I was committed to coming away from my trip to Denver knowing the conspiracy theorists were right. Things didn’t turn out as planned.
I had no idea how liberal Massachusetts was until I moved to a military base in Georgia when I was 21. I started listening to Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and, yes, even Rush Limbaugh in my car on my way to college classes and when carting my former husband around post. I thought they were sensationalist and high-strung and I questioned their views, but still I listened to them every day.
I don’t remember exactly when my former spouse and I started following conspiracy theories, but if it wasn’t in Georgia it was not long after returning to Massachusetts. We spent our time together watching documentaries and YouTube videos and planning for the government takeover.
When I started teaching seniors in high school they were too eager to name drop conspiracy theories and insist that I go home and research them. Invariably I’d tell my then-husband about their suggestions and he would already have heard of them and would pull up half a dozen YouTube videos for me to watch. The Denver Airport conspiracy was the first and only time I came home with one he hadn’t already researched.
We sat together watching the ten minute YouTube video complete with anxiety-producing music and terrifying photos. Four years later, as I boarded a plane to Denver for a work conference I could still clearly remember the images of the murals from the video. Although I stopped listening to Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh and have cut myself off completely from the panic-attack producing conspiracy theories and videos since my husband and I split two years ago, I still thought I’d find the evidence I needed to prove the Denver Airport Conspiracy true.
After my plane ride to Denver I was focused on finding the shuttle bus and getting away from the airport as soon as possible. I booked an early bus for the return trip to allow for plenty of time for exploration.
The second shuttle bus dropped us off directly outside of the area containing the large murals painted by Leo Tanguma that I remembered so well from the video. I cut across the check-in area and went directly to the paintings and began snapping pictures and staring in awe. I think I expected that they wouldn’t be as disturbing as they had been in the video or that they wouldn’t exist at all.
After my initial shock, I really began studying the murals. Try as I did, I could not believe these paintings were intended to characterize a government take over and the ushering in of a new way of life. What I did see was one artist’s visions for peace and depictions of pain from our history of self-destruction.
The first mural that I stopped before features three coffins containing what appears to be an African slave, a Native American, and a young Jewish girl. Terrified children of various races look on over the corpses of dead animals, presumably endangered species that have been and are being killed off by our own negligence and lack of responsibility. My interpretation of the mural is that we humans have not only killed each other through war and brutality, but we are also killing other animals and plant life, essentially destroying the planet.
Another mural depicts the same animals from the previous one living in harmony with people from all over the world. The children in traditional garb surround a beautiful multi-colored plant. The caption reads, “In Peace and Harmony with Nature.” According to the conspiracy theorists, this is what masterminds of the New World Order want the world to look like after government takeover. According to me, pedestrian in the Denver airport, it looks like someone’s dream that we will someday stop killing each other and live in peace. I wonder if when John Lennon sang “Imagine” people accused him of being involved in the government takeover.
I don’t think a single traveler rushing through the Denver airport could pass the next mural without stopping short.
At the center, a larger than life figure in a military uniform and gas mask brandishes a gun with bayonet and a sword that he is using to stab a dove, the symbol for peace. In his shadows children lie huddled together attempting to sleep, one clutches a teddy bear. Along the perimeter an endless row of drab figures hanging their heads in sorrow. To the right, the remains of buildings that have been hollowed by bombs. I thought immediately of the Holocaust, the rows of prisoners forced to file into gas chambers, the bombing that characterized World War II and the damage that can still be seen in cities throughout Eastern Europe, and what appears to be the Nazi bird adorning the military man’s hat. Like the coffins in the first mural, I took this to be a reminder of our painful history of destroying each other.
On the lower right of the painting you’ll find a poignant quote written by a fourteen year old who was killed in Auschwitz. The quotation speaks directly to the children in the painting who are huddled together sleeping and forced to grow up in a war-torn environment, children who dream of someday being free to laugh and play.
A giant rainbow stretches across the top and connects this disturbing piece of the mural to another more celebratory vision of the future. Children representing cultures from all over the world join together over the toppled statue of the soldier who formerly stood on a pedestal carved with the words “war, violence, hate.” Two doves perch peacefully over the downed statue. The children are carrying loads of weapons in toward the center where they are being repurposed. Banners displaying the word “peace” in various language fly across the center.
Read an interview with Leo Tanguma, the man responsible for dreaming up and painting these murals, and you’ll understand that this is not someone prophesying the government takeover, but someone who dreams of an end to war. He says that most of the children in the paintings were modeled after real residents of Denver who were killed by gang violence. They live on here in this enduring vision for peace.
Are the murals shocking, disturbing, and out of place in an airport? Definitely. Do they characterize the secret plot of the New World Order? Highly unlikely.
I rewatched the ten minute video that I first viewed four years ago before writing this article. Here are my thoughts on the rest of this conspiracy theory:
The airport is designed in the shape of a swastika. I don’t have the architectural or aviation knowledge to comment on this design, but what I do know is that the swastika existed long before the Nazi’s made it popular. The swastika is an ancient Sanskrit symbol for good fortune and wellness.
The video also claims symbols for the New World Order adorn signs around the airport. They are the symbols for Freemasons and can be found in many cities and on many signs.
The last disturbing piece of conspiracy theory states that beneath the Denver airport there exists miles of underground tunnels with sprinkler systems. The video likens them to concentration camp gas chambers. According to the video, airport personnel claim these tunnels are used for storage. I will say that I had no interest in attempting to find my way into the underground to poke around, but I did find a five minute video made last year by a major Denver news channel, aired on TV, and available to watch on their website. This secret airport underground doesn’t look any more concerning than the Boston subway system.
If you find yourself caught up in conspiracy theories as I once was, I’d recommend detaching yourself from them for a while or at least turning off the horror movie sound track while you watch the thousands of videos that are available on the internet. If that’s not enough to get you to see things more objectively, start your own personal investigation. You just might find that seeing is not always believing.