood while the VoteVets panelists were talking, until Kevin Maurer, the moderator, said, "Did you have something to say?"

He announced that he was Christopher Gallagher, the president of the Iraq Veterans Against the War Las Vegas chapter. He made a statement about his belief that the IVAW does in fact work and create change. Then he sat back down.

I remembered thinking at the time that it was strange that he would just stand up and declare he was part of IVAW, without posing a question or starting some sort of talking point. I don't know really anything about the politics between IVAW. IVAW seems to spend time protesting the war and speaking out about an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, while VoteVets seems to avoid getting involved on the extreme end of the issues and instead supports veteran-friendly candidates.

I ran into Christopher last night and had a chance to sit down and talk with him -- about IVAW and his time in the Marines, when he was part of the battalion that took down the statue of Saddam Hussein. He came to Netroots Nation on a scholarship, and having left the Marines, he now works as an electrician in Vegas.

It seems easy to come here and get dragged down by politics -- when I listen to someone like Jeremy Scahill talk about the very likely notion that Obama won't fix anything any more successfully than George Bush, McCain or a head of lettuce could, it's easy for me to take a long look at my laptop screen and think "What the hell am I doing here then?"

But then I walk outside, into a long hallway with a gray glow, and I stare at a list of names. I stare at the name of someone who was once a living, breathing human being but now is just a few letters written in ink, another line on a piece of poster board in a long, narrow hallway framed by glass.

These things are important. These long, grave hallways are worth standing in and reflecting on. These issues of Guantanamo and our Constitution and torture may seem hopeless, but they will never be fixed if we don't start to stand up and demand that they be addressed. We have to stand up and join people like Christopher Gallagher in demanding that not another name is added to a list of people who died in an illegal war.

Otherwise, there will not be a hallway long enough, a convention center big enough, to hold the names of everyone who will become a victim of what we have allowed to happen.
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